Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Singing the Scriptures - The Song of Solomon (Part 1)

Dodi - my beloved - what do we have here? A careful and slow read for you, dissembling nothing. Akiva calls this book the Holy of Holies. So not to be entered without that holiness that is itself unapproachable without death. Having died to the deeds of the body, therefore, approach with boldness but without presumption (Psalm 5), by the Spirit.
שִׁ֥יר הַשִּׁירִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לִשְׁלֹמֹֽה׃

Page 1 of 4, setting the scene, note the not disinterested chorus.
יִשָּׁקֵ֙נִי֙ מִנְּשִׁיק֣וֹת פִּ֔יהוּ כִּֽי־טוֹבִ֥ים דֹּדֶ֖יךָ מִיָּֽיִן׃
We begin (verses 1 to 6) and end (chapter 2, warning) in mode 5, a D minor with its tonic on E. We continue in E minor (mode 2) and have a middle section back in D (verses 13-15).
לְרֵ֙יחַ֙ שְׁמָנֶ֣יךָ טוֹבִ֔ים שֶׁ֖מֶן תּוּרַ֣ק שְׁמֶ֑ךָ עַל־כֵּ֖ן עֲלָמ֥וֹת אֲהֵבֽוּךָ׃

The default mode would work throughout (raised g#) but we are not interpreting this as prose.

מָשְׁכֵ֖נִי אַחֲרֶ֣יךָ נָּר֑וּצָה הֱבִיאַ֨נִי הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ חֲדָרָ֗יו נָגִ֤ילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה֙ בָּ֔ךְ נַזְכִּ֤ירָה דֹדֶ֙יךָ֙ מִיַּ֔יִן מֵישָׁרִ֖ים אֲהֵבֽוּךָ׃ ס

For me, the doubled qadma (verses shown at the link) is a sign of love - a kiss. And so it should be interpreted in all the prophets including Moses as well. The whole Tanach is an art song. At least that is my thesis until proven wrong.

שְׁחוֹרָ֤ה אֲנִי֙ וְֽנָאוָ֔ה בְּנ֖וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם כְּאָהֳלֵ֣י קֵדָ֔ר כִּירִיע֖וֹת שְׁלֹמֹֽה׃

Come you punctuationists and prove me wrong - or ignore me, being so busy with your emperors, kings, dukes and counts. Do not stare at me that I am swarthy, for the children of my mother, my kin, were angry with me, so I was sent out into the fields as an entrepreneur and was not able to be a scholar. Anyway - who is my mother and my brother and my sister?

Page 2 of 4
There are some remarkable signs in the text. My translation is limited, watch out for reversed English word order - sometimes.

Page 3 of 4
אַל־תִּרְא֙וּנִי֙ שֶׁאֲנִ֣י שְׁחַרְחֹ֔רֶת שֶׁשֱּׁזָפַ֖תְנִי הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ בְּנֵ֧י אִמִּ֣י נִֽחֲרוּ־בִ֗י שָׂמֻ֙נִי֙ נֹטֵרָ֣ה אֶת־הַכְּרָמִ֔ים כַּרְמִ֥י שֶׁלִּ֖י לֹ֥א נָטָֽרְתִּי׃

Sometimes I have to agree with the words on the ornamentation and changes in reciting note in the Hebrew, and sometimes I can get away with not agreeing with the Hebrew word order or emphasis.

הַגִּ֣ידָה לִּ֗י שֶׁ֤אָהֲבָה֙ נַפְשִׁ֔י אֵיכָ֣ה תִרְעֶ֔ה אֵיכָ֖ה תַּרְבִּ֣יץ בַּֽצָּהֳרָ֑יִם שַׁלָּמָ֤ה אֶֽהְיֶה֙ כְּעֹ֣טְיָ֔ה עַ֖ל עֶדְרֵ֥י חֲבֵרֶֽיךָ׃

Yes I concur that the ornaments are emphasis, and the change in reciting note and ornaments in combination mark cadences (disjunctives!) but they are music first.

Where there is a / in the English libretto, treat the note as of zero duration. Where there are many syllables for a single note, just recite them on that note. Where there is a slur and apparently two syllables, slur the first syllable and append the second to the second note.

אִם־לֹ֤א תֵדְעִי֙ לָ֔ךְ הַיָּפָ֖ה בַּנָּשִׁ֑ים צְֽאִי־לָ֞ךְ בְּעִקְבֵ֣י הַצֹּ֗אן וּרְעִי֙ אֶת־גְּדִיֹּתַ֔יִךְ עַ֖ל מִשְׁכְּנ֥וֹת הָרֹעִֽים׃ ס
You can find the rest of the Hebrew here if you want to check my interpretation of the te'amim.

Where the two syllables are under the first note, apply the slur to the second syllable. Note values (quarter, crotchet, eighth, quaver) are irrelevant. Sing to a word rhythm, but do not throw syllables away or you will leave a tear in the ribbon of sound.

If the psalms are plainsong, this is Anglican chant (well sung). There is no fixed meter. The ornaments are markers of key words in the text, yet the musical line tends to the bar line - so go for it.

Page 4 of 4

The psalms answer the requests of verse 7. The groom encourages the boldness of these requests.

Verses 13 - note the reference to myrrh. In verse 14, the word for comphire (KJV), henna (JB), is the word for cover, (כּפר) or lion, or propitiation, even mercy seat (Leviticus 16:14).

This is for meditation, so I will refrain from much more commentary.

Who am I to know what will be given for you to see here, daughters of Jerusalem, whether the green bed, or the fretted ceilings and the echo of the heavenly harp In sweetness magnifical and mighty? (Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno).

The lilies are of course students of Torah (Rashi) and symbolic of love, and its cost.

This image draws our attention to the Psalms 45, 60, 69, 80. Note how Psalm 60 draws in its double, Psalm 108, preparing for the great mystery of Psalm 110, celebrated by the double poems, 111 and 112.

Why would I assign the warning to the chorus? Is it the great assembly warning itself? But it is also the great assembly in which the Name is declared to all the kin, mother, sisters, brothers, and where the afflicted will eat and be satisfied.

I could wish you beloved, no other satisfaction.

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