Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Meanderings on the music - patterns observed so far...

I have updated my easy cheat-sheet for the te-amim to include some names. The names are a complex problem, made far worse by the confusion of the signs as exegetical rather than musical (where the music guides the exegete.)

But there is another large problem - just how do the ornaments work and how could you tell they were supposed to work that way?

I am relatively convinced that Haik-Vantoura's interpretation of the sublinear signs is correct. It works too well to argue with it. I have not perfectly understood when to allow the silluq and when to think of this sign as a metheg. I am disturbed that it has two meanings - it spoils an otherwise quite consistent pattern. But even Lambdin, who knows nothing of the music, complains about inconsistent manuscripts (p. xxvii). I let my program assume a metheg at the beginning of a multi-syllable word if it is not near the end of a line when a silluq is expected. That means my automated (and therefore draft) music will sometimes miss a return to the tonic in the middle of a line (it rarely makes a significant difference).

I have been comparing Suzanne Haik Vantoura's rendition of the Song with my computer generated patterns. There are a number of places where she applies her deciphering key subjectively. She claims she applies it without exception, but that is not true. She applies the sublinear signs without exception, but the ornaments are another matter.

She admits that some things are subjective. In particular she varies the mode, sometimes even within a single section of text - choosing aolian or hypodorian in the case of the Song as it suits her ear. Maybe the stringed instrument can manage two conflicting modes (e.g. requiring both F and F#) at the same time, and she does not vary the interpretation of the sublinear signs.

But she varies the interpretation of ornaments depending on how she determines to resolve them back to the reciting note and if they are doubled. Fair enough - but before I could agree with her, I would have to have processed a great deal more of the Scripture - and I hope this will not be long in coming.

In the Song particularly, I note that the zaqef qaton, single note descending ornament, often occurs just before a change in reciting note or on the last syllable of a word. I changed the program this morning to resolve it to the reciting note if this occurs. (One could always do this manually of course.)

Her barring also is manually determined. Bars do not indicate the direction of the vocal line for her. The computer program could use arbitrary barring, but I have allowed it to highlight a change in reciting note since this carries information to a singer about the vocal line.

Concerning the ornaments - there are even at first sight some significant sequences:

  • a common cadence point called oleh ve-yored, rising and falling. It consists of an oleh (poetry only) followed by a merkha (sublinear), coming to rest then on the supertonic. It creates a suitable intermediate cadence. There are six in Psalm 32, on measures 2, 17, 33, 42, 56, 63. Notice that the cadence is approached from several reciting notes.
  • the revia mugrash (in the poetry only) provides a very common response to the first part of the verse. It is frequent in Psalm 32 - in fact, it is frequent in all psalms except 136. Psalm 136 uses only the zarqa and that only twice on verses 4 (for alone doing great wonders) and 15 (and tossed Pharaoh and his force into the sea of reeds). In both these cases, the ornament precedes the high note and would aid the singer in energy to make the point of the verse.
  • the qadma is often followed by a zaqef qaton. (prose only).
  • It is curious that the Song is sparse in its use of ornaments than other books I have looked at. But to date I have too little information on the prose books to tell if one might determine the genre by the use of the ornaments.