Monday, March 23, 2020

Second edition of The Hebrew Bible and Its Music now available

Have you ever wanted to hear the Hebrew Bible with its original tone of voice restored? 

King James Bible 1772 - Title pageI remember on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, we had a reading at the Cathedral from end to end over several days. It really is a big book.

The musical signs in the Hebrew text seal the emerging word that is uttered by the generations from the beginning to the common era.

No one knows for sure where these signs came from. They appear out of nowhere, a fully developed and sophisticated set of hand signals, sometime in the 8th or 9th century of our era.

Are they only 3 times the age of English translations?

It seems unlikely that anyone would invent a notation for hand signals when new musical ekphonetic notations were already beginning to appear at the same time. (See the article on neume.)

Many years ago, (1997) I did some reading with neumes on Patmos with an orthodox choir. I was not trained in reading them or in reading Greek at the time, but I could sing the drone part for which the priest was very glad since others were not used to this kind of harmony.
Bob and Sue MacRae joined us on our last week in Turkey. We went together to Greece where we read the Apocalyse out loud for a blessing on the very ground where it was written 1902 years ago. Here Bob (MacDonald) by the good graces of Mr. Loukas, got to sing with the cantors from the Orthodox parish of Scala - a special treat for one who reads neither Greek nor their musical notation. Mr Loukas guided us in the holy places. Father Simeone, a monk from the Monastery of St John the Theologian, was also our host. We will remember these days always as a very special gift to which these two men of our day gave a personal touch. [Father Simeone gave us Turkish delight in the library in the presence of an ancient manuscript of the Gospel of Mark!]
Aleppo Codex GenesisThe accents of the Bible predate neumes by some distance. The suggestions are that they emerge from a history parallel to that of the ben Asher family who created the Aleppo Codex. The history is fluid and unknown. What is unmistakable is that the accents form a coherent system of music if only one has the key.

Ten - not so many years ago, having begun my study of the Psalms, I was presented with a key to the music of the accents at Oxford in 2010. Since then, I have remained in touch with Susan Gillingham, the convener of the conference, and David Mitchell, who presented the key.

Over the past 10 years, I have been fitting the key into the lock of the Hebrew Bible and have been unlocking the text piece by piece. The evidence is in the blog, and in the 12 volumes I have published over the last 7 years.

Is it worth the time to put the key into the lock?

Opinion varies. When you put a key into a lock, the people standing on the porch with you (sometimes not at a respectful distance) have various responses. Some are fearful, some are impatient and want to knock down the door, some describe the door and its filigrees. I have discovered responses time and again. An early discovery is here where I discuss responses to a paper on Academia and Psalm 114 and its traditional tune, tonus peregrinus. I have time to discover more.

Readers of the blog will know that I have drafted all the music of the Hebrew Bible, an estimated 150,000 bars of music, perhaps 5,000 pages of music. Clearly I have put the key into the lock of the whole Bible. By putting the key in, the door is still standing, but all the walls fell down. You can still admire the filigrees on the door, and you can enter in to hear the music any time and use the cantus firmus in your compositions.

I has taken me a full 10 years of daily application to do this work. It deepens understanding. It mutes error. It makes you speechless at times as it should. Though we have music, there is and must be time for silence as well, for the space between the notes. But it is not a five-minute exercise.

Who wins in this contest?

History will judge, if there is a future history, or we will judge in the present. My judgment is that it has been worth it. We have scarcely begun to undo the damage of the past 400 years caused by the imposition of the punishment paradigm onto the text by the 16th century translators.

Music does not punish. Neither does God.

Discover how to read and hear the Hebrew Bible and its music. My close translation for the music is now available in its second edition.

My next posts will continue this reflection.

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