Monday, October 10, 2016

Musical Structure

We all know about the development of Sonata Form in the period from Mozart to Beethoven, right? We do not analyse music by individual line but by motif, and pattern, and theme, and development, and preparation and conclusion, and coda among many other issues like volume, tempo, and rhythm.

A conversation with a scholar and a musician resulted in my developing a query to generate the tables of the prior two posts on the musical shapes of Psalm verses. But verses are one at a time in isolation. They do not form a cohesive whole by themselves. Music is not written verse by verse.

It is a major disadvantage of the thought process of scholars studying the accents in the Hebrew Bible over the last 1000 years that they assumed the accents were confined to one verse as an isolated unit. Music does not work this way. And the Bible does not work this way either grammatically or musically. Therefore any analysis must consider the shape of whole chapters and also possible allusions to other even distant chapters through shared musical shape. So how do we find a language for the shape of music?

This post has four parts. Performance - must be heard for understanding, translation - you can follow the translation as you hear the performance, accent shape - where did this music come from, and analysis of the shapes.

Here is the performance of Psalm 96,  by King David's Harp in 1991.


And here is the Psalm.

Psalms 96
שִׁ֣ירוּ לַ֭יהוָה שִׁ֣יר חָדָ֑שׁ
שִׁ֥ירוּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ
1 Sing to Yahweh a new song.
Sing to Yahweh all the earth.
7
8
שִׁ֣ירוּ לַ֭יהוָה בָּרֲכ֣וּ שְׁמ֑וֹ
בַּשְּׂר֥וּ מִיּֽוֹם־לְ֝י֗וֹם יְשׁוּעָתֽוֹ
2 Sing to Yahweh. Bless his name.
Publish from day to day his salvation.
9
10
סַפְּר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֣ם כְּבוֹד֑וֹ
בְּכָל־הָֽ֝עַמִּ֗ים נִפְלְאוֹתָֽיו
3 Recount in the nations his glory,
to all the peoples his wonders.

8
9
כִּ֥י גָ֘ד֤וֹל יְהוָ֣ה וּמְהֻלָּ֣ל מְאֹ֑ד
נוֹרָ֥א ה֝֗וּא עַל־כָּל־אֱלֹהִֽים
4 For great is Yahweh and much to be praised.
He is to be feared above all gods.
10
8
כִּ֤י ׀ כָּל־אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָעַמִּ֣ים אֱלִילִ֑ים
וַֽ֝יהוָ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם עָשָֽׂה
5 For all the gods of the peoples are good for nothing,
but Yahweh made the heavens.

11
6
הוֹד־וְהָדָ֥ר לְפָנָ֑יו
עֹ֥ז וְ֝תִפְאֶ֗רֶת בְּמִקְדָּשֽׁוֹ
6 Splendour and honour are in his presence,
strength and adornment in his sanctuary.
7
9
הָב֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה מִשְׁפְּח֣וֹת עַמִּ֑ים
הָב֥וּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּב֥וֹד וָעֹֽז
7 Ascribe to Yahweh, families of the peoples.
Ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength.
9
8
הָב֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה כְּב֣וֹד שְׁמ֑וֹ
שְׂאֽוּ־מִ֝נְחָ֗ה וּבֹ֥אוּ לְחַצְרוֹתָֽיו
8 Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of his name.
Bear a gift and come into his courts.
8
10
הִשְׁתַּחֲו֣וּ לַ֭יהוָה בְּהַדְרַת־קֹ֑דֶשׁ
חִ֥ילוּ מִ֝פָּנָ֗יו כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ
9 Worship Yahweh in the honour of holiness.
Let all the earth be brought to birth from his presence.

11
9
אִמְר֤וּ בַגּוֹיִ֨ם ׀ יְה֘וָ֤ה מָלָ֗ךְ אַף־תִּכּ֣וֹן תֵּ֭בֵל בַּל־תִּמּ֑וֹט
יָדִ֥ין עַ֝מִּ֗ים בְּמֵישָׁרִֽים
10 Say to the nations, Yahweh reigns. Indeed the world is established so it will not move.
He will make the case for the peoples with uprightness.

17
8
יִשְׂמְח֣וּ הַ֭שָּׁמַיִם וְתָגֵ֣ל הָאָ֑רֶץ
יִֽרְעַ֥ם הַ֝יָּ֗ם וּמְלֹאֽוֹ
11 Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice.
Let the sea thunder and its fullness.
12
7
יַעֲלֹ֣ז שָׂ֭דַי וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־בּ֑וֹ
אָ֥ז יְ֝רַנְּנ֗וּ כָּל־עֲצֵי־יָֽעַר
12 Let the field exult and all that are in it.
Then all the trees of the wood will shout for joy,
10
8
לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָ֨ה ׀ כִּ֬י בָ֗א כִּ֥י בָא֮ לִשְׁפֹּ֪ט הָ֫אָ֥רֶץ
יִשְׁפֹּֽט־תֵּבֵ֥ל בְּצֶ֑דֶק
וְ֝עַמִּ֗ים בֶּאֱמוּנָתֽוֹ
13 in the presence of Yahweh, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
13
7
8
And third the sheet music.
The Leningrad codex music (the image on the left and below) differs slightly from that of the performance above from the Letteris edition. Letteris has added an extra metheg to the syllable la in bar 5. It is accidentally OK, but it is a confusion nonetheless. Metheg has the same coding and shape as silluq, but they are different. The metheg has no musical value.

The tonal shape of the first six bars are derived from the accent sequence: munah tifha munah ^atnah merkha silluq. These become the reciting notes: B g B ^A f# ger-rev,e.

This first musical line begins on the fifth note of the modal scale. This calls attention to the natural tones of the shophar, the tonic and the fifth. The detail pattern occurs 14 times in the poetry books and nowhere else. Not beginning on the default silluq (e) may also signal a connection with the prior psalm.

The second verse (bar 7 second line) is similar to verse 1. It begins on the B but returns to the tonic slightly differently. This line is unique, yet it's shape, when reduced to its essence, is not significantly different from verse 1.

Similarly verse 3 begins on the e but immediately sounds the fifth again. The defaulted silluq is purely an upbeat in this case. The ornaments in the second half of this verse are recited on a continuing subdominant, the common mid-verse note of rest. The tonic is then reached with one note. If you read the words, you will see how well the music follows them.

Verses 4 and 5, (lines 4 to 8 above) are different. Verse 4 begins on an f#, implicitly connecting this verse to the prior 3 verses. It then rises to a high C as does verse 5.

It is clear from listening that this phrase is a response to the first three verses. In this psalm it is the first of three such responses and behaves somewhat like a chorus, but with different words each time.

Verse 6 is on lower notes and stands out in this set of verses. It prepares a threefold repetition of presence (v 6, 9, 13).

Verses 7-8-9 are musically the same shapes as 1-2-3. Verse 10 is a response like 4 and 5. Verses 11-12 are similar in musical shape to 1-2-3 and 4-5-6. Verse 13 is a final response. It also contains an additional cadence, making it a tri-colon.

So we have a musical form, a - b, c, a' - b', a'' - b''. What sort of notation / naming could be used to determine such forms? Could such a determination ally itself with inferences about whether there was more than one composer of the music or what the age of the psalm is?

Here is the set of all 13 sequences for Psalm 96. The middle column is the number of times this detail sequence of accents (including ornaments) occurs in the Bible. 
Notes Freq Accent sequence
B g B ^A f# ger-rev,e  14 munah tifha munah ^atnah merkha silluq 
B g B ^A f# e ger-rev,e  1 munah tifha munah ^atnah merkha silluq silluq 
e B B ^A e ger-rev,e  6 silluq munah munah ^atnah silluq silluq 
f# zar,C B B ^A f# ger-rev,e  1 merkha mahpakh munah munah ^atnah merkha silluq 
C B B ^A e ger-rev,f# e  1 mahpakh munah munah ^atnah silluq merkha silluq 
e f# ^A f# ger-rev,e  36 silluq merkha ^atnah merkha silluq 
B g B ^A f# ger-rev,f# e  23 munah tifha munah ^atnah merkha merkha silluq 
B g B ^A e ger-rev,f# e  2 munah tifha munah ^atnah silluq merkha silluq 
e B g ^A f# ger-rev,e  18 silluq munah tifha ^atnah merkha silluq 
e C pas,zar,C rev,B g ^A f# ger-rev,e  1 silluq mahpakh mahpakh munah tifha ^atnah merkha silluq 
e B g B ^A e f# ger-rev,e  9 silluq munah tifha munah ^atnah silluq merkha silluq 
e B g ^A f# ger-rev,e  18 silluq munah tifha ^atnah merkha silluq 
e C pas,ill,rev,f# zar,d ole,f# e f# ^A ger-rev,e  1 silluq mahpakh merkha galgal ole-veyored; silluq merkha ^atnah silluq 

The perception of classes of sequences of verses might be possible by eliminating ornaments. Eliminating ornaments will increase the frequency of the derived shape. So the sequence B g B ^A f# e  occurs 61 times in the Bible. The low pitch sequence of verse 6 occurs 168 times in the Bible. (These are all in the poetry books.) Here is a pared down sequence with the patterns (a and b) side by side.
Vs  Note sequence Vs  Note sequence Vs  Note sequence
1a B g B ^A f# e  6c e f# ^A f# e 
2 B g B ^A f# e  7a B g B ^A f# e  11a e B g B ^A e f# e 
3 e B ^A e  8 B g B ^A e f# e  12 e B g ^A f# e 
4b f# C B ^A f# e  9b e B g ^A f# e  13b e C f# d f#; e f# ^A e 
5 C B ^A e f# e  10 e C B g ^A f# e 


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