Thursday, 27 August 2015

The results of my research in the use of software to read the Hebrew Bible

I have written much on this blog of my progress in deciphering the meaning of the signs in the text of the Hebrew. Now for a simple example of uncertainty, science, and testing of the results. There is much more to do - particularly to teach scholars how to read music.

William Wickes writes in the 19th century on the accents in the Hebrew text and he has studied many manuscripts directly. You know what this would have been like in the 19th century. Travel, study, notes, and so on, a long process. The dedication and industry of such work is commendable and born I am sure of love of the subject (at least).

I won't go into detail on his naming of the accents and so on, but just move immediately to a single claim. He makes the claim (page 23) that "Logically, a verse may be closely connected with the one preceding or following it; but musically and accentually no such connection exists."

This is a testable claim. Science looks at the data and performs experiments to see if general statements such as this can stand scrutiny. Perhaps one exception would prove that such a general rule cannot stand. But there is not just one, there are examples on every page of scripture that deny that general statement. These could be proven by naming the accents that begin the verses of Proverbs 2. But you would not understand and neither would I want you to struggle through such an explanation.

As I demonstrated a few days ago (before I had even heard of Wickes' book though I had considered others such as Jacobson), the music tells us so much more simply than an arcane explanation. The music sings the complex connections between verses. No example I have looked at fails to illustrate this far in excess of what any 'punctuation' could do.

Simple conclusion. Tradition has lost the meaning of the signs. Sure, it knows they are somehow exegetical and musical, but it can no longer communicate this to the masses that would love to hear how that works. It has lost its way. If I have to read a complex treatise with 25 unpronounceable words and contorted 'simplification' about conjunctive and disjunctive hierarchical roles of unreadable diacritics, then I simply won't do it. If I have to listen to transparent and beautiful music and don't have to be told what I am hearing because it is obvious to me, then I will hear and love the result.

[Addendum] Tradition (Helmut Richter) occasionally results in a clear statement of purpose of the cantillation marks, but only clear from its own point of view. Then it states what can only be interpreted as a complete escape clause: "the real nesting levels stay nowhere constant and can jump up and down by arbitrary amounts."

Vantoura is transparent. The rules are easily learned. Sight reading is easily learned. The result is beauty. What's to argue about? Tradition is struggling under a falsely engineered explanation.

This results in explanations like the following: A sequence like officer servant duke king duke servant king servant emperor is fully permissible.

The scholars are not musicians and therefore will argue or explain only from that diacritic point of view. They will ask you to read a book instead of showing you the beauty of the word.

I have almost completed my transcription of the whole Bible. [The first complete set of files in the default mode should be done by the end of the first week in September.] My work is scientific and therefore repeatable by any competent programmer. It need not be lost. It follows a clear set of transcription rules such that no information is lost in the resulting music. (I could even keep the qere-ketiv distinctions but for the most part, though the programming supports this, I have chosen not to.)

If you want to see the work, the xml files are all at this link. To read them as music, you need a music program such as Musescore version 2 or above.

My work is dependent on the work of Suzanne Haik Vantoura, as well as the development of the MUSIC-XML language. Lots of dependencies for which I am grateful. When I began, I had no idea that this would be possible to complete. Now it is clear that it is for I have done it.

The entire Bible, chapter by chapter, is now available in Music XML form on my shared drive.

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