Rose Riddle Rainbow (Riddle)


“Riddle” is the lively second movement of the three-movement suite Rose/Riddle/Rainbow, which was conceived as an exploration of the spiritual for the 21st century. Each movement’s original music and text include fragments of a companion spiritual.

“Riddle” is a meditation on societal visibility/invisibility (Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen).

A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



During the “gathering phase” of the Rose/Riddle/Rainbow project, I had an experience that inspired the second movement, “Riddle.”  On a quick rehearsal break at the concert hall one evening, a bunch of us guys encountered a cleaning staff person at work in the restroom — and everyone, including the staff person, suddenly acted like they weren’t there.  It was a very short moment, but the longer I reflected on it, the more unsatisfied I became with our shared, tacit agreement of “invisibility.”

I thought about the many roles that people take on to make a living, and how differently they are valued by society as a whole.  The phrase “can you see me?” came to mind, as a question I imagined everyone I encountered silently asking me.  “Can you see me?”  Are you capable of acknowledging me as a person, regardless of my social status?

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen seemed like the perfect spiritual to reference for this movement.  I decided to use it in two ways. For the first, I built an insistent chant on its text: “nobody knows, nobody knows, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”  For the second, I took its basic melody shape but clothed it with new words: “my story’s written down in the Book of Life.” Then I structured the music such that the two contrasting messages “compete” with each other, one diminishing in volume as the other grows, and vice versa.  I do believe that we all experience some version of this inner battle, with one voice telling us we don’t matter at all, and the other telling us that we matter completely.

In the middle section of the piece, the three soloists embody many different walks of life and lines of work in their short solos, each ending with the question “Can you see me?”


My story’s written down in the Book of Life…

(Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen)

Can you see me?

I’ve got a child to feed
I’ve got a case to plead
I’ve got a march to lead

(Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen)

I’ve got a crop to reap
I’ve got a floor to sweep
I’ve got a watch to keep

(Nobody knows my trouble, will you try?)

My story’s written down in the Book of Life…

I’ve got a shop to tend
I’ve got a note to send
I’ve got a rift to mend

(Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen)

I’ve got a child to bear
I’ve got a dream to dare
I’ve got a world of care

Nobody knows my trouble,
Will you even try?
Will you follow me home?
Back by the road that I’ve come down?
Back through the door where I belong?
Back to the lap where I heard this song?

(Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen)

My story’s written down in the Book of Life…

Additional information


SSA double choir and soloists

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