Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Psalms 136

 David C. Mitchell writes in what I call his '16 reasons paper'. (It's a good read. Link below.)

There is evidence of a history of musical development within the poetic te‘amim alone. A glance at Psalm 136 shows its cantillation is quite different from its neighbour, Psalm 137. Psalm 136 is practically devoid of supralinear symbols; only two tsinnors in 26 verses. But Psalm 137 is replete with them. The cadences of Psalm 136 are invariably etnaḥ and silluq in each verse. But Psalm 137 cadences not only on etnaḥ and silluq, but also on revia and tifḥa and tsinnor and oleh ve-yored. And Psalm 137 features sign-pairs— revia mugrash and oleh ve-yored—totally absent from Psalm 136.

Let's look at that music and see / hear if we agree. 136 is here. 137 is here

Psalms 136 has a chorus for every verse. It is without ornamentation as he notes except for the two verses. The ornament allows the singer to leap to the high reciting note in each case. Clearly this psalm is meant for antiphonal robust singing. It is simple but not necessarily more primitive. I disagree with Mitchell's thesis that it is therefore older. It's not impossible that it is older, but the music does not support this argument.

Psalms 137 has been set in a mode I would find hard to sing, with the raised 4th. This was Haïk-Vantoura's choice and the soprano Esther Lamandier would certainly have been able to sing it. The bass performer does not use this mode, and he is singing from the Letteris edition, a late (19th century) copy of the text. I rarely use this mode and certainly not when the augmented triad is as pronounced as it is in this song. But the setting is florid in that there are many ornaments. And the psalm is the most troubled and troubling of psalms. Why should its music, still constrained by the subdominant and tonic, not be different and not include some tricola - which would be unsuitable for antiphonal singing?

No performance is available for 136 - but really easy to hear as you read the music. One performance of 137 is available in mp3 or wmv format from the performances post.

Mitchell's paper is available here. An old version (from my 4-year-old phase) of psalm 137 is here.

Psalms 136 Fn Min Max Syll
הוֹד֣וּ לַיהוָ֣ה כִּי־ט֑וֹב
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
1 Give thanks to Yahweh because it is good,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 6
6
ה֭וֹדוּ לֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
because forever is his kindness.
g 3e 4B 9
6
ה֭וֹדוּ לַאֲדֹנֵ֣י הָאֲדֹנִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
because forever is his kindness,
g 3e 4B 10
6
לְעֹ֘שֵׂ֤ה נִפְלָא֣וֹת גְּדֹל֣וֹת לְבַדּ֑וֹ
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
4 for alone doing great wonders,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4C 12
6
לְעֹשֵׂ֣ה הַ֭שָּׁמַיִם בִּתְבוּנָ֑ה
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
5 For making the heavens with understanding,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 9
6
לְרֹקַ֣ע הָ֭אָרֶץ עַל־הַמָּ֑יִם
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
6 For expanding the earth over the waters,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 10
6
לְ֭עֹשֵׂה אוֹרִ֣ים גְּדֹלִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
7 for making the great lights,
because forever is his kindness.
g 3e 4B 8
6
אֶת־הַ֭שֶּׁמֶשׁ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת בַּיּ֑וֹם
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
8 Even the sun to govern by day,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 10
6
אֶת־הַיָּרֵ֣חַ וְ֭כוֹכָבִים לְמֶמְשְׁל֣וֹת בַּלָּ֑יְלָה
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
9 Even the moon and stars to govern by night,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 16
6
לְמַכֵּ֣ה מִ֭צְרַיִם בִּבְכוֹרֵיהֶ֑ם
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
10 For striking the firstborn of Egypt,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 9
6
וַיּוֹצֵ֣א יִ֭שְׂרָאֵל מִתּוֹכָ֑ם
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
11 And he brought Israel out from their midst,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 9
6
בְּיָ֣ד חֲ֭זָקָה וּבִזְר֣וֹעַ נְטוּיָ֑ה
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
12 With a courageous hand and by an arm stretched out,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 12
6
לְגֹזֵ֣ר יַם־ס֭וּף לִגְזָרִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
13 For parting the sea of reeds into parts,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 8
6
וְהֶעֱבִ֣יר יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל בְּתוֹכ֑וֹ
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
14 And made Israel pass through in the midst of it,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 10
6
וְנִ֘עֵ֤ר פַּרְעֹ֣ה וְחֵיל֣וֹ בְיַם־ס֑וּף
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
15 And tossed Pharaoh and his force into the sea of reeds,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4C 11
6
לְמוֹלִ֣יךְ עַ֭מּוֹ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
16 For walking with his people in the wilderness,
because forever is his kindness,
3e 4B 8
6
לְ֭מַכֵּה מְלָכִ֣ים גְּדֹלִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
17 and he struck great kings,
because forever is his kindness,
g 3e 4B 9
6
וַֽ֭יַּהֲרֹג מְלָכִ֣ים אַדִּירִ֑ים
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
18 and he slew majestic kings,
because forever is his kindness,
g 3e 4B 10
6
לְ֭סִיחוֹן מֶ֣לֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִ֑י
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
19 so Sihon, king of the Amorites,
because forever is his kindness,
g 3e 4B 9
6
וּ֭לְעוֹג מֶ֣לֶךְ הַבָּשָׁ֑ן
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
20 and so Og, king of fruitful Bashan,
because forever is his kindness.
g 3e 4B 7
6
וְנָתַ֣ן אַרְצָ֣ם לְנַחֲלָ֑ה
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
21 And gave their lands as inheritance,
because forever is his kindness,
3e 4B 9
6
נַ֭חֲלָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עַבְדּ֑וֹ
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
22 the inheritance of Israel his servant,
because forever is his kindness,
g 3e 4B 9
6
שֶׁ֭בְּשִׁפְלֵנוּ זָ֣כַר לָ֑נוּ
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
23 our abasement he remembered for us,
because forever is his kindness.
g 3e 4B 8
6
וַיִּפְרְקֵ֥נוּ מִצָּרֵ֑ינוּ
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
24 And rends us from our troubles,
because forever is his kindness.
3e 4B 9
6
נֹתֵ֣ן לֶ֭חֶם לְכָל־בָּשָׂ֑ר
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
25 Giving bread to all flesh,
because forever is his kindness,
3e 4B 8
6
ה֭וֹדוּ לְאֵ֣ל הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ
26 give thanks to the God of Heaven,
because forever is his kindness.
g 3e 4B 8
6


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