Thursday, August 20, 2020

Setting a Psalm to its embedded music

This is a review of the steps for using the music embedded in the Hebrew Bible. For this post I have chosen Psalm 100, 5 verses.

  1. Transcribe the music for the passage. 
  2. Choose a mode.
  3. Choose a language.
  4. Arrange.
1. Transcribing the music.

I have transcribed all the music for every passage of the Bible. I wrote a computer program to do this automatically. Here are links to all the scores of the music (or here) encoded in the Hebrew scriptures as interpreted according to the deciphering key of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura (SHV). PDFs, Music XML, and MID files are also available through the resource page for the published e-books here

All these links should be available to anyone in the world. If the link you choose is not available, please let me know. 

So 'transcribing' can mean 'finding the passage you want to set' in the form you want it: pdf, or Music XML. Of course you can and should review what the computer has produced. The deciphering key is public knowledge but it is still a trick to fit it into the lock. All my transcriptions are based on the tonic as the note /e/. They can be transposed to any pitch suitable to the singing resources.  The compass of the melody is rarely more than an octave (min c to max D#) and usually only a sixth or a seventh. For details on the transcription, please see my book, The Song in the Night.

a. Click the link.
b. choose the book.
c. find the chapter.
d. pick the file.
e. download it to your computer.
f. open it with your chosen music program or use it with your chosen manuscript paper.

2. Choose a mode
You can use the mode that I chose for the automated transcription. The mode determines what the musical key signature will be and the accidentals for ornaments. I think there is some musica ficta happening in the work of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura. She is not always consistent in the accidentals on her interpretation of ornaments. The computer is consistent. It's the way of programs. I have written more on modes here.

You can see that Psalm 100 is in a major-minor mode. The decision on mode is subjective, based on your musical judgment. There are no clues in the signs within the text as to what the mode should be. 

If you read the above music, you can see that the differences in mode would give only minor changes for this Psalm. Verses 1 and 2 are identical for modes 1, 2, and 3 for the Psalms. Haïk-Vantoura always uses an f# in the 3 poetry books. And /g/ does not occur in this verse, so the g# or g natural is not heard in the melody. In her mode 4, the /A/ would be an A#.

Verses 3 and 4 in Mode 4 sound like this:
Psalms 100:3-4 using pronounced chromatic hypodorian mode (SHV mode 4)


3. Choose the language.
The language for the automated transcription is always Hebrew. The square text is above the staff and a transcribed text is in the libretto. Psalm 100 is a mere 28 bars of recitative in its raw form.

For liturgical use, it is certainly possible to translate the text to the native tongue of the local congregation. I have done a complete close translation of the Hebrew text for my version of English, the common Canadian English of the period from 1945 to 2020 at the time of writing. You can read more about my selection process for glosses in my published books and on this blog.

Given the extremes of beauty and brutality that we live in, I have some biases about choosing glosses in my language. I have avoided some words. I have used the computer to ensure concordance to the extent that my use of language allows me to think reasonable. 

I have tried within the decisions of the translation process to place the English words as near to the ornamentation and accents of the corresponding Hebrew words as I could. I think the composer has some liberty here.

Here is my translation for this Psalm.
Psalms 100
מִזְמ֥וֹר לְתוֹדָ֑ה
הָרִ֥יעוּ לַ֝יהוָ֗ה כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ
a mzmor ltodh
hriyu lihvh cl-harx
1 A psalm of thanksgiving.
Raise a shout to Yahweh all the earth.
עִבְד֣וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה בְּשִׂמְחָ֑ה
בֹּ֥אוּ לְ֝פָנָ֗יו בִּרְנָנָֽה
b ybdu at-ihvh bwmkh
boau lpniv brnnh
2 Serve Yahweh with gladness.
Enter into his presence with a shout.

דְּע֗וּ כִּֽי יְהוָה֮ ה֤וּא אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים
הֽוּא־עָ֭שָׂנוּ וְל֣וֹ אֲנַ֑חְנוּ
עַ֝מּ֗וֹ וְצֹ֣אן מַרְעִיתֽוֹ
g dyu ci ihvh hua alohim
hua-ywnu vlo anknu
ymo vxan mryito
3 Know, for Yahweh he is God.
He, he made us, and his we are,
his people and the sheep of his pasture.

בֹּ֤אוּ שְׁעָרָ֨יו ׀ בְּתוֹדָ֗ה חֲצֵרֹתָ֥יו בִּתְהִלָּ֑ה
הֽוֹדוּ־ל֝֗וֹ בָּרֲכ֥וּ שְׁמֽוֹ
d boau wyriv btodh kxrotiv bthilh
hodu-lo brcu wmo
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise.
Thank him. Bless his name.
כִּי־ט֣וֹב יְ֭הֹוָה לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּ֑וֹ
וְעַד־דֹּ֥ר וָ֝דֹ֗ר אֱמוּנָתֽוֹ
h ci-'tob ihvh lyolm ksdo
vyd-dor vdor amunto
5 For good is Yahweh, forever is his kindness,
and ever, generation to generation, his faithfulness.
I have followed what is written in verse 3. reading vlo instead of vla (sounds the same in Hebrew but is a negative rather than a possessive), "and we are his". The reading of "not we ourselves" seems to me to be redundant. "His we are" agrees with the next phrase and reminds us of the Song of Songs (2:16). "My beloved is mine and I am his", in traditional terms.

4. Arrange.
What can I say? I did write something on this subject here. The rhythm of the translation will determine some of the aspects of the musical arrangement. Some pieces are suitable to recit, some to chorale, some to aria. Some have choruses. 


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