The work is based on the celebrated Song of Solomon text from the Old Testament whose lyrical and sensual imagery is portrayed in a cycle of four movements subtitled Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Night & Daybreak.
The soundscape of the work is derived from recordings of the text by Norbert Ruebsaat & Thecla Schiphorst, as well as recordings of a monk singing with the monastery bells at SS. Annunziata, near Amelia, Italy, along with cicadas and crickets recorded there by the composer. These sounds are supplemented by recordings of the Dawn Chorus in Brittany made by the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University, and digital recordings made by Robert MacNevin of a stream and a crackling fire.
All of the sonic material is subject to digital signal processing which stretches and harmonizes the sounds and brings out their inner voices and colours. The result is a Mediterranean soundscape in which all voices are singing, and the boundaries between the self and the environment are blurred - the voice becomes the environment and the environment sings with its own voice, with a refrain of "I am my Beloveds and my Beloved is mine" that is accompanied by the traditional Hebrew cantillation melody associated with Solomon's text.
Song of Songs is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Song of Songs (whose cover features one of the graphic images used in the piece) and as a video on DVD, which can also be seen here. A complete documentation analysis of the work is also available on a DVD-ROM.
Song of Songs was commissioned by Lawrence Cherney for Soundstreams.
Sound Example available
Additional commentary by the composer.
Martijn Voorvelt, "The Environmental Element in Barry Truax's Compositions," Journal of New Music Research, 26, 1997, pp. 48-69.
Barry Truax, "Homoeroticism and Electroacoustic Music: Absence and Personal Voice," Organised Sound, 8(1), 117-124, 2003.
Danielle Sofer, "The Macropolitics of Microsound: Gender and sexual identities in Barry Truax's Song of Songs,"
Organised Sound, 23(1), 80-90, 2017.
The music was realized using the composer's PODX system which uses the DMX-1000 Digital Signal Processor controlled by a PDP Micro-11 computer. The principal signal processing technique involves time stretching and harmonizing of the sampled environmental sound with software for real-time granular synthesis developed by the composer in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. Sound densities around 250 events/second per stereo pair of tracks were recorded on 8-track tape and mixed down in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.
The graphic images were created by Theo Goldberg with modelling and ray tracing software developed by Dr. David Forsey using the Silicon Iris Graphics Workstation at the University of British Columbia, plus additional images realized on an Amiga microcomputer.