Monday, April 18, 2016

Psalm 18:20-25, a Gem

Here are the confident words of David. I have extracted the following from a section of my presentation for the regional SBL in Moscow, Idaho. Currently scheduled for 4PM on Friday

One general question about the accents is how they support perceived verbal structures like recurring words and parallelism. Kugel (1981 :144) writes that the accents sometimes seem to interfere with the parallels, but if we use his examples with the accents interpreted as music, they show that that the parallels are even clearer within the musical phrases. Psalm 18:20-25 (MacDonald 2014 :109) is an example of a circular structure: turn, kept, not with a focus of before, framed by righteousness, purity and hands, and it shows several parallelisms. Verse 20 stands out as one that is lightly connected to the rest of the poem. The only recurrence for verse 20 is רחב (broad, spacious) also used in verse 37.

ויֽוציא֥ני למרח֑ב
י֝חלצ֗ני כ֘י ח֥פֽץ בֽי
He has brought me out into a spacious room
he will rescue me for he delighted in me
יגמל֥ני יהו֣ה כצדק֑י
כב֥ר י֝ד֗י ישׁ֥יב לֽי
Yahweh will reward me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands he will turn to me
כֽי־שׁ֭מרתי דרכ֣י יהו֑ה
ולֽא־ר֝שׁ֗עתי מֽאלהֽי
for I have kept the ways of Yahweh
and I have not been wicked with my God
כ֣י כל־משׁפט֣יו לנגד֑י
ו֝חקת֗יו לֽא־אס֥יר מֽני
for all his judgments are before me
and his statutes I will not put aside from me
וֽאה֣י תמ֣ים עמ֑ו
וֽ֝אשׁתמ֗ר מֽעו‍נֽי
and I am complete with him
and I have kept myself from my iniquity
ויֽשׁב־יהו֣ה ל֣י כצדק֑י
כב֥ר י֝ד֗י לנ֣גד עינֽיו
and Yahweh turned to me for my righteousness
for the purity of my hands before his eyes
The score (below) was created in Music XML from the Hebrew text of the Westminster Leningrad codex.[1]

Each verse in this section rises to the rest point on A. The Hebrew syllable below the first A on each line shows the resting point of the verse ^. In this section, the repeated words of verses 21 and 25 are set to musical phrases of the same shape.

Notice how each verse except the central verse 23 begins and ends on E. This observation, made clear by the tonal memory in the accents, eventually leads to a recognition of how verses are heard as connected through the accents. The uniqueness of verse 23 is confirmed by both the music and the recurrence pattern. In verse 24 above, in setting the lyrics in English, ‘and I am וָאֱהִ֣י completeתָמִ֣ים  with him עִמּ֑וֹ’, I have set am after the bar as well and note the accent on complete. The word him occurs on the resting note in the verse.  In the same verse there are 7 beats after the caesura with the rest note as reciting note. The variation in pitch is determined in this section through the ornaments, which always return to the reciting note. The musical line in this verse leads to the stress on the second syllable of iniquity. The recitation on the rest note is significant. It is less common than on the tonic, supertonic, dominant or submediant.

Here is the image that shows the structure:
And the music

[1] The music represents the cantillation according to Haïk-Vantoura’s deciphering key. The first line of the libretto is an automated transcription of the consonants and vowels, syllable by syllable. The Hebrew text in the music was extracted from the Leningrad codex via a web service using their defined XSL interface. I exclude annotations and the very few signs that are not in the Haïk-Vantoura model. The automation process saves an estimated half-day or more of manual work for each 10 verses. The transcription software uses the facilities of GX-LEAF, The English was adjusted using a music program which can read Music XML (Musescore). Editing an underlay in English remains a manual task.

Kugel, James L. 1981. The Idea of Biblical Poetry, Parallelism and its history. Yale University Press.
MacDonald, Bob. 2013. Seeing the Psalter, Patterns of Recurrence in the Poetry of the Psalms, Energion Publications.
– 2014. “Using Software to Analyse Patterns of Recurrence in the Poetry of the Psalms”, Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture 3(3), pp.107-148. [online] Available at: 2014/.

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