Friday 23 August 2019

Eulogy and Elegy for Saul and Jonathon

Opening of an as yet to be completed elegy - 2 Samuel 1:19 ff
My next musical experiment is to create a string quintet version of this sorrow of David. Writing music is a whole lot different from translating. One gets very efficient at words, but music requires elapsed time to hear and formulate a given impact. [A few days later, I have a full score here.]

Musical annotation cannot reproduce the rhythmic subtlety of language or the rubato that a good singer or string player can achieve with a tune. I don't know where this will take me until I get there. Whereas with translating, there is a point at which I can say, it is done.

Note the word recurrence and the focus (bolded below). It takes a long time in the words for the focus to get to the last recurring word, battle. Bow ties verse 18 to 22. Perhaps even if I leave out verse 18, I should spend some development time on bow. But there will be no words in the cello part which will carry the thrust of the cantus firmus. Here are words and tune in what is essentially the raw data form.

2 Samuel 1 Fn Min Max Syll
הַצְּבִי֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַל־בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָ֑ל
אֵ֖יךְ נָפְל֥וּ גִבּוֹרִֽים
19 O estate of Israel, on your high places, is profanation.
How are fallen the valiant.
3e 4A 12
אַל־תַּגִּ֣ידוּ בְגַ֔ת אַֽל־תְּבַשְּׂר֖וּ בְּחוּצֹ֣ת אַשְׁקְל֑וֹן
פֶּן־תִּשְׂמַ֙חְנָה֙ בְּנ֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים פֶּֽן־תַּעֲלֹ֖זְנָה בְּנ֥וֹת הָעֲרֵלִֽים
20 Do not make it clear in Gath. Do not publish it in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the fore-skinned exult.
3e 4B 16
הָרֵ֣י בַגִּלְבֹּ֗עַ אַל־טַ֧ל וְאַל־מָטָ֛ר עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם וּשְׂדֵ֣י תְרוּמֹ֑ת
כִּ֣י שָׁ֤ם נִגְעַל֙ מָגֵ֣ן גִּבּוֹרִ֔ים מָגֵ֣ן שָׁא֔וּל בְּלִ֖י מָשִׁ֥יחַ בַּשָּֽׁמֶן
21 You hills of Gilboa, no dew, and no rain on you, nor fields lifted high,
for there the shield of the valiant is loathed, the shield of Saul, without anointing with oil.
3c 4C 20
מִדַּ֣ם חֲלָלִ֗ים מֵחֵ֙לֶב֙ גִּבּוֹרִ֔ים קֶ֚שֶׁת יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן לֹ֥א נָשׂ֖וֹג אָח֑וֹר
וְחֶ֣רֶב שָׁא֔וּל לֹ֥א תָשׁ֖וּב רֵיקָֽם
22 From the blood of the profaned, from the choicest of the valiant, the bow of Jonathan did not relocate backward,
and the sword of Saul did not return empty.
3e 4C 22
שָׁא֣וּל וִיהוֹנָתָ֗ן הַנֶּאֱהָבִ֤ים וְהַנְּעִימִם֙ בְּחַיֵּיהֶ֔ם וּבְמוֹתָ֖ם לֹ֣א נִפְרָ֑דוּ
מִנְּשָׁרִ֣ים קַ֔לּוּ מֵאֲרָי֖וֹת גָּבֵֽרוּ
23 O Saul and Jonathan, so loved and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths were not separated,
than eagles more fleet, than lions more valiant.
3e 4C 26
בְּנוֹת֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶל־שָׁא֖וּל בְּכֶ֑ינָה
הַמַּלְבִּֽשְׁכֶ֤ם שָׁנִי֙ עִם־עֲדָנִ֔ים הַֽמַּעֲלֶה֙ עֲדִ֣י זָהָ֔ב עַ֖ל לְבוּשְׁכֶֽן
24 Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet, with enthrallments, who brought up trappings of gold upon your clothing.
3e 4C 11
אֵ֚יךְ נָפְל֣וּ גִבֹּרִ֔ים בְּת֖וֹךְ הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה
יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן עַל־בָּמוֹתֶ֖יךָ חָלָֽל
25 C How are fallen the valiant in the midst of the battle.
Jonathan on the high places is profaned.
3e 4C 12
צַר־לִ֣י עָלֶ֗יךָ אָחִי֙ יְה֣וֹנָתָ֔ן נָעַ֥מְתָּ לִּ֖י מְאֹ֑ד
נִפְלְאַ֤תָה אַהֲבָֽתְךָ֙ לִ֔י מֵאַהֲבַ֖ת נָשִֽׁים
26 So troubled I am over you, my brother Jonathan. Very pleasant you have been for me.
So wonderful was your love for me, more than the love of women.
3e 4C 17
אֵ֚יךְ נָפְל֣וּ גִבּוֹרִ֔ים וַיֹּאבְד֖וּ כְּלֵ֥י מִלְחָמָֽה 27 C How are fallen the valiant and perished the inner pouches of battle. 3e 4C 14
2 Samuel 1:27

Can we find or develop this patterning of words in the music? It should not be too difficult - the last two אֵ֚יךְ נָפְל֣וּ גִבֹּרִ֔ים have identical music. The phrase falls from C to the tonic e to close the piece. 

Clearly the setting of גבר in its many recurrences will be another thing to note. The word is set twice on the cadence at the tonic (19 and 23), and four times mid-verse as in the image (21, 22, 25, 27). 

This week has been very difficult. One of my children,in his 50th year, already disabled and struggling to live on his own, suffered a serious fall and re-injured his brain. We have been commuting, an hour each way, for 10 days, The first stage of clearing his house for cleaning is completed. Whether he will be able to return will be the decision of the medical team. Perhaps it is suitable that I should be working with such sad music.

The Hebrew Bible is fully set to music. No other interpretation of the accents comes close to the expressiveness and tonal aid to memory of the key that was developed by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura in the last half of the 20th century. It is inconceivable that her deciphering is an accident. It is a scientifically reasoned interpretation of the accents using all the information available in their placement and obeying the design principle of Occam's razor. I cannot say this of any other explanation. I am certainly impressed by the love of the text everywhere. In relation to music, however, her work is the only clear and consistent explanation of these enigmatic signals.

You can observe my growth in the appreciation of the music with my posts on it over the last 10 years. You can also find a clear explanation of it in my book, The Song in the Night. See this review blog post from James McGrath.

Sunday 18 August 2019


There is a time to write and a time to refrain from writing.

I will be reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 for a friend who died two weeks ago. This past week we have been commuting to Duncan to clean our son's house. He had a fall and is in ICU with a long iffy recovery ahead of him. He was already severely disabled from an accident in 1996. The house may no longer be manageable for a one-sided man.

A time to give birth, a time to die.

A time to sing, a time to play, a time to wonder at the sins of humanity perpetrated upon its children.

My music is at the YouTube channel for thedrmacdonald. It accumulates experiment by experiment as I learn and explore the scriptural accents.

There is no need to sing the New Testament. Even if rendered in Hebrew. It is quite different from a song. But Jonah gives as good as it gets with the words of Jesus in the background. The only sign for an unbelieving generation. I have done Jonah as a cantata, and as a string suite.

Was there ever a generation who believed?

Here is Psalm 24 - all thoughts piling on top of each other. You will find the raw music on the resource page link at Energion. The music for it is part of day 1 of my oratorio, Unleashing Leviathan.

Psalms 24 Fn Min Max Syll
לְדָוִ֗ד מִ֫זְמ֥וֹר
לַֽ֭יהוָה הָאָ֣רֶץ וּמְלוֹאָ֑הּ
תֵּ֝בֵ֗ל וְיֹ֣שְׁבֵי בָֽהּ
1 of David, a psalm.
The earth is Yahweh's and her fullness,
the world and those sitting in her.
3e 4B 5
כִּי־ה֭וּא עַל־יַמִּ֣ים יְסָדָ֑הּ
וְעַל־נְ֝הָר֗וֹת יְכוֹנְנֶֽהָ
2 For he, he founded her on seas,
and on rivers establishes her.

3e 4B 7
מִֽי־יַעֲלֶ֥ה בְהַר־יְהוָ֑ה
וּמִי־יָ֝קוּם בִּמְק֥וֹם קָדְשֽׁוֹ
3 Who will ascend the hill of Yahweh,
and who will arise into his holy place?
3e 4A 7
נְקִ֥י כַפַּ֗יִם וּֽבַר־לֵ֫בָ֥ב
אֲשֶׁ֤ר ׀ לֹא־נָשָׂ֣א לַשָּׁ֣וְא נַפְשִׁ֑י
וְלֹ֖א נִשְׁבַּ֣ע לְמִרְמָֽה
4 Those of innocent palms and pure heart,
one who has not lifted me up to vanity,
and not sworn in deceit.
3e 4C 8
יִשָּׂ֣א בְ֭רָכָה מֵאֵ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה
וּ֝צְדָקָ֗ה מֵאֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׁעֽוֹ
5 Such will bear a blessing from Yahweh,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
3e 4B 9
זֶ֭ה דּ֣וֹר דֹּרְשָׁ֑יו
מְבַקְשֵׁ֨י פָנֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה
6 g This generation searches him out,
by seeking your face O Jacob. Selah.

3e 4B 4
שְׂא֤וּ שְׁעָרִ֨ים ׀ רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֗ם וְֽ֭הִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵ֣י עוֹלָ֑ם
וְ֝יָב֗וֹא מֶ֣לֶךְ הַכָּבֽוֹד
7 Lift up, O gates, your heads, and be lifted up, O doors everlasting,
and the king of glory will come in.
3e 4C 16
מִ֥י זֶה֮ מֶ֤לֶךְ הַכָּ֫ב֥וֹד
יְ֭הוָה עִזּ֣וּז וְגִבּ֑וֹר
יְ֝הוָ֗ה גִּבּ֥וֹר מִלְחָמָֽה
8 f Who is this? The king of glory,
Yahweh strong and prevailing,
Yahweh prevailing in battle.
3e 4C 7
שְׂא֤וּ שְׁעָרִ֨ים ׀ רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֗ם וּ֭שְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵ֣י עוֹלָ֑ם
וְ֝יָבֹא מֶ֣לֶךְ הַכָּבֽוֹד
9 Lift up, O gates, your heads, and lift up, doors everlasting,
and the king of glory will come in.
3e 4C 14
מִ֤י ה֣וּא זֶה֮ מֶ֤לֶךְ הַכָּ֫ב֥וֹד
יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֑וֹת
ה֤וּא מֶ֖לֶךְ הַכָּב֣וֹד סֶֽלָה
10 C Who is he? This king of glory,
Yahweh of hosts.
He is the king of glory. Selah.
3e 4C 8

Saturday 3 August 2019

Tyndale House Bulletin

I was impressed by this intro to the greater and lesser traditional markings in the Leningrad codex because I have been working with both Genesis 1 and Jonah 4. Read it and see how clever the scribes were in numbering and annotating their Bibles. 

They processed pairs of words as I did in my search for concordance. My numbers do not agree with the markings of course because I am looking for consonant sequences only. My query does not use the vowels nor does it parse the sentence to see what the subject of the verb is. But the principle is similar, though I was not a scribe but a translator.

Keep on composing

Jonah playlist is ready (July 27)
Unleashing Leviathan is here too. (or is it leviathan unleashed?)

Much more to do when I find performers... I have also done Jonah as a string suite. Some of it may be too difficult to play - not sure if a double bass can imitate a harp? (Last movement, I had too many parts for a quintet - maybe I should keep the harp. It wouldn't be too hard to change.)

Composers - look here - hundreds of pages of possibilities - you too could write an oratorio! Or a song - using the melodies that are written into the Biblical text.