Sunday 30 September 2012


The Biblical Studies carnival has been posted at Sansblogue. Happy Spring to the Southern Hemisphere and across the dateline.

My favorite piano music

Curious that the embedded link got deleted - O ye advertisers, bless ye the Lord, Benedicite.
 what else need be said about unity, cooperation and beauty

Saturday 29 September 2012

Mother and Father imagery for God

Tim Bulkeley of the 5 minute bible has written a new kind of online book, one ready to be published on paper as well, but one fully available online and inviting comments here.

See what you think.

Friday 28 September 2012

Jesus and his own wife or marriage

Mark Goodacre has the simplest human reason why he thinks Jesus did not marry - in three words.
It was devotional.
 There you have in three words what I tried to meander about in my last post in many more.

Mark is reading into a human 18-20 year old from 2000 years ago a motivation that goes beyond mere self-satisfaction or obsession. I wonder if we could find additional evidence for such a reading.

I will come as no surprise to you that I would pick the devotion of the Psalms as a model.

Who pours whose self out on behalf of others? The Anointed, who is, by the admission of יהוה, a libation - according to Psalm 2.

I myself have offered as libation my own king
on Zion, my holy hill.

Who is passionate about יהוה ? Who alone? The Anointed - according to Psalm 18.
I am passionate about you יהוה my courage.
This is more than a superficial zeal. It is the only time in the Scriptures that such passion is used of human love for God.

Who drinks the cup that is set apart for the wicked? The one who balances the pillars of earth - according to Psalm 75.
for there is a cup in the hand of יהוה
and the wine is red
full of mixture
and he spills from it
surely they will suck the dregs
all the wicked of the earth will imbibe
This cup - the pouring out - the libation - is taken up in Psalm 116.
the cup of salvation I will bear 
so in the name of יהוה I will call

My picking a few verses at random - and I could pick many more - shows how a human being, in this case the elect poet of the psalms, could be passionate for a form of justice that is unrealized in our world apart from the example of Jesus who poured out his life on behalf of the many, and whose very libation we drink in his remembrance. The Gospel, the Eucharist, the King, the Anointing and the Vindication are all there in a manuscript freely available (but it takes a little work to get into it) that is not a forgery, but a reflection of a devotion that anyone can also enter into who chooses to follow.

In contrast to Jesus, modern kings pour out the blood of their subjects to protect their own place. It is hardly the place where one would want to be found in the judgment. I would rather be in the place of adoration.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Is it a good time to talk about sex

Many years ago, in the mid-life stages of my walk with Christ, I threatened my children with the suggestion that one day I would write a book on sex. They were astonished at me.  I did write it - but my language was so obscure, that no one understood. (I still have it - maybe some day...) It was called Seen from the Street.

If you Google me and the title, you will find a reference to it in 2005 on the Johannine Literature group. Here's a little of the flyleaf:
This novel of love critiques the fear of sexual desire. From the beginning, misunderstanding of flesh and spirit combined with a legal control structure have missed the point of the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose crucifixion was itself caused by religious and political institutions with a need to maintain the status quo. The novel considers the profound healthiness of desire and affection in the consecration effected by the Holy Spirit through the death of Jesus. 
Some say the perverse cannot be straightened nor can the defective be fathomed. Those who abuse and those who are abused are both wrapped in a spirit of fear. The lives that intersect in this story point to the solitude that allows Healer and hurt to meet and discover that there is something new under the sun. And it is good.
Well - the story is not terribly coherent - actually, it is 49 fragments in a 7 x 7 circular structure. Circling the wagons is certainly something we frequently do with this fearful subject.

I raise the subject at this time because of the faked[?] fragment of Thomas's Gospel - the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife. [This great Blogger James McGrath has all the links in several posts.] One didn't need to read Dan Brown to know he was off the map.  In this case even Dr. Karen King was misled. And April Deconick. Well she may be right about something - perhaps that's the way people think. If it is, then think something else.

Nor can one easily read John and see the magnificent Noli me Tangere spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalen. [Yes Virginia, he spoke in pictures.]

The experience of seeing, knowing, hearing, touching cannot be put into words. Yet John writes of this in the beginning of his first letter. Would it surprise you to know that the same knowledge is present in TNK? In 1 John, he is writing about purity. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."(3:3)

[O dear - it looks like it only applies to men. Sorry, April and Karen, that lets you out. Disclaimer: Let it be said that every verse that applies to woman in the Bible, mother, wife, and bridegroom (Psalm 45) and every verse that applies to man (king, warrior, or whatever) applies equally to all, male, female, indifferent, or ambiguous.]

It is unfortunately, not scholarship that will deliver to you the 'truth'. Scholarship knows the truth only from outside - a useful step, but not if you never enter the inside. The inside is subjective. You cannot escape it. The inside cannot go outside without becoming banal or crude. But the inside can be known. So John writes: But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (2:20). I see this personally (note this does not exclude the individual but nor is it limited to individualism).

In these wifely discourses, I raised the issue of the individual speaking on behalf of the corporate reality - also the imagery of the mother in Galatians - at least three of them, Sarah, Mary and Hagar. Hagar gets the blessing. Mary is not mentioned by name. So who is the wife? She is wisdom personified (Proverbs 31). She is the Church. She is the Elect. She is the Bride coming down from Heaven. She is the barren one who has many children. She is the virgin most pure, an image of the resurrected person.

Bob, I'm lost - where have you disappeared to?

I said, writing about this fearful subject is difficult - and I don't do online advice. The good is the ultimate danger. And you will fail, perhaps repeatedly. So where do you go for help? To the scholars? (Hardly) To the Churches (with considerable difficulty - but you will be pushed here and you will need scholarship to stand your ground.) Neither of these first - but first to the mystery that is your own inner voice, your own conscience, your own experience - and your own - O, what word shall I find for you...?

For the Christian - it is to your baptism - that sign that raises you from death to live in the Anointing you have been given - so receive it. For the Jewish male, it is to your circumcision - that covenant sign that signifies your own personal death to desire and that leads you to Psalm 139. For others - within or outside an Abrahamic faith,

go to your terror.

Do not assume that you can act outside the covenant that the terror points to. So it is that Scripture (Gen 31:42, 53) speaks of the פַחַד יִצְחָֽק, where Jacob and Laban swear by the terror of Isaac, appropriate fear in the face of the burnt offering he prefigures.  This Abrahamic terror is referred to in Psalm 49 where the burnt offering (עלה) becomes the ascension (עלה) - and we are back to Mary and Jesus in the garden. But it's not Mary - it's you.

Well - 'tis a bloody business, isn't it - as I pointed out in an earlier post.  It's a political business as well - maybe we need a heap between Iran and Israel at the moment. Even Laban, that shrewd covenant-cousin, had to be limited in his exploitation. The leaves (עלה) of the tree of life might make a good heap - healing for the nations.

I am tempted to give you part 49 - maybe it will be made clear to you... This post is so long, most people will not get here, so it will remain unread and without danger to you or to me.  Nope - no sharing, maybe just a paragraph. I really need an editor with a serious knife for this one - maybe some day I will purge and shorten it myself.

And I gathered myself up and ran to the tomb. It was open and there was no body. And the rock smelled of spices. Where the body had been, I saw blood and linen. I knelt on the stone floor putting my hands on the warmth where the binding for his head was. Then I moved my hands to where I had laid against his breast. And I bent and kissed the blood where the spear had pierced his belly. And my new cloak fell from my shoulders. And clouds rolled about me. And I saw in my head visions of the Son of Man coming in glory. My life scarcely remained with me as I thought of this man who loved me. And then I heard some women coming. And immediately I sat up and put my cloak about me. Well they were amazed – so I said to them: “He is not here - he is risen just as he said he would. Here is the place where his temple was.” I scarcely knew what I was saying.


My work with the te'amim is barely 6 weeks old. I raised several questions as I began - continuity of tradition, reliability of transmission, rhythm, mode, etc. Now I am becoming more and more comfortable with the decisions that a performer or transcriber will make as the song is sung. What else would one expect from music.

But modes there are - and here are a few - not an exhaustive list. What is curious is that it appears that the F natural does not appear in the Psalms, Proverbs, or the speeches of Job. So that particular augmented second F-G# is not in these books. (Others may be G-A#, C-D# and there are other weird wired wanderings to our ears.)

So far in my transcription of the psalms.
  • 1 is chromatic Hypodorian
  • 2 is likewise - though I did insert a few G# ornaments - musica ficta sorta. 1 and 2 are a pair. Introducing Yhwh and his anointed.
  • 3 is that same mode as is 4. 3 and 4 are a pair likewise, introducing David.
  • but 5 is a confident Lydian - and that will be trouble, for there is correction to follow in 6. I hear SHV's rendition of 6 as a modified Lydian with minor 6th- but I have not yet transcribed it. 

Monday 24 September 2012

When doh isn't doh

When the tonic is not the first degree of the scale, the relationship of note to note is quite different from what we take for granted when we sing a major or a minor scale (in or out of tune). We are so used to the tonic and the first degree being identified and we are so used to equal temperament that we think of learning notes in a rising or falling scale in sequence.  So how do we learn a different tune?

I have now scanned most of Suzanne-Haik Vantoura's book (in obedience to Bayard - How to talk about books you haven't read) and am about ready to explore some of the details of the discovery process. One could easily be put off by the very conservative approach to historical criticism that is explicit in some of her conclusions about the origin of the music. I am equally unconvinced of the high praise that she elaborates about the music discovered. This may merely be a matter of style.

I am convinced and intrigued by her description of her process of discovery. This begins about page 200 (!) That's a lot of introductory material to get through.  This section from pp 200 to 212 is delightful. She explores combinations of signs below the text and what they might possibly represent. She 'discovers' the tonic and then by frequency and positional analysis finds sub-dominant, dominant, and so on. Eventually the whole just seems to fall into place, each decision being confirmed by more and more experimentation.

I give her high praise for the process and the discovery. For I think she has discovered something of great beauty.

Enough - what are the signs saying?  There are many that can be expressed with simple typing: forward slash / backslash \ and raised period forward slash - for this post: ./  She surmises that / and ./ are opposites, the / one note above the tonic, the ./ one note below. The ./ does not occur in the Psalms but is replaced by a little v or a combination of back and forward slashes \/

Where the silluq was a vertical line | these others are comprised of slanted lines (or slight curves) and can be represented without resorting to Unicode.

So / is F (or F#) depending on the mode.  At last I have a way of remembering this sign. The confusion between / and \ has been one of the more difficult aspects of learning to read this notation for me. The back-slash, \ is G (or G#) - more on modes in a later post. The dot-forward-slash is identified as the seventh degree of the scale (D or D#) - one note below the tonic.

I think you can see that these signs could be made by hands - a kind of sign-language for early music. As noted previously, this is the practice of chironomy.

/ and \ also occur above the letters. What do they mean here? I would have thought by interval and got the result exactly backwards. These signs rather 'leave the word in the same direction' (p.234) - concentrate on that 'leave the word' and the resulting arrow-head --> so the backslash above the word is an appoggiatura of  the interval of a second. The reverse arrow-head <-- shows that the forward slash above the word is an appoggiatura of a third.

Enough again - this section of the book is quite remarkable - and worth the price of wading through all the conclusions stated in advance.

/ below the text is called merka which SHV gives as 'extension'. I cannot confirm this gloss since the transcriptions are too variable and my Aramaic too limited

\ below the text is called tipha rendered as 'palm'.

./ below the text is called tevir rendered as 'broken'

I can see that the names are more obscure than I am able to research at this time... I thought I might explore the names of the 'notes' but it is too confused and all my dictionaries and even wikipedia are beyond helping me. So the te'amim, these marks of taste betray the slight madness of David noted in the inscription of Psalm 34 and its Hebrew verse 9.  It might be enough for the king to send us away in our confusion.

Thursday 20 September 2012

The tonic - E - the silluq

The silluq בֽ is very common. It is perhaps the first of the te'amim to be noted by someone beginning to read the Hebrew Bible. Lambdin calls it a Metheg and gives up to four 'explanations' of the sign - exactly zero of which I ever found to be of any use.  I suspected since the sign might mean anything, I might as well ignore it. (Sorry, Dr. Lambdin, I really did enjoy your book though - tough as it was.)

Suzanne Haik Vantoura names the silluq בֽ as the tonic note of the default mode for the Psalms, Proverbs and Job speeches, and it is the third note of what she identifies as the Lydian scale for the Prosody of the rest of the books. This is a far better rationale for our seeing this sign at the end of almost every verse of Scripture. Its function is to conclude.

סִלּֽוּק - what does it mean? Where is it used as a word? It is not Hebrew, but it appears perhaps (without the vav) in Ezra and Daniel, given as 'come up, go up' in Holladay (HALOT).

SHV identifies it as a sign that 'concludes' - it ends most verses. It is the implied starting note even where there is none. 

It is also called a sof pasuq סוֹף פָּסֽוּק - the end of the verse.  סוֹף is to conclude or to end in Aramaic.  E.g. Daniel 4:11.

Names and Numbers of the Notes in the Hebrew

I have Suzanne Haik-Vantoura's book, The Music of the Bible Revealed, on inter-library-loan, the American edition along with a useful post-face (the opposite of a pre-face) by Jonathan Wheeler.

In this post-face, he associates each of the names of the signs for the te'amim with a verse where the root word is used. SHV describes how she at first ignored the meaning of the names but later came to recognize them as a clue to her deciphering of the note values of the signs. In a series of posts, I will explore these names and what the text of the Psalms (or other book) might teach us about the music.

My own need was to find the decimal value of the signs so I can use them in extended html - making them accessible to copy and paste operations in order to correct the text I have available to me.  The names and decimal Unicode values are below. Note how random the sequence is.  There are several doubles, allowing e.g. an ornament to be placed over the left or right half of the syllable. This is said to have musical significance as well - but let me consider the rules of transcription more before I attempt an explanation.

NameTextGenesisPsalmsNameTextover B
ב֧ DargaConCב֒ SegolDis2A-B-A
ב֛ TevirDis3Dב֓ ShalsheletI2
ב֪ Yerach ben yomo/ galgalConD#ב֔ Zaqef qatanDis2A-B
בֽ Sof pasuq/ silluqDis1E tonicEב֕ Zaqef gadolI2A-G-B
ב֥ MerchaConFF#ב֗ Revia/revi’i Dis3B-A-B
ב֖ TifchaDis2G#G(#)ב֮ ZarqaDis3A-c-B
ב֑ Etnaḥta Dis1 mid-verse, pause / restAA(#)ב֙ PashtaDis3 - may be doubledc-B
ב֣ MunachConBBב֡ PazerDis4d-c-B
ב֤ MahpachConcc#ב֟ Qarne farah/ pazer gadolDis4
ב֣׀ Munach legarmehConב֠ Telisha gedolahDis4e-d-c-B
ב֦ Mercha kefulahConב֩ Telisha qetannahDis4c-d-e-B
ב֚ YetivI3ב֜ Geresh/azlaDis4d-B
ב֞ GershayimI4d-B d-B
ב֨ QadmaDis4see Pashta
decimal codes from 1425 to 1479 (1488 is aleph)
20ב֑ ב֒ ב֓ ב֔ ב֕
30ב֖ ב֗ ב֘ ב֙ ב֚ ב֛ ב֜ ב֝ ב֞ ב֟
40ב֠ ב֡ ב֢ ב֣ ב֤ ב֥ ב֦ ב֧ ב֨ ב֩
50ב֪ ב֫ ב֬ ב֭ ב֮ ב֯ בְ בֱ בֲ בֳ
60בִ בֵ בֶ בַ בָ בֹ בֺ בֻ בּ בֽ
70ב־ בֿ ב׀ בׁ בׂ ב׃ בׄ בׅ ב׆ בׇ

The do-re-mi

Before we treat each note separately, let's see them together -

could we sing this ditty? Darga-tevir-silluq-merka / \ tifha-atnah-munah-mapakh

These multi-syllabic names come with many variations in spelling.

They are no sillier than do-re-mi-fa / \ sol-la-ti-do. Recall the image from last month. (And drop the sol#)

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Bob, couldn't you be more polite?

O my friends, how kind of you not to sever me severely. I have degenerated into name-calling.  I called HJ (that's Historical Jesus) folks fundamentalists.  My comment got lost on BLT - fortunately.  But it printed here on the Liturgy blog - a good place.

I expect there is code in the html in comment-land that prevents one from copying one comment and turning it into another. I realized when I was typing how contextually conditioned our comments are - and how sloppy blogging is.

Just listen to those adjectives - sloppy blogging -

Jesus has a wife and is able to keep her.

(in contrast to some famous nursery kingdoms, aka Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.)

I cannot possibly collect all the inane (ed. another adj.) links that talk about this. See here for a list.  Even for one being treated by hormone therapy (and chocolate) for cancer, knows that life is more than following links.

Beloved - those who say God is merciful and who promote violence are not doing the truth.

Those who say that 47% are dependent on government do not recognize that they - the caught-in-the-act-of-arrogance speakers - are dependent for their wealth on the exploitation and cooperation of at least the same 47% - more likely 94%.

I am not of the 99% but equally, I am small enough to be understood. I do not speak in billions (Psalm 131:1). Nor do I take money from cigarette sales like some famous church-men. My wealth does not cause cats to riot.

Beloved - it is a costly bloody price that the bridegroom paid for his wife. (Exodus 4:25)

Sing it

Monday 17 September 2012

Music and Theology

What does a musical setting of a psalm tell us about the God who is worshiped? Does a musical setting impose or reveal an interpretation of the libretto?

Here I look at Psalm 4 based on the instructions of Suzanne Haik-Vantoura as best as I am able to follow them at this time in my life.  Does it help me interpret the words ?

First of all - the verses are clear (and often different numbering from the English). They lie between each opening and each full cadence.

So verse 1 is the inscription, sung as a single breath. (The first return to 'e' is via an ornament, revia, rather than a return to the tonic via a cadence.) The cadences in this psalm are:
  • mercha-silluq, (f#-e) verses 1, 2, 4,  
  • munach-silluq (b-e) verses 3, 5, 7, 8,
  • atenach-silluq (a-e) verse 6, and 9 (though 9 may allow for an extended plagal cadence). 
Verse 1 - starts and ends on tonic as do all verses
Of the 9 verses, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 all have a mid-point defined by an atenach (a, sub-dominant). The verse comes to a rest at this point and therefore separates the words of each verse into two phrases. Verses 1 and 5 therefore have no mid-point rest. Such verses may be divisible, for breathing, but are more like a single thought than two. It is to be noted that verse 5 is the one quoted in Ephesians 4:26 and that it is close to the instruction given to Cain before his anger stirs him up to murder.

In this psalm, verses 2 and 3 share a somewhat rare ornament, the melisma pazer, and in this case the ornament resolves in both cases as g-f#-e.
Showing the pazer - ornament g-f#-e
This imitation in the music suggests to me a response. The one who prays says: When I call answer me, my God my righteousness.  And the voice responds: Children, each of you, how long will you humiliate my glory? your love empty? your seeking a lie? Selah

The dialogue is severe, yet merciful and gentle. The ornament is not fierce but is determined to raise questions against the self-confidence and even the assumptions of the one who prays.

Verse 4 prepares for verse 5 noting that prayer will be answered - indeed has been answered with a rebuke. Verse 5 begins the instruction and as central verse stands out because of the lack of a mid-point rest.

I do not use angry here since it is not the word generally translated as angry for its primary sense.
Shudder (רגז) and do not sin, promise in your heart where you lie down and be mute Selah
Shudder is what the earth does when its foundations are shaken at the presence of God (Psalm 18:7) (18:8 Hebrew). Shudder is a frame in Psalm 77 (verses 17 and 19 Hebrew). Shudder is what the peoples do on recognition that יהוה reigns (Psalm 99:1).

We could do with a bit less anger, and a bit more shuddering these days - what do you think?

Verse 6 then gives specific instruction - like Spike Lee's film - do what is right. Offer offerings of righteousness and trust in יהוה.

In both verse 6 and 7, the atenach is approached from below rather than from the dominant (munach) as in verse 8. The effect is that verse 8 has a greater rest than the prior two verses.

Verse 9 shows an interesting set of ornaments around sleeping - it seems a bit chaotic.
Verse 9 encompasses death and resurrection - even for the one who is alone.  Such hope does not allow one to 'sin the more' - as Psalms 5 and 6 will illustrate.  Holiness has a reality that is incompatible with sin.

For the music transcription see here. And here the English.

The Psalms are critical for learning the faith - any faithfulness that relates to the God of Abraham in any tradition that regards the Psalms as the Word of God. Without such rebuke and holding in trust and being held in trust, our civility to each other cannot hold.

In recent days, a hockey fan friend of mine, Matthew Larkin, has quoted Psalm 39 in rebuke to the owners and players alike.
heed the words of the psalmist: for man walketh in a vain shadow; he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.
And a dear musical friend has been helped by Psalm 91 in a deeply troublesome situation.
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him:
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Both are real and tangible uses of the Psalms - the right sort of uses of this wonderful set of poems.
Ps 91 - perhaps also - 'because he attached himself to me'.

Friday 14 September 2012

Theological quote of the day

From Living Wittily
Theology is done best not as logic, but as doxology
It struck me sometime last year after decades of knowing the creeds that they should be regarded as praise more than political rhetoric or violent syllogism.

Bruggemann (Israel's Praise, Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology) sees the potential for manipulation in praise without reason, --- but what polity does not manipulate a disorderly people to stop them from breaking the bonds of civility?  The truth of a religion does not rest in its ability to engage the mindless mob. The mobilized mindful may rather rest in that light that 'cannot be possessed' (See Jim Gordon's recent posts).

So what can we do with the mindless and with the extortioner? What is there to say about disorder that has nothing to praise? Disorder - that would be the mindless. And how (occupy anybody) do we really engage those who want to steal rather than create wealth, the gamblers, fixers, and hedgers?

In some 60 years of liturgical practice, what says to my own rebellious mind that there is something worthy of praise?  And what prevents me from manipulation that would benefit me first? Why do I search for logic - theologic?

It is that God in Christ and in those in Christ, an endless recursion, give me reason to not put me first except to participate in the First-born. I am bound in fetters of iron (Psalm 149). My freedom is not measured by my own attempts to free myself from obligation and responsibility (Psalm 2). The one who said 'must I not drink the cup ...' has invited me also to drink (Psalm 75). This is as Jim writes 'the wild untamed beauty of a Love utterly beyond our words, radiant with life and light, made accessible only by the condescension of the Triune God who in love became incarnate, enfolding and embracing humanity and createdness.'

And here's another good morning to you from Liturgy - a prayer by Lewis and this from Augustine:
We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.

Thursday 13 September 2012

The process of learning the te'amim

I have now transcribed seven psalms. It is too early to say what the patterns are but some stand out (see below). The tunes are ear-worms. Once in your head, they repeat - I found myself singing them as I planted  kale this morning.

These are the pdf's available so far from me - in Hebrew Psalm 123, 4120150. In English 1, 4.

These are in an evolving state - each one manually constructed as I decide how they might be best designed. I sang Psalm 1 at lunch for a former choirmaster of mine (now aged 95). He was polite - a bit intrigued I expect.

This is my process:
1. compare the Letteris edition of the Hebrew text to available text in other online editions.
2. create an edition with corrections - convert to extended html and insert / delete / correct the text to conform to Letteris (or whatever other source might be uncovered?).
3. transcribe (see cheat sheet here).
4. copy corrected text from database to music program (Musescore - free).
5. check this against an existing performance if available - otherwise check by hand and by sight and by sound. (I have Vantoura's book on inter-library-loan-request - Amazon refused my order! If anyone has a copy they don't want, leave me a comment - maybe we can come to a deal.)

I would also like to put together a program that would produce XML from the text so that standards for musical presentation could be established and the scores produced with automation as changes and corrections accumulate.

I hope to become able to sing the Hebrew at sight. It is possible, but it will take quite a bit more memorization and practice --- maybe after 20 or 30 transcriptions.

The default mode is E minor. The mid verse resting point (atnach) an A, sub-dominant.  One frequently finds a rising fifth and a dominant to tonic full close at the end of each verse. 2525 full closes, verse by verse... this would not make for very interesting music.  But the music I have heard performed (Esther Lamandier, Chanticler, and from colleagues of Suzanne Haik Vantoura - lots on u-tube - see The Music of the Bible Revealed) has been uniformly of a very high quality - and definitely interesting / striking / and beautiful.  Nevertheless, performance is a personal and subjective process, and textual criticism is a detailed work -to 'prove' that the score we have is ... um ... accurate (maybe). (The te'amim of the Aleppo codex are readable - e.g. here.)

I have marked some of the common patterns I have seen so far on this image of Psalm 3.
1 the rest mid-verse on the sub dominant A - atnach
2 an unusual cadence, effectively c-major after an a-minor motif
3 a common combination of two ornaments - geresh+revia. How often does this occur in the image? Look for it.
4 a full close (cadence) in E.

I do not see all the 'rules' clearly. Eventually, placement of an ornament over a syllable or to its left or right may be more evident to me. There is no control on the copying process once the music is lost. There is no redundancy in the system.  So how does one judge the result? Also this does not mean that David 'composed' the Psalter - what it testifies to is a liturgical practice with many potential contributors. As I have written from my close reading of the Psalter, it seems likely that the choir got to write the final liturgical history. That deserves a smiley.

Anyone interested in this project? My aim is to produce a singable text in English for the ordinary choir and congregation -  Musicians - accompaniment? Orchestration? Musicology? Textual criticism? Automation? Lots of skills required. Imagining an ancient practice - and learning the Psalms at the same time. (You can link to an intro from NPR as noted from the Oxford Psalms conference here.)

I have annotated a possible theology of a psalm given the music of Psalm 4 here.

Online resources, Wheeler, John. The Accentuation of Psalm 2:7: A Comparative Study.
Esther Lamandier, Genesis 1,


These works are directly relevant
1.       Vantoura, Suzanne Haik-. 1976. The Music of the Bible Revealed: The Deciphering of a Millenary
2.       Wheeler, John. Paper 2005. The “Tiberian Accents” as Analyzed by the Masoretes and by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. 
Online articles ignoring or supporting Haik-Vantoura:
3.       The Music of the Bible Revealed,, interpretation of the te’amim.
4.       Emanuel Rubin, Rhythmic and Structural Aspects of the Masoretic Cantillation of the Pentateuch[1] (no mention)
Resinging the Temple Psalmody, David C. Mitchell[2] (brief summary)

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Psalm 2 - music from the te'amim

The problems with this process are many.  The worst is that I have no way of checking my results.  Then I can't really tell what accidentals to use.  And I think I will need to become much more familiar with online manuscripts - since I won't be visiting Leningrad or anywhere else that soon.

Here is Psalm 2 - just the Hebrew for now. This post is replaced. Go here. I had what seems to have been a Chrome caching problem.

remember, note values are largely irrelevant. Just use syllable rhythm.  There were fewer differences than Psalm 1 (two or three) in the Hebrew editions for these 12 verses.

Tell me if the marks in the Hebrew fail to correspond with the notes.  I think I will do a bunch of the Hebrew ones and see if there are sound patterns that can be discerned.

Monday 10 September 2012

Letteris - differences highlighted

I still have some technical placement problems for the te'amim but this shows how many differences there are in Psalm 1 alone. One and a half problems per verse.

Letteris (green)
Mechon-Mamre (red)
אַֽשְׁ֥רֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים
וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד וּבְ֮מֹושַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב
א אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר ׀ לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮ בַּֽעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים
וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד וּבְמוֹשַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב׃

כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ
וּֽבְתוֹרָ֮ת֥וֹ יֶ֝הְגֶּ֗ה י֮וֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה
ב כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ
וּֽבְתוֹרָת֥וֹ יֶהְגֶּ֗ה יוֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה׃

וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ שָׁת֪וּל עַל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם
אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְי֨וֹ ׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ וְ֭עָלֵהוּ לֹ֥א־יִבּ֑וֹל
וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ
ג וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ שָׁת֪וּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם
אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְי֨וֹ ׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ וְעָלֵ֥הוּ לֹֽא־יִבּ֑וֹל
וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃

לֹ֮א־כֵ֥ן הָֽרְשָׁעִ֑ים
כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ
ד לֹא־כֵ֥ן הָֽרְשָׁעִ֑ים
כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ׃

עַל־כֵּ֤ן ׀ לֹֽא־יָקֻ֣מוּ רְ֭שָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט
וְ֝חַטָּאִ֗ים בַּֽעֲדַ֥ת צַדִּיקִֽים
ה עַל־כֵּ֤ן ׀ לֹֽא־יָקֻ֣מוּ רְ֭שָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט
וְ֝חַטָּאִ֗ים בַּֽעֲדַ֥ת צַדִּיקִֽים׃

כִּֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יְ֭הוָה דֶּ֥רֶךְ צַדִּיקִ֑ים
וְדֶ֖רֶךְ רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד
ו כִּֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יְ֭הוָה דֶּ֣רֶךְ צַדִּיקִ֑ים
וְדֶ֖רֶךְ רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד׃

Sunday 9 September 2012

Psalm 1 - English from the te'amim

English version here in pdf
Hebrew still here
see prior post for process.
thoughts? I think it is singable.
More detail on process here.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Psalm 1 - Letteris vs Mechon-Mamre

Reading and deciphering the music of the te'amim, as suggested by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, is a pains-taking process. Compare these two texts - how would you find the differences?

First Mechon-Mamre Psalm 1 here. If you bring it up side by side with this post, you will see the differences more easily - but it is not easy. See this post for a colour-coded result.

Second, my corrected version, restoring the te'amim to those of the Letteris edition. There are a lot of differences.
1. אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי־הָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹ֥א הָלַךְ֮  בַּעֲצַ֪ת רְשָׁ֫עִ֥ים
וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ חַ֭טָּאִים לֹ֥א עָמָ֑ד וּבְ֮מֹושַׁ֥ב לֵ֝צִ֗ים לֹ֣א יָשָֽׁב
2. כִּ֤י אִ֥ם בְּתוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֗ה חֶ֫פְצ֥וֹ
וּֽבְתוֹרָ֮ת֥וֹ יֶ֝הְגֶּ֗ה י֮וֹמָ֥ם וָלָֽיְלָה
3. וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮  שָׁת֪וּל עַל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם
אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְי֨וֹ ׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתּ֗וֹ וְ֭עָלֵהוּ לֹ֥א־יִבּ֑וֹל
וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ
4. לֹ֮א־כֵ֥ן הָֽרְשָׁעִ֑ים
כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ
5. עַל־כֵּ֤ן ׀ לֹֽא־יָקֻ֣מוּ רְ֭שָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּ֑ט
וְ֝חַטָּאִ֗ים בַּֽעֲדַ֥ת צַדִּיקִֽים
6. כִּֽי־יוֹדֵ֣עַ יְ֭הוָה דֶּ֥רֶךְ צַדִּיקִ֑ים
וְדֶ֖רֶךְ רְשָׁעִ֣ים תֹּאבֵֽד
The differences would be audible in the music - both different reciting notes and differing ornaments - but I am not going to set both. Finding the differences is visually and typographically challenging - the unicode for the te'amim cannot be copied or transferred from one letter to another. I have some software that helps - it is an off-label application.

Here is the sung version - it is exquisite

Here is a draft transcription of the Hebrew

I am working on a version in English - My intent is to create a Psalter that could be sung in either Hebrew or English by those who do not know Hebrew.

I am wondering how to produce such a difficult volume - with so many tricky issues from transcription to correction to the reconstruction of an electronic version of the Letteris version of the te'amim.  So far, the project is stuck in the academic realm and the realm of highly polished professional performances - lovely indeed, but not achieving what a greater knowledge of the psalms could achieve ...

I am also looking for suggestions (apart from don't do it) and possible collaboration with composers and performers, particularly local ones in Vancouver and Victoria - but distant collaboration is not out of the question.

Please let me know if you see errors or omissions in this first detailed exercise.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Trees - the broken branch

I have been studying trees - visually - not scholarly -  I guess they qualify as flowers too - part of that visual Poetry of Christ that has taken a back seat in my posting over the last year.  This tree clapped hands a little more than its branch could manage. In its decay it is still beauty.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Kinsol Trestle

We spent a half-day riding to the Kinsoll trestle - Jeremy and Diana are in the photo.

Lentil Nut Loaf

no land animal was injured or harmed
 in the production of this loaf
I said I would write on Lentil Loaf - here goes. Just look at that beauty. Do you see how thinly you can slice it? That's rich food for small appetites. This stuff with ketchup is indistinguishable from a good meat loaf - and there is no meat in it.

1 onion - chopped fine - I used a red one - and it was not as finely chopped as it might have been. A little oil in which to sauté the said onion till it is transparent and slightly brown.

Some unknown amount (c 2 cups) of cooked (drained?) lentils. These you cook - boil really - for an indeterminate amount of time - between 15 minutes and an hour. [rinse and drain lentils, place in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil, boil 2 minutes, reduce heat, simmer till tender]

Diana did this in the morning before I could figure out how much lentil was there. She left them on the stove, not drained - element off - and those lentils just got fatter and fatter by the hour absorbing whatever water was left. You may have guessed that it was my job to cook supper - after all I am retired and she was busy. [and I don't eat land animals or birds, dead or alive - vegetarian cooking is a bit more work]

The recipe also calls for

  • 1/2 a cup of whole wheat bread crumbs. I substituted an equivalent amount of rolled oats. 
  • Also 1/2 a cup of chopped toasted walnuts (forget the toasting) and you can add other nuts -
  •  like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds (toasted - they come that way). 
  • Then go out to the garden and cut some tender sage leaves and some thyme - I don't know if it was a half a teaspoon or not - maybe if you imagine it dried it could fit - but I think it was more like a tablespoon.  
  • The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour (optional). 
  • The two eggs are harmed - remove shell and beat them. 
  • 1/2 cup broth or water (or lentil water leftovers if any after boiling)
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar - what for I have no idea
  • 2 teaspoons shoyu - I used soy sauce - a few of the same letters in it at least
  • the sesame seeds are supposed to go on top - but you can see I did not do this.
Preheat oven to 350. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper - wonderful stuff - doesn't burn and makes taking the loaf out a breeze. Mix ingredients except (whoops) sesame seeds...

Mix - what is this word? You have to end up with something that will bake, coalesce, bind and not fall apart (as has every lentil nut loaf I have ever seen - still tastes good though).  But before I mixed everything up (including the exception) I thought about this problem and decided to make my own 'flour' from the dry ingredients. I was suspicious about the optional flour that had been left out of previous attempts, and I wanted to have something that would cook and hold its shape.  So - all nuts, rolled oats, seeds, spices - those are the dry - were finely ground in a small mixer and then mixed with the lentils and wet ingredients. Result - mush.  Add more dry ingredients - more rolled oats, a stray frozen slice of bread made into crumbs, and the optional flour - as much as 1/2 a cup. Result - maybe the right texture. The proof would be in the baking.

Bake covered (I used a leftover bit of aluminum foil) for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 10 minutes. It did all fit in one loaf pan and (it didn't rise - obviously since there is no baking stuff or yeast in it).  I removed it from the oven and let it sit in the pan till it cooled a bit - just in case it was going to fall apart - then after a half hour or so I took it out and it didn't fall apart as you can see. (O - and I turned off the oven too.) It stayed on the counter for a good five hours while I played tennis and did some more shopping.  

This loaf has now provided protein substance for two meals with lots more to go.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Muttering and perishing, a thought on Psalm 1 and 2

Besides the 5 words of Psalm 1 that are repeated in sequence in Psalm 2:4, 7, 8, 10, 12, and the opening and closing beatitude (Psalm 1:1, 2:12), two other words recur that tie the psalms together.

There is a difference between muttering the Torah (Psalm 1:2) and muttering on empty or in vain (Psalm 2:1). And there is the warning of consequences, the perishing 'of the way of the wicked' in Psalm 1:6, and the perishing 'way' of Psalm 2:12. As shown in the table below, perish is the last recurring word in the pair of psalms taken together as a unit.

Selected words occurring in each of psalms 1,2
Word and gloss * first usage123456789VsRoot
* אשׁרי happy
* אשׁר who
* ובדרך and in the way of
* ובמושׁב and in the seat of
* ישׁב sit
יהגה he mutters
יומם day
* אשׁר that
יתן gives
וכל and in all
* אשׁר that
* אשׁר that
במשׁפט in the judgment
* דרך the way of
* ודרך but the way of
תאבד will perish
יהגו in muttering
יושׁב the one sitting
היום this day
ואתנה and I give
שׁפטי you many who make judgments
ותאבדו and you perish in
דרך the way
אשׁרי happy
כל all
See also Cole, Robert. JSOT 98 (2002). 75-88 An Integrated Reading of Psalms 1 and 2. An overview of how to use these tables while reading the text is here.

Who is doing the muttering in Psalm 2:3? I take verse 3 as direct speech from the sovereigns of the prior verse. I.e. the ones who are under the rule of יהוה and the anointed are the rebellious. I was therefore a bit surprised at the analysis here which I have only just noted as I begin my study of the te'amim. See here for a very brief intro to the compact musical score that these markings indicate according to Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. For the NPR intro see the video link here from my notes on the Oxford conference 2010.

How does the ordinary person relate to the muttering of kings? The kings seem distant in time, in space, and in impact. We do not have such an impact, do we, in our internal muttering? How do we mutter?  Choose between Torah in conversation with HaShem, as Jesus did, or "You're not the boss of me" as sovereigns do. In this election year in the US - what muttering should we listen to and what consequences will our listening have? If it is the consequences of the Psalter - building a community that knows mercy, then the mutterer will have been on the side of the poor. If it has the economic consequences indicated by the prophet (Isaiah 5:8): woe to you who join house to house, then the mutterer needs to be bound with the fetters of mercy (Psalm 149:8).

Is it still true in our North American society that the rich prosper and the poor are considered of no account? The warning in Psalms 1 and 2 of the perishing of such a way bears a second thought.

Monday 3 September 2012

Softball in Coquitlam

The Colony Farm Kings took on the Angels in the finals - (the Angels were really good and they won). And here is son James at bat in an earlier game. The green of the Gates Park reminded me that I need more green and less screen.

Labour Day in BC - late 1800s

This is an article worth noting. We live with such technology and so many 'rights' - thank God. But note how they were delivered to us.

Is Mammon really kind?
Is capitalism really merciful?
Does kindness reside in trickle-down economics?

האם ממון באמת סוג?
האם באמת קפיטליזם רחום?
האם חסד מתגורר בחלחול כלכלה?

Does the sequence of events matter?

I left a comment - maybe it will be approved - on Mere Historicity. What it tells me is what I have learned from thinking about the Psalms over the past 6 years. Essentially what I have learned from 'reading my own book' (so far).

The comment is very cryptic even though it is long. Why am I so cryptic? I have been learning and teaching all my life, but I can't be responsible for my results. How is teaching possible? Suppose you were reading a lesson from the Song of Songs and you had successfully found it in the OT. Then you learned that the TNK has it in a different place - and you went to read it in public and couldn't find it and started to read from the Wisdom of Solomon instead of the Song!!!!!

Bother, said Winnie the Pooh. Well, this didn't happen to me, but it's a good day-mare. And there have been plenty of times when I could not find what I was looking for. Maybe it happened to you - and you want to avoid such embarrassment in the future - well (got a bookmark, anyone?).

Perhaps you were not allowed to read this love song without a little embarrassment. I can't protect against misreading.

Assuming you can find the psalms in the Bible (they occupy a much bigger chunk of space than the Song), here's what you might learn from reading them - maybe with the help of my book also.

  1. these are the texts that are taken as the conversation between Father and Son (and here I would use capitals) in the epistle to the Hebrews, and
  2. these poems are dialogue between anyone and HaShem representing each person as a 'first-born' and each person as 'Israel'.

Now you begin to think historically around the metaphor of Israel: enslaved (being), purchased (gotten), transformed by wilderness discipline (learning faith), saved (in the promised land - itself full of enemies - war in heaven), corrected (the discipline of obedience - the parable of Job and its frame, Leviathan - real creation and redemption in one day), exiled (yet not without hope) and restored.

After observing the pattern and perhaps applying it to the storied David as well - Moabite restored, an illegitimate leader with a heart (Even the children of Lot - Psalm 83 - find their way into the Psalter), one can then ponder why it is that humans have failed to learn the obedience of faith (the frame of Romans) and are unable constitutionally to govern even their own 'soul' let alone those of others.

This leads to the fundamental principle of self-governance, drinking the cup that is passed to you, the cup that represents your life on behalf of others - and of course it is in the Psalms - in Ps 75 just before the dead centre:.

for there is a cup in the hand of יהוה
and the wine is red
full of mixture
and he spills from it
surely they will suck the dregs
all the wicked of the earth will imbibe

Who read these words and understood? The one whose being was gotten by HaShem for the redemption of the world. Gotten is that root for the taking of a wife (see Ruth).  Now how does HaShem get a wife and become to us a bridegroom of blood?  That same body (cup, vessel, owl, unclean bird, fleeing to the mountain) will learn faith, discover the enemy of self, be corrected even in wrath (Pss 6:1 see also Pss 38/70), be exiled yet remain in a state of trust - (Pss 31.5,15).

Time to unpack this messy suitcase. There's a wholeness in history that belies causality.

Saturday 1 September 2012