Friday, July 27, 2012

State of the Project - Seeing the Psalter

I have been somewhat silent. I have also silenced 300 posts on this blog and its now empty companion. These posts were too filled with errors and idiosyncrasies to continue their life.

Last night I heard a friend learning the Mourner's Kaddish and I realized just how little I know about Hebrew and Aramaic traditions and sound. Today I am listening to the new series of recordings based on Suzanne Haik Vantoura's work from John Wheeler.  I want to learn those markings and their varied interpretations. I hope the chironomy begins to make sense in me. It is hard to see the cues quickly enough in my TNK as I listen.  And such things must be learned aurally.

I have neglected writing music since March. The computer broke down after the first performance of my setting of Psalm 19.  And there have been dozens of translation changes anyway - so no stable text to set.  Some day I will return to it - maybe with some new approaches. At some later time also, I may repost my selections of music for each psalm.

Next week - to the wine country and a short holiday. Oh - and my treatment is progressing. This too will pass.

Re the book (described here and with the technique [updated] post still active), the current stage of 'the project' will finish on Aug 31, delivery to publisher. My wife has now read and critiqued more than 80% of my translation and text, and I have been wandering back and forth in the text making many adjustments. In the last 60 days, over 500 verses have been touched - that's about 20% of the Psalter. She's a good critic. The book has remained at 260000 words and 530 pages and this large canvas has had many touch-up brush-strokes applied in several 'colours', grammar, style, theology, reach, spelling, presentation, and a few others.

I was delighted to receive a 200 page dissertation on Psalm 18 by Alison Gray, PhD Candidate in Cambridge, UK. Her detailed work Psalm 18 in Words and Pictures: A Reading Through Metaphor stimulated a number of reactions in me and allowed me to write a little more about my own approach in the 7 page chapter devoted to this psalm. This was the psalm where I had first struggled with the presentation problem for such a large pattern of 71 recurring words, so I had not even sketched much of the outline. I am grateful to acknowledge this stimulus from her. Our approaches and results differ, but not by much. Her work made me explicitly defend my selection of tense, mood, and intent in verbs.
Every verb requires a decision with respect to tense (past, present, future), aspect (completed or ongoing), and intent (imperative, interrogative, conditional, assertion, or request). Sometimes the helping verb (do, has, was, would, let or will), an extra relative pronoun or an -ing suffix marks the decision that has been made. Eaton (1979) highlights verb form as a primary difficulty facing a translator.
My techniqes confirmed her structural conclusion and also the structural sitz im buch that she cited but deliberately avoided dealing with.
Gray (2012 p.32ff) in her review of the literature on Psalm 18 and its context in the Psalter, shows a diagram of Psalms 15-24 in a circular arrangement with Psalm 19 in the middle. Ten psalms in a circle gives two centres, so such a structural conjecture treats Psalms 20-21 as a single ‘royal’ balance to Psalm 18. Psalms 17 and 22 are matched as ‘individual laments’, 16 and 23 as ‘songs of confidence’, and 15 and 24 as ‘temple entrance liturgies’, all surrounding the ‘Torah’ Psalm 19. Only one pair of these psalms, 15 and 24, has more than 30% shared words. I am not convinced that the genres fit the poems. Each poem has too many themes to be reduced to one genre. 
With respect to Psalm 18 as a whole, Gray (p. 198) suggests a fivefold concentric structure for the Psalm. Analysis of recurrence supports such a conclusion: rock (3,47) -- hear (7,45) -- under feet (10,39) -- on high / exalt (17,28) all occur in the sections she identifies and are all concentric around verses 21 to 28 which she names as the innermost pair. Verses 21 to 25 and 26 to 27 both depict completeness of the servant and of יהוה respectively. Each of these inner sections also repeats purity twice. The frame of purity recalls the kiss of Psalm 2.
Other readers have also given me helpful feedback, particularly the two poets: Charles Douglas and Hannah Main van der Kamp.  So, several 1000 adjustments later, we are on target with a tentative publication date in 1Q2013.