Monday, March 3, 2014

Singing the Scriptures - The Music of Amos

I now begin to have enough material to consider some aspects of the Scriptures from a musical point of view. Warning, I still have a small part of the whole, snippets of Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Samuel, and the minor prophets, and all - yes - all of the psalms. These are still in a sight-readers paradise and 95% in Hebrew only. I have not recorded them.

A shalshelet in Amos.
Amos 1:2 has a shalshelet, a poetry ornament in a prose book. There it is circled in red in the Aleppo codex, the zig-zaggy thing over the mem ֓מ. This is a surprise - and it requires me to change my program to account for this break in a fundamental assumption about the music: vis. that the Books of Truth, Psalms, Proverbs and the speeches of Job have a different (though overlapping) set of ornaments from the rest of the Tanach. I wonder how often this so-called rule is broken. I see there are four shalsheletim in Torah - and now I know there is at least one in the Prophets too! Live and learn.

From the music of Amos I also learn that the change in sublinear sign can be rare. When the prophet intones his three and four announcements, they are all intoned on one fundamental note with ornamentation. Mitchell in a forthcoming work on the Psalms of Ascent interprets a change of note as a stress marker, so I have put my dashed barlines at this point in the music. It works very well, so well that I no longer bother testing any other regular barline possibility. I count a phrase with 23 beats without a change in reciting note. (Amos 2:9). My music program can just handle it.

Here's an example of phrase structure within these first two chapters of Amos. This phrase is repeated 8 times with different objects in the first two chapters and each time (except for a minor variation for the children of Ammon) to the same music. It is music, pace the brilliant scholars who call them accents.

This is Amos 1:11a (to the rest point of the subdominant atenach) and its music.
כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה עַל־שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ פִּשְׁעֵ֣י אֱד֔וֹם וְעַל־אַרְבָּעָ֖ה לֹ֣א אֲשִׁיבֶ֑נּוּ
A return to the tonic for the children of Ammon
And here's the confirmation that the children of Ammon in verse 13a get a lower note. See the silluq below the yod of benei.

So will I play any more with Amos - probably. There seems to be something to learn with every phrase I look at. I have left my PDF's and XML files at the shared location if anyone wants to help. (Don't you think you would find it fascinating! Let me know... ) And this kind of reading encourages slow and careful consideration. I think, for instance that the King James translation of these verses is over-determining the 'meaning' with the added words.  Because the rest-point in the music demands a rest, the addition of words after turn away violates the rhythm and sense. The sense could easily be compassion and not vindictiveness.
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; [KJV - read it for historical interest]
One generation assumes punishment, another assumes consequences, another leaves the gap and prays. Certainly these places - all of them, are still in need of prayer today. I confess though I do not know how to pray for kleptocrats except that the consequences might be swift and the shame complete.

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