Monday, November 11, 2019

Isaiah 12 as a Psalm in the lectionary

I think it is important not to forget what we perceive as being caught up short and project as anger or wrath in Someone Else. Our consciences may be a reliable guide to changing our minds - whether we use phrases like the wrath or anger of G-d or not.

The lectionary this week includes the 12th chapter of Isaiah beginning at verse 2! for the Psalm. Good grief - how can you leave out the structural wholeness? (Note the repetition of And you will say in that day).

Isaiah 12 Fn Min Max Syll
וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא אוֹדְךָ֣ יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֥י אָנַ֖פְתָּ בִּ֑י
יָשֹׁ֥ב אַפְּךָ֖ וּֽתְנַחֲמֵֽנִי
1 And you will say in that day, I will give you thanks, Yahweh, that you were angry against me.
Your anger turns and you comfort me.
3e 4B 17
הִנֵּ֨ה אֵ֧ל יְשׁוּעָתִ֛י אֶבְטַ֖ח וְלֹ֣א אֶפְחָ֑ד
כִּֽי־עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֣הּ יְהוָ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָֽה
2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and I will not dread,
for my strength and psalm is Yah, Yahweh, and he has become my salvation.
3c 4C 13
וּשְׁאַבְתֶּם־מַ֖יִם בְּשָׂשׂ֑וֹן
מִמַּעַיְנֵ֖י הַיְשׁוּעָֽה
3 And you will draw water with joy,
from the springs of salvation.
3e 4A 7
וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֞ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא הוֹד֤וּ לַֽיהוָה֙ קִרְא֣וּ בִשְׁמ֔וֹ הוֹדִ֥יעוּ בָֽעַמִּ֖ים עֲלִֽילֹתָ֑יו
הַזְכִּ֕ירוּ כִּ֥י נִשְׂגָּ֖ב שְׁמֽוֹ
4 And you will say in that day, Give thanks to Yahweh. Call in his name. Make known among the peoples his prodigality.
Remember that set on high is his name.
3e 4C 26
זַמְּר֣וּ יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֥י גֵא֖וּת עָשָׂ֑ה
מוּדַ֥עַת זֹ֖את בְּכָל־הָאָֽרֶץ
5 Sing a psalm to Yahweh, for proud things he has done.
This is known in all the earth.
3e 4B 9
צַהֲלִ֥י וָרֹ֖נִּי יוֹשֶׁ֣בֶת צִיּ֑וֹן
כִּֽי־גָד֥וֹל בְּקִרְבֵּ֖ךְ קְד֥וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל
6 Be bright and shout for joy, inhabitant of Zion,
for great and near you is the Holy One of Israel.
3e 4B 11

Word / Gloss12345678VsStem
ואמרת and you will say
ביום in day
ההוא that
אודך I will give you thanks
ישׁועתי is my salvation
וזמרת and psalm is
לישׁועה salvation
הישׁועה salvation
ואמרתם and you will say
ביום in day
ההוא that
הודו give thanks
בשׁמו in his name
הודיעו make known
שׁמו his name
זמרו sing a psalm to
מודעת is known
And here is the raw data of the music and the arrangement I have done for congregational singing. Hoping for a hearing this Sunday at St John the Divine Anglican Church. This allows singing from verse 2 if you must. But the whole frame of the Psalms and of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that we have a father who deals with and gives correctional power to the wayward - i.e., us. We may perceive this as wrath or randomness or inexplicable consequences. The structure of the music is historically accurate from a theological point of view, perhaps even useful for correction itself.

For a different interpretation in a major mode with several spurious silluqim and the occasional a#, beautiful singing from Esther Lamandier, listen here.

Here's a bit for the bulletin if you want to use it:
It is unusual to have a section of the prophets as the Psalm in the lectionary. The music for Isaiah 12 is extracted from directly the text of the Hebrew Bible using the accents as interpreted by the French composer Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura in the last century. These signs, a record of a musical tradition lost for millennia turn the whole of the Old Testament into a song. The arrangement today is by Bob MacDonald, translator and long-time student of the textual traditions and its music.
A few performance notes:

  • The pulse can be flexible. Haïk-Vantoura considered the 'Psalms' to be syllabic, like very 'even' plainsong. She considered the prose books to be speech rhythm. Her mapping of the melodies is a brilliant use of Occam's Razor - getting as much information from the signs as possible. So the melodic framework is key. The plainsong idiom works for all books.
  • The Psalms are poetry. The Prophets are generally not considered poetry by her because the system of signs is different from the three books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job) compared to the 21 prose books - the rest of the Bible. So take longer breaks between verses or voices, if needed.
  • Verse 4 is overloaded with content. I think it comes across as the centre of the piece. It has four responses to the opening statement. It can be spacious.
  • Having changed the language to English, the pulse of the original must be adjusted. I have tried to keep the melody and ornaments consistent between English and Hebrew - but it is a whole host of decisions.
  • Choir as women and men as congregation is fine as a strategy. The melodic line is from the hand signals in the text itself. The accompaniment can be ad lib with the melody doubled. I am still considering the structural aspects of the constraints of the harmonic framework that is implied by the decoding of the hand-signals in the text. These are clearly not tonic-dominant ternary or sonata forms. The sense of home and mid verse distance, or even of multiple-verses as migrating and then returning to home is something that needs a creative approach. 
  • In the prose books (of which Isaiah is one), there is a mid-verse 'pause' on the subdominant and a return to the tonic (E) for each verse. Sometimes I will allow myself to have a full close on the subdominant (A) at the end of the verse or even a move to the submediant (C).
  • re instrument - I think Organ is fine. I have written for a plucked instrument only because I cannot specify the stops in my music program (yet?).

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