Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Psalms 4 - an exercise

It looks like we may just work through the whole psalter. Perhaps it is time.

What is the prosodic structure of this poem? It's complicated.

Sung here. Score below. I suggest listening to the performance as you follow the score. That helps to see and hear if there is any discernible structure.

Does the music help? Esther Lemandier sings it in two separate modes. (As shown in the score - a mixture of modes 1 and 4.) She also is singing from the Letteris edition (1000 years later than Aleppo), so one or two notes and ornaments differ from the music above (WLC). 

thlim d Psalms 4 Min Max Syll
לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ בִּנְגִינ֗וֹת מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד a lmnxk bnginot mzmor ldvid 1 For the leader on strings. A psalm of David.

3e 3f 12
בְּקָרְאִ֡י עֲנֵ֤נִי ׀ אֱלֹ֘הֵ֤י צִדְקִ֗י בַּ֭צָּר הִרְחַ֣בְתָּ לִּ֑י
חָ֝נֵּ֗נִי וּשְׁמַ֥ע תְּפִלָּתִֽי
b bqorai ynni alohi xdqi bxr hrkbt li
konni uwmy tpilti
2 When I call answer me, my God my righteousness. In straits you have made spacious room for me.
Be gracious and hear my prayer.
3e 4C 17
בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ עַד־מֶ֬ה כְבוֹדִ֣י לִ֭כְלִמָּה תֶּאֱהָב֣וּן רִ֑יק
תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ כָזָ֣ב סֶֽלָה
g bni aiw yd-mh cbodi lclimh tahbun riq
tbqwu czb slh
3 Children, each of you, how long will you humiliate my glory? your love empty?
your seeking a lie? Selah.

3e 4B 16
וּדְע֗וּ כִּֽי־הִפְלָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה חָסִ֣יד ל֑וֹ
יְהוָ֥ה יִ֝שְׁמַ֗ע בְּקָרְאִ֥י אֵלָֽיו
d udyu ci-hplh ihvh ksid lo
ihvh iwmy bqorai aliv
4 Now set down this: Yahweh reserved one who is under mercy as his own.
Yahweh will hear when I call to him.
3e 4B 10
רִגְז֗וּ וְֽאַל־תֶּ֫חֱטָ֥אוּ
אִמְר֣וּ בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם עַֽל־מִשְׁכַּבְכֶ֗ם וְדֹ֣מּוּ סֶֽלָה
h rgzu val-tk'tau
amru blbbcm yl-mwcbcm vdomu slh
5 Shudder and do not sin.
Promise in your heart where you lie down and be mute. Selah.

3e 4B 8
זִבְח֥וּ זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק
וּ֝בִטְח֗וּ אֶל־יְהוָֽה
v zbku zbki-xdq
ub'tku al-ihvh
6 Offer offerings of righteousness,
and trust in Yahweh.
3e 4A 5
רַבִּ֥ים אֹמְרִים֮ מִֽי־יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ‬־ט֥וֹב
נְֽסָה עָ֭לֵינוּ א֨וֹר פָּנֶ֬יךָ יְהוָֽה
z rbim aomrim mi-iranu-'tob
nsh ylinu aor pniç ihvh
7 Many say, Who will show us good?
Prove over us the light of your face, Yahweh!

3d 3g 9
נָתַ֣תָּה שִׂמְחָ֣ה בְלִבִּ֑י
מֵעֵ֬ת דְּגָנָ֖ם וְתִֽירוֹשָׁ֣ם רָֽבּוּ
k ntt wmkh blibi
myt dgnm vtirowm rbu
8 You have given gladness in my heart,
more than when their grain and their new wine multiplied.
3e 4B 8
בְּשָׁל֣וֹם יַחְדָּו֮ אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן
כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה יְהוָ֣ה לְבָדָ֑ד
לָ֝בֶ֗טַח תּוֹשִׁיבֵֽנִי
't bwlom ikdiv awcbh vaiwn
ci-ath ihvh lbdd
lb'tk towibni
9 In peace as one I will lie down and sleep,
for you Yahweh of solitude,
to trust you let me sit.
3d 4B 11

The incipit is very matter of fact. It is on the lowest two reciting notes. Almost not a melody. Verse 2 in contrast is intensive with a plea chanted on the highest reciting note. Verse 3 is addressed to a plural audience. The complaint of this response is less intense and more secure than the singular plea in verse 2. It is a different speaker. Both these verses are bicola with a rest on the subdominant in each. At the beginning of each of verses 2 and 3 is a matching ornament (pazer).

In a similar pairing, verses 4 and 5 each have a matching ornament (revia) on the second syllable of the first word. Verse 4 and 5 are both bicola, but the rest in each case is different. The cadence on the subdominant (verse 4) is the standard mid-verse rest. The cadence on the supertonic (verse 5) is less of a pause, as if one could not allow this phrase to have a rest on the word 'sin'. 

Verses 6 and 7 are both bicola. Like the previous pair, verse 6 rests on the subdominant (atnah), verse 7 rests on the supertonic (ole veyored).  The illuy (leap upwards of a fifth) of verse 7 is rude and the music shows it. The performer has not demonstrated this (a beautiful voice does not like to make rude sounds). It could be that Letteris has eliminated this awkward ornament. But we know there is plenty of demanding rudeness in the world.

Verse 8 like verse 7 has an illuy. It expressed rudeness in verse 7, but expresses joy in verse 8. The performer has taken this down an octave, downplaying the joy of the corporate body. Verse 9 is the only tricolon in the poem, through the use of both the cadences on the supertonic and the subdominant. Both verses 8 and 9 are characterised by leaps of a fifth. To whom does the solitude apply? Verses 2, 4, 8 and 9 are all singular. The rest of the poem is plural. Does the singular person incorporate the whole people? 

I have ended up with pairs of verses. The music suggests them but they do not seem obvious to me. For instance, verse 2 and 4 frame verse 3 through word recurrence: call-hear-yhvh, yhvh-hear-call. The final paired word is trust (verses 6 and 9). (I have not been terribly careful with recurrence in the English. 'Now set down this', is an allusion to The Journey of the Magi.) Note also the 'many say' in Psalms 3:3 as well as here in verse 7. Psalms 3 and 4 share almost half their words.

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