Tuesday 28 May 2019

Looking for books to read

Translator's Note to Buddenbrooks
We have been considering whether to downsize by giving away books. I have discovered that our library will accept donations in a bag - i.e. not too many at once. And if they don't use them, they will give them away. How useful!

I picked up Henning Mankell's Sidetracked on my wife's shelf, and I wondered if having seen the dramatization, I might not want to read it. Then considered rereading C. P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers, something that would occupy me for a while. I am sure I scarcely remember a word of it. Except perhaps the thought that in politics, nothing really ever gets done. Anyway, I descended to the floor looking for more books, and there are loads of them at that level whose jackets I can't see until I get dust on my own.

Here's one I found: Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks, first published 1901, translated from the German. (No we did not buy a first edition. We're not quite that old.)

What struck me was the translator's 'note'. Perhaps also a Note to translators.

What does Bob say?

A teacher who is teaching Genesis this year to his class reported to me at a concert last night that his class loves to have that unique translation for the music available as a counterfoil to the traditional one that they learn from. The students have a simple question when they are discussing the text and have opposing views. "What does Bob say?". A few of them might know me from a lecture I gave the class last year and the year before. But I expect it's a mostly new class this year.

Anyway - nice to have an alternative to look at.

I have dared to put my oratorio onto paper for the first time. When one writes, or translates, or composes, one's soul is displayed on the page. (Even if I never use that word, soul, it is a useful word.)

This soul is keen, altogether too full of it, careful (i.e. full of cares), and untrained for what it has been chosen to do. It learns, we hope, through its work and by its experience.

The MP3 snippets of the piece are wooden and incomprehensible without the score. So here is the score. I may turn it into a book, in which case it will eventually disappear from this link.

If you want to perform it, please let me know, and please make a contribution to some useful effort like CF Canada, team Adventures with Ben or the like. You can make the contribution whether you perform it or not of course.

You can find my complete translation of the Hebrew Bible if you click here.

Sunday 26 May 2019

A touch or two of my oratorio

I have put some MP3 transcriptions of my scores in the cloud. (And lost them all!)
E.g. here is the organ interlude in the middle of the piece. It is based on the Fibonacci series 8-5-3-2-1-1 twice used.

Here are a couple of the chorales: 111-112 and a bit of 110 (a reprise for the acrostics)

Bear in mind that these renditions are extremely wooden. And you can't get much of the idea of music with a mechanical rendition.

Here is the psalm I had the most trouble with 116. I chose the generic verse 5 (third person) as a refrain.

Here is some of the story: Job 38, Job 41

and Psalm 19

These will give you an idea of the constraints I put on my invention. The design is here. And here's a link to my YouTube channel.

Friday 24 May 2019

The seventh volume

The Remaining Writings is the seventh volume of Bob's Bible. It is now published and available here.

This completes the text of the Instruction, the Prophets, and the Writings. It is curious that the seventh volume has the 'remaining' as part of its title. There is no simple title for this collection of books. But this is typical of taxonomies. They stall at 7. The first 6 are titled (Torah, Former prophets, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, the Books of Truth, the Scrolls) and the 7th is what's left.

You can now buy the whole Bible for less than $21 (<$30 Cdn). And you could read it - but it is a long process. There are no easy answers.

Seven is 2 cubed (2*2*2) minus 1. Three parts are even easier to remember and that number still has the sense of 1, 2 and the rest (who would ever call a book 'writings'). The 'rest' of the books are important though. They contain the keys for interpreting the first two sections. Especially the Psalms, the Song, and Job. (At least that's my opinion).

I have been busy writing music so I am not blogging as much any more. The stats show it. My readership is down. I am more distant. But - don't forget the music. I think it is key to interpreting the Bible as a whole.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Oratorio first draft completed

Anyone with time on their hands :) to test a draft oratorio? Minimum instruments for the test - harp, organ, timpani, and woodblock, 4 singers. Length about 1.25 hours.

Its name of the work is Unleashing Leviathan. It presents the conflict in creation over the question - what is this mortal humanity. I.e. who are we in relation to the God of the Old Testament.

The musical themes are based on the work of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura. The design is as follows:

1. The first day, Genesis 1:1-5 Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus. 4
2. The heavens recount the glory of God, Psalm 19:1-7 Recitative, soprano, chorus
3. Man from Uz, Job 1:1, 19-22 . 5Recitative, aria tenor, in English, chorus, harp
4. Disappointment in Yahweh, Jeremiah 20:7 Recitative, bass, Hebrew or English, harp. 7
5. Let it be darkness, Job 3:4-8, Jeremiah 20:14-17 Duet, tenor and bass, harp
6. An oracle, Psalms 110 1,2, 5-7 Recitative, tenor, chorale, organ. 11
7. The second day, Genesis 1:6-8 . 13Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
8. Where were you? Job 38:4-7 Chorus ATB, harp
9. Acrostics 1 and 2, Psalms 111 and 112, 110:7 reprise . 21Chorale, organ
10. The third day, Genesis 1:9-13 . 27Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
11. The earth, Psalms 24, Aria alto, chorus. 28, harp
12. Ocean, its limits, Job 38:8-11 Chorus, harp
13. Praise, servants of Yahweh, Psalms 113, 110:7 reprise . 36Chorale, organ
14. The fourth day, Genesis 1:14-19 . 41Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
15. For I see your heavens, Psalms 8:4-7 Aria tenor, organ, harp. 42
16. The Pleiades, Orion, and the Great Bear, Job 38:31-2 Chorus, organ
17. The heavens’ heavens, Psalms 115:16 Chorus, organ. 45
18. Interlude: The image of a black hole seen through the lens of earth. Organ, timpani 47
19. The fifth day, Genesis 1:20-23 . 49Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
20. Am I the sea or a dragon? Job 7:12 Chorus, harp. 50
21. Behemoth Job 40:15 Chorus, organ
22. Redemption, Psalms 114:1-3a, Psalms 115:1 . 58Chorale, organ
23. The sixth day, Genesis 1:24-31 . 62Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
24. Jeremiah 4:23-27
25. What is this humanity, Psalms 144:3, Job 7:17, 19, Psalm 8 reprise Trio, ATB, harp. 64
26. Leviathan, Job 41 (a selection of verses) Chorus, harp. 67
27. Yahweh heard, Psalms 116 Aria soprano, chorus, harp
28. The seventh day, Genesis 2:1-3 . 73Recitative, soprano, in Hebrew, harp, chorus
29. Psalms 92, to the Sabbath, Aria alto, chorus
30. Praise, all nations, Psalms 117, Recitative, soprano, chorus, wood block
31. Praise, all breath-bearing, Psalm 150 Chorus, harp, wood block, organ, trumpet, timpani
Appendix 1 - Original scores and notes - these scores, direct from the Scriptures, provided the melodic material for this work.. 81

Here's a bit of the jig for day 6 of creation. This is definitely the funniest part of the text I have set.
Job 41 about the underparts of Leviathan
Please contact me via email or direct message on Twitter @drmacdonald if you are interested. Let me know what resources you have and your contact email. 

Friday 10 May 2019

Bob's Bible The Twelve and The Books of Truth

Over the last two weeks, two more volumes of Bob's Bible, have appeared, The Twelve and The Books of Truth. These are volumes 4 and 5 of my translation of the Tanakh, (a.k.a. the Old Testament) done with an ear to the music and assisted for concordance by a number of algorithms to help me, the translator, remember my decisions and compromises consistently.

Each volume has its own introduction with examples. The translation stands alone without any Hebrew except in the musical examples. There are over 300 examples, at least 1 every 3 to 5 chapters on average. They are the Bible's own illustrations. The Bible doesn't come with visuals, but it does come with music. It is meant to be sung. The ear is the critical organ for human development. The eye is a marvel, but it is prone to short-circuits, too often putting its own power 'in charge' based on what is 'sees'. Real listening requires that we slow down.

You can find all the links to buy my books here.

Thursday 9 May 2019

The first movement of the planets

Mars is a wonderful exercise in score reading. My musical children take this sort of thing for granted, but for me, it was an ear and eye-opener. The 5/4 rhythms in the timpani blew me away.

I am working on writing the oratorio I mentioned about 6 weeks ago. 32 sections, 18 drafted. I will wait until I have some critical feedback before saying much more. I haven't written much music before and my 'training' is moot.

What I have noticed with 6 weeks of imagining what can be done within the constraints of the melodic line of the Hebrew, yet setting English words, is that the music is constrained. The work of the accents is subtle. It does not use the full aural scope of musical possibilities. That takes a Gibbons or a Bach, a Beethoven or a Holst. These too stood faithfully in their training in a long tradition.

Sunday 5 May 2019

Local Music

Lots of music today. First Pacific Opera moved me to laughter with Kalman's Maritza. One would travel far to get an equal caliber of performance. And the English libretto is a hoot.

I think I remember these markings...
But $$$$ for opera and a good evensong is free - no collection - no sermon. Victoria friends, you shouldn't miss these.

This week was a lovely introit featuring George Herbert's Easter in the motet by Skellern called Easter Song, Smith's responses, Stanford in Bb, and the verse anthem by Gibbons, If ye be risen again, and the Voluntary:Howells Saraband for the morning of Easter.

Sopranos were in especially fine form. But I would also note the clear sound of the men in the unison Nunc Dimittus. All was well done by the choristers of St John the Divine, Quadra Street.

Next month, make a point of getting to evensong. (The fair daffodils are finished already but there is still more music.) Watch for the music list here.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Puzzle solving

Solving an ancient puzzle
Our younger grandchild is a great puzzle solver. We are all puzzle solvers. What else is science from the image of a black hole in a distant galaxy to the crisper correction of DNA sequences.

I had messed around with a 40 year old Rubik's cube a few days ago. They were the rage in the time of my children's youth (was it really invented only in 1974?). Anyway, I had never completed one before, and the 3 year old asked me when he saw the jumble, Grandpa, can you fix this puzzle? Three days later, and 25 hours of puzzling, here it is.

I think we should puzzle on and I think we should not necessarily accept the solutions that others have offered to our puzzling universe unless these solutions prove themselves good.

I have been puzzling the Hebrew Scriptures and their music following the solution key of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura as many of you know. She persisted with her puzzle-solving and created a remarkable treasure trove of available music directly from the Scriptures.

I am exploring this now by composing with her themes to see where they lead me. My initial thought was to write an 'Adam' Oratorio, but I have renamed it Unleashing Leviathan. Ask me in a year or so whether an aging grand parent can write the music he dreamed of writing when he was 17.

(O - and spend $3 and buy a volume of Bob's Bible. You will enjoy the experience.)