(photo credit: J. Borodetzky)
‘Shir Hashirim” (Song
of Songs) number one with a bullet? King Solomon’s more than 2,000-yearold love
song has been arranged as a rock opera and released as a book with accompanying
Aryeh Naftaly, a veteran musician on the local scene, began the
project four years ago, first investigating the basic syntax behind the ta’amim
Having organized the notes into 27 cards, Naftaly, a
singer-songwriter best known for his work with the Jewish rock/Grateful Dead
ensemble The Elevators, was able to apply it to other musical forms.
had in my hand the musical syntax of the ta’amim,” Naftaly told The Jerusalem
Turning the dialogue of “Song of Songs” into a musical song was the
first scripture that he decided to tackle.
“I wanted to find out what it
was really about,” he explains.
Aside from the musical rendition of “Song
of Songs,” Naftaly also wrote his own commentary entitled “The Song of Songs: A
Messiah’s Confession,” which tells the background of the story recounted in the
“For people who are interested in musicology and the Bible and
where they come together, it is a fascinating exploration,” he says.
major part of this musical experiment was to be able to understand the music of
biblical times. The instruments used to record the CD channel the sound of
comparable instruments played during the period the original piece was
Being a songwriter who performs popular music, the project took
Naftaly out of his musical comfort zone.
“It took me out of my forms,” he
says, explaining his journey through writing the opera rendition.
made aliya in the 1980s from San Francisco, California, after studying music
“In the States, Judaism is much more of a religion; here, it’s a
way of life,” he says.
After living in Jerusalem, Naftaly and his wife
moved to Moshav Mevo Modi’im, where Shlomo Carlebach invited Naftaly to play
with his band, which he did until Carlebach’s death seven years later. Many of
the musicians and singers on the recording of the musical are friends of
Naftaly’s who live on the moshav.
Inspired by the music genres of the
singer/songwriter and the soul music of the 1970s, Naftaly hopes that the “Song
of Songs” music project will make its way to the stage. Meanwhile, he is working
on his third album of original music with The Elevators.
The ‘Song of
Songs’ CD and book are available online at