Monday 30 December 2019

Reviewing a review of Burns, words, only words

BURNS, J. — The Music of the Psalms, Proverbs and Job in the Hebrew Bible. (Jüdische Musik, 9). Verlag Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2011. (30 cm, XIII, 495). ISBN 978-3-447-06191-9. ISSN 1613-7493. / 68,- in BIBLIOTHECA ORIENTALIS LXX N° 1-2, januari-april 2013 p 192

I don't have the subject text or 68 Euros to spare. But I was curious if the statistics implied in Raymond de Hoop's review hold up in my data.

De Hoop writes:
In this chapter he emphasizes the strong relationship between a disjunctive accent and its regular preceding disjunctive, like for instance tifcha-atnach or pashta-zaqef, a relationship, which is also mentioned in the grammar of Joüon-Muraoka (§15i).3 ) More revolutionary is that he refers to the fact that in such regular combination the preceding (“intermediary”) disjunctive might in addition have its own regular preceding disjunctive (“prefix” disjunctive), resulting in combinations like for instance tvir-tifcha-atnach or geresh-pashta-zaqef.
Can you believe anyone here is writing about music?

The first question this raises for me is, How often does tifcha-atnach or pashta-zaqef occur in this sequence? Let's remind ourselves what these signs are. Tifcha is g#, atnach is A. And yes they frequently occur in this sequence, 8,733 times. The pair is very frequent in the approach to the subdominant (as a musician would expect). They are both sub-lineal signs.

Pashta is the prose version of qadma. They are both supra-lineal signs. They have differing placement. ב֙ ב֨. Haïk-Vantoura interprets each as a single note above the reciting note. One could think of it as an inverted mordent. Zaqef, roughly speaking is its opposite, though there are two the lesser and the greater and her interpretation of them is not quite the same. So how often do these occur in sequence? I count 320 matches for pashta zaqef-gadol and 6532 for qadma zaqef-gadol. So they are each relatively frequent.

Now what about the intermediary disjunctive, tvir-tifcha-atnach? d g A occurs 589 times.

geresh-pashta-zaqef? no matches, geresh-qadma-zaqef 4 verses only. E.g. Numbers 14:19.

What is frequent when there are 23197 verses? Apart from the last one which is obviously rare, the others run from less than 2.5%, hardly significant, to about 30 up to 40% of the verses, relatively frequent but not overwhelmingly so.

But who would explain music with such statistics? Even the musician Burns writes: “we must assume that the Biblical text contains all essential information for its performance – and consequently any elements that it does not contain – like the exact performance of melodies, which, today, vary from one locality to another – are unessential".

This is a very disappointing assumption. We do not need to assume any such thing. We do need to use all the information at hand to figure out what we have. We have melody by a set of inferences on the number and placement of signs below the text. Haïk-Vantoura's key is the best use of Occam's razor in the analysis of the accents that we have seen in 1000 years. We do not have an indication of mode. SHV herself said it takes musical judgment. We all must learn to judge with what we have and weigh the consequences. The possibilities for musical development are extensive. That is our gift.

As for de Hoop's conclusion,
I regret to say that the book is too obvious an “Unvollendete”. Only for those readers who are really acquainted with the Masoretic accentuation the book might offer some interesting insights for study.
There is no 'finished' book on the accents in the commonly accepted literature that I have come across. Haïk-Vantoura's book demonstrates the beauty of the musical possibilities. I have put out on the web 929 files that allow one to examine the music of each chapter as music and to develop further music. I have written a short book that attempts to tell the Scriptural story in music and clearly explains Haïk-Vantoura's inferences. I have seen no adequate view of the history of the signs. Older manuscripts than Aleppo are needed. Mitchell's book is the clearest I have read.

I am totally biased against studying the existing terminology of disjunctive and conjunctive. Those who 'are really acquainted' with these are lost. The terms are useless when describing music. In the confused literature on the accents of the last 1000 years, they are explained in contradictory ways. The musical phrase never conflicts with parallelism or word recurrence. It is the musical phrase that resolves the problems of understanding prosody in the Hebrew Scriptures. There are plenty of performed examples available from the last link on the music page.

Literature I have referenced on this subject:

Adler, Cyrus, and Cohen, Francis L.
Anonymous. 1744. The Majesty and Singular copiousness of the Hebrew Language Asserted and Illustrated. In Eighteenth Century Collections Online, via the University of Victoria Library.
Behrens, Kenneth. 1990s. The Vowel Mantra of the Gospel to the Egyptians and the interpretation of the Masoretic te'amim and other ancient cryptic symbols as musical notation, unpublished manuscript.
DeHoop, Raymond, 2013. The System of Masoretic Accentuation and Colometry in the Hebrew Bible. Oudewater, The Netherlands.
DeCaen, Vincent. 2005. On the distribution of Major and Minor Pause in Tiberian Hebrew in the Light of the Variants of the Second Person Independent Pronouns. Journal of Semitic Studies L/2.
Dotan, A. 1967. The Diqduqé Hatt’amim of Aharon ben Moshe ben Asher. Jerusalem, Masorah, EJ 16, 1401-82.
Dresher, Bezalel Elan. 1994. The Prosodic Basis of the Tiberian Hebrew System of Accents, Linguistic Society of America, Language, Vol. 70, No. 1.
General synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. 1963. The Canadian Psalter.
Gesenius, Kautzsch, Cowley. 1909. Hebrew Grammar.
Haïk-Vantoura, Suzanne. 1976. The Music of the Bible Revealed: The Deciphering of a Millenary Notation (in French).
– 1991. The Music of the Bible Revealed: The Deciphering of a Millenary Notation. John Wheeler (Editor), Denis Weber (Translator).
Heller, Charles. 2006. What to Listen for in Jewish Music. Ecanthus Press.
Jacobson, Joshua R. 2002. Chanting the Hebrew Bible, The Complete Guide to the Art of Cantillation, The Jewish Publication Society.
Kugel, James L. 1981. The Idea of Biblical Poetry, Parallelism and its history. Yale University Press.
Levin, Saul. 1994. The מתג according to the practice of the early vocalizers. State University of New York at Binghampton.
1998. The Masoretic Chant of the Hebrew Bible. AJS Review 23 (1). [Cambridge University Press, Association for Jewish Studies]: 112–16.
Levy, Elizabeth and Robinson, David. 2002. The Masoretes and the Punctuation of Biblical Hebrew, British and Foreign Bible Society.
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.129-148. [online] Available at: 2014/.
Margolis, Max L. 1911. The Place of the Word-Accent in Hebrew, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 30, No. 1.
Martín-Contreras, Elvira and Miralles-Maciá, Lorena. 2014. The text of the Hebrew Bible: From the Rabbis to the Masoretes, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Mitchell, David. 2012., published in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 36/3.
– 2013. How can we sing the Lord’s Song? Deciphering the Masoretic Cantillation in Jewish and Christian Approaches to the Psalms: Conflict and Convergence, ed. Susan Gillingham, OUP.
– 2015. The Songs of Ascents: Psalms 120 to 134 in the Worship of Jerusalem's Temples, Campbell Publications.
Mulder, Martin Jan and Sysling, Harry (ed.). 2004. Mikra, Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Hendrickson.
Reuchlin, Johann. 1518. De accentibus, et orthographia, lingua Hebraicae, à Iohanne Reuchlin Phorcensi … libri tres cardinali Adriano dicati,
Revell, E.J. 1971. The Oldest Evidence for the Hebrew Accent System. Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Volume 54.
– 1976. Biblical Punctuation and Chant in the Second Temple Period. Journal for the Study of Judaism, Vol. VII, No. 2.
– 2012. The occurrence of Pausal Forms. Journal of Semitic Studies LVIII.2.
Richter, Helmut.
Rubin, Emmanuel.
The Hebrew Student 2 (5/6). 1883. Antiquity and Authority of the Hebrew Accents. University of Chicago Press: 164–69.
Tomalin, Marcus. 2009. Contextualising Accents And Alphabets In The Work Of Christopher Smart, The Review of English Studies, 11/2009, Volume 60, Issue 247.
Weil, Daniel Meir. 1995. The Masoretic Chant of the Hebrew Bible. Jerusalem: Rubin Mass.
Werner, Eric. 1982. Review of: La musique de la bible révélée; une notation millénaire décryptée, premier recueil: 14 mélodies essentielles, accompagnement pour cordes pincées. Notes 38 (4). Music Library Association: 923–24. doi:10.2307/939998.
Wickes, William. 1881, 1887. 1970. Two treatises on the accentuation of the Old Testament. Ed. Orlinsky, with a prolegomenon by Aron Dotan.
Yarchin, William. 2015. Were the Psalms Collections at Qumran true Psalters? In Journal of Biblical Literature, 134, no. 4.

Monday 23 December 2019

Ezekiel 3:12 Anticipating the angels

Ezekiel 3:12
Then spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a voice of great quaking,
Blessed is the glory of Yahweh from his place.

Monday 16 December 2019

Isaiah 7

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore my Lord himself will give for you a sign.
Behold, a pregnant young woman will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Is-With-Us-God [Immanu-El].

Always read another verse. Surprise!
Clotted cream and honey he will eat,
that he may know to refuse evil and choose good.
Isaiah 7:15

Monday 9 December 2019

Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35:7 for Advent 3
And the mirage will become a pool, and thirsty ground will ferment with water,
and the home of dragons reclining, will be grass with calamus and rush.

Mirage שׁרב occurs only here and in Isaiah 49:10.

The Psalm 146:5-10 is the celebration of the character of Yahweh. Notice the joyful ornaments and the high tessitura. This is a God in whom one can have confidence.

Wednesday 4 December 2019


The November Biblical Studies carnival is here.

I am struck this month by the deaths of two scholars whom I have cited often in my carnivals, Tim Bulkeley and Larry Hurtado. Tim was among the gentlest of all who write on the web. Larry has a long history of detailed work on early Christianity. See the summary here by Jim Davila.

Monday 2 December 2019

Isaiah 10

I was glancing backward in the book of Isaiah to see the context of Isaiah 12 (the verse of the week several weeks ago). It's worth a scan. And I chanced upon Chapter 10, though Chapter 11 was very satisfactory when answering the question 'what is that day'?

Isaiah 10:1
Alas, the lawgivers of mischievous prescription,
and those who inscribe their inscriptions for misery,

Now who might the prophet have in mind? Do read on about spoiling the widow and looting the orphan.
Isaiah 10:1

Sunday 1 December 2019

Alas Leviathan

The phrase in that day is very common in Isaiah as I pointed out here. That day seems to include the end of Leviathan.
In that day Yahweh will visit with his sword, the intransigent, and the great, and the courageous, against Leviathan, the snake that runs away, and against Leviathan, the snake of crooked ways,
and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
To day Isaiah 27 is in view at 929, the rejuvenated exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures out of Israel.
Isaiah 27:1 Visiting Leviathan