Song of Songs (2017)
An Oratorio in Two Parts
For Soprano & Tenor Soloists, SATB Choir, and Symphony Orchestra. A vocal score is also available for this piece.
Written at the suggestion of Anne Reece for the Commonwealth Chorale of Newton, MA.
Contact The Rogler Collection directly to inquire about parts, rentals, and performances.
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in Bb, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in Bb, timpani, finger cymbals, suspended sizzle cymbal, chimes, whip, harp, voices, strings
In this piece, Robert Rogler takes on the monumental task of setting the biblical text, Song of Songs, to music.
From the composer:
Although a wonderful tribute to human love and one of the most beautifully written books in the Bible, the Song of Songs is probably the most difficult work in the whole of scripture to interpret. This is not only because its place in the canon is somewhat confusing (it never mentions God, has little, if anything, to say about religious protocol or ethics, and even if taken as a strictly prophetic utterance, is oddly erotic when compared with other prophecies.), but it also has inescapable and confounding technical difficulties.
Tantamount among these are that it has no list of characters nor any indication of which character is speaking at any given moment nor when the speaker changes. Also, whatever story the poem may be trying to convey, it is almost totally obscured by having no narration whatsoever nor any detailed settings, actions, or descriptions. Even the purpose and authorship of the book are in question since the opening verse, “The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s” more likely means that it is about Solomon than written by him.
What we are left with is a poem where words flow in an almost dream-like free-association, and the meaning of the vision is left entirely to the reader to try and figure out. All one may say for certain is that the story is primarily about a Shulamite woman who has some kind of relationship with King Solomon. They are the only two characters expressly named in the poem. However, there may also be a shepherd (1:7), friends and/or relatives (8:13), and perhaps even King Solomon’s harem (6:8-9).
Even more distressing than not knowing the exact number of characters, however, is that they often seem to be confused with one another. The shepherd, a man whose “hair is filled with dew” (5:2) from sleeping outside all night, refers to the Shulamite woman as “my dove, my undefiled”, which is the exact same words King Solomon uses for her later in verse 6:9. If the book is taken as a Messianic prophecy, then this makes perfect sense as the Messiah would be both shepherd and king, but for the composer, who has to make definite decisions about which character is singing which line, it is a nightmare.
To alleviate these difficulties, I felt compelled to adopt a rather unorthodox interpretation of the text. Although the interpretation may be theologically suspect, the book can, legitimately, be viewed in this light, and it should be noted that no changes had to be made to the words for this interpretation to work. Even changes made for purely musical reasons have been very minor in nature. The piece, therefore, is a word for word musical rendering of the Authorized (King James) Version of the Song of Songs, in order, and in its entirety.