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The Twelve Kisses (2009)

Forrest Pierce and Sarah TannehillColoratura
Oboe d'amore (optional EH, Cl.)

(Texts and recordings for selected movements are available at the links below.)

II.  To Me My Myrrh (Adagio)
III. Honey-Stuck (Scherzo)
IV. The Old Song (Pizzicato)

Program Note

The Twelve Kisses sets texts from the Song of Songs, both in the original Hebrew of the Shir Hashirim, as well as in English poetic transformations by the composer. These ancient love poems have inspired readings both literal and metaphorical, and are considered sacred to three religions. The superimposed representation of physical, intimate, romantic love with the subtextual poetry of the soul's longing for the divine makes it a particularly rich landscape for the painting of musical meaning.

The beauty of traditional Cantillation of the Shir Hashirim precluded any notions of setting the Hebrew text proper, for me: it already has a setting, and one thousands of years old, perfect and holy. But the language of the Shir Hashirim is so lustrous, with its subtle wordplay, assonance and alliteration, that I wanted to try to represent that world of words to English-speaking listeners. So, rather than use one of the many literal translations already in existence, I set out to create poetic "transformations" which attempt to twin Anglo-Saxon aural cousins to the Hebrew originals.

What results, I think, are versions of the Song of Songs that capture in some small way the sound and cadence of the original, if at the expense of some of the literal surface meaning of this book, called by many one of the great treasures of world literature. My grateful acknowledgement goes to Dalit Warshaw and Michael Karmon, both masterful composers, who kindly reviewed my Hebrew scansion and setting. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

The title of the work comes from a trilingual pun, the Hebrew word "dodechi" closely resembling the Greek word for "Twelve".