Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Blog anniversary

I haven’t noted much in the way of anniversaries for my blog(s), but on this day 16 years ago I made my first post on blogger.

What have I got to show for all this effort?
The end product
of 16 years effort.

I posted on Bob’s blog for six years. There were volume issues backing up blogs in those earlier days so I thought I might have to have more than one site. This was unnecessarily prudent (or foolish) on my part. I have never had cause to restore a backup. My initial site was largely dedicated to my first two passes through the psalter and to the Song.

I note that a whole bunch of links are broken on this site. A server that I had access to then contained many diagrams and the server is no longer available. I still have all the diagrams but nowhere to serve them from. If you want them, they are in a zip file here - unzip them to a hard drive keeping the directory structure and then open any one of the htm files in a browser and the diagrams will all work.

The file 173.htm is the main psalter driver. There are a bunch of other files in there too - pdfs on various books and so on. It is bits and pieces of my earliest work on translation. My attempts at learning go back further - Romans first in 1994, essays on the Liturgy, on a hand-developed web site that I still have somewhere.

On a second blog, Sufficiency, I did some analysis of Job, and wrote a second set of posts on Romans. The last post on Sufficiency was August 2010. These two blogs and their 1,200 or so posts have racked up over 200,000 hits over the years, i.e. nothing much to speak of.

This current blog Dust, now 13 years old, has over 3,000 posts and nearly 1.5 million visits. It backs up in less than a minute. No volume issues at all. Over these past 12 years I have exposed my work to the public on translation and the music of the Hebrew Bible. The most important bits are on the music. Introduction after years of research is here. Please take the time to listen and be astonished that such music was coded into the text from an era before the invention of the vowel pointing.

1.5 Million visits does not translate into 1.5 Million sales. Maybe a few hundred or so. Make a difference!

There are a few other blogs I have had over the years, one for a Sunday School that I assisted with for a while, and more currently, the full concordance of my translation of the Books of the Hebrew Bible, translated with the embedded music in mind.

Analysis is a never ending task. The translation is available if you want to buy a copy. I recommend the SimHebrew Bible. I never leave home without it. (It's on my phone of course.) And it is by far the easiest way to see the Hebrew behind the English. I use it frequently. But the individual books (all listed here) are good in English too. The book on the music is brief - only a hundred or so pages as opposed to 1000s.

I have a blog or two on Wordpress that I don't use because I haven't figured out the latest gadgets. Blogger has served me just fine so far.

Monday, 29 August 2022

Distinguishing aleph-lamed-yod from itself

When is אלי my God and when is it to me

And when is the root of such a word /al/ rather than /alvh/? Apparently when /al/ is the root, it may be derived from /ail/, ram, hart, or potency.

I was surprised to remind myself how extensive that root /al/ is. Of course it is many things besides its usage as God. Interpreting always of course, in the canonical text, 

  • there are a total of 6,586 uses of this letter pair as a root. 
  • I count 30 uses as god in the generic sense, 
  • 114 as God, 67 as part of a location name, 
  • 5 occurrences in Daniel in a form signifying lo
  • 840 uses as a negative particle, 
  • 6 uses as the demonstrative these in Daniel and Ezra, 
  • and the rest of the thousands in various forms as a preposition. You can scan the lot here.

It was curious to me (אלי) that the same three letter form /ali/ is also used 11 times for the generic singular root of alohim (2,763 uses in its various word forms). Why would some forms be interpreted as root /al/ and 11 others as /alvh/? Assigning these to the root alvh of course makes them unambiguous. (See Is 44:17, Ps 18:3, 22:2, 22:11, 63:2, 68:25, 89:77, 102:25, 118:28, 140:7. The poetic meter is also a consideration. אל is used for God frequently in Psalms and Job, not at all in Proverbs and less so in the prose books.)

This question came up because of the compactness of Exodus 32:26. mi lihvh alii. The Hebrew gives no clue for punctuation. I had translated it as 'Who is for Yahweh, my God?' The pointing and the SimHebrew (the fully spelled text) seem to demand that אלי be translated as 'to me'.

Exodus 32:26 - the music gives no indication of a discontinuous phrase.

I have changed the translation, but I find it a concern. Is the music incapable of expressing discontinuity? No it is not. Any number of ornaments could have indicated a disjunction. But this phrase, which occurs in the accent sequences over 1500 times, never invites such a break.

For more on the incident of the golden calf, try the Torah site, e.g. here. And here is a pdf on the chiastic structure of the passage, of which this verse is the centre. Couldn't find online a scholarly opinion on this translation issue. There is an interesting pdf on the violence of Levi here. In the days when I would write, I did some commentary here.

There is one other example in Psalms 7:7. In this case, I see that translations vary between 'to me' and 'my God'. The majority go with 'to me'.

Arise Yahweh, in your anger, be lifted up in the outbursts of my adversary,
and be aroused, my God, judgment you command.

To render this as 'to me' is not impossible personally or theologically, but there is a parallel that is lost. And here the music much more effectively supports the parallel.

Psalms 7:7 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Hebrew Bible texts to a Gregorian chant?

Via James McGrath on FB, here is a comment from Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on an interesting medieval manuscript of Hebrew texts from the Genizah Research Unit. More detail here.

Genizah fragment T-S K5.41 (recto): a musical composition from the 12th century.

Just what is the notation? It is not the traditional te'amim of the Hebrew Bible. (The melody reminds me of a fragment from Bernstein's Chichester Psalms - from the fourth minute of the solo in the second movement.)

There is no direct relationship to the te'amim in this 12th century work. It is rather almost a neume notation. Assuming a tonic of e for comparison to Haïk-Vantoura's work, the melody is a descending motif from the fifth to the second (a bit like the cadence on ole-veyored), and then in the second half of each verse, a resolution to the third.

(You can hear the composition at the link.) It is close to tonus peregrinus, in that it has more than one reciting note, but it doesn't resolve to the e. Occasionally the submediant (the sixth degree) is touched.

Here for comparison are the five texts: The first line is from Jer. 17:7. The second is from Prov. 3:5. The third from Prov. 3:6. The fourth: Prov. 3:13. The fifth: Job 5:17. (Switch the mode to e-major for all of them. - I.e. ignore the sharpened fourth in the first line from Jeremiah and sharpen the g naturals in the subsequent lines from the poetry books.) 

The five texts of T-S K5.41 (recto) interpreted from the te'amim
according to the deciphering key of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Psalms 17:13-15

Claude Mariottini has a post on translating Psalm 17 here.

I left a comment. 

There are so many issues with translation I just dove in and swam with the sharks for the last 16 years. This psalm is one I last changed 864 days ago, verse 14 in fact. I began working on the psalm much earlier than that. My first draft was Nov 21, 2008. On these two verses, I have tended to see more apposition than construct. I find that translators smooth things out too much, insisting on readability. The music suggests a more intense desire than smooth words will put across.

My current version is this for verses 13-15. I think we must include 15 to see what the poet is contrasting.

I only left the English on the comment - but a table with the Hebrew is much more revealing.
קוּמָ֤ה יְהוָ֗ה קַדְּמָ֣ה פָ֭נָיו הַכְרִיעֵ֑הוּ
פַּלְּטָ֥ה נַ֝פְשִׁ֗י מֵרָשָׁ֥ע חַרְבֶּֽךָ
13 Arise Yahweh, confront to its face. Make it bow down.
Secure me from the wicked, your sword,
מִֽמְתִ֥ים יָדְךָ֨ ׀ יְהוָ֡ה מִֽמְתִ֬ים מֵחֶ֗לֶד חֶלְקָ֥ם בַּֽחַיִּים֮ וּֽצְפוּנְךָ֮ תְּמַלֵּ֪א בִ֫טְנָ֥ם
יִשְׂבְּע֥וּ בָנִ֑ים
וְהִנִּ֥יחוּ יִ֝תְרָ֗ם לְעוֹלְלֵיהֶֽם
14 from men, your hand, Yahweh, from men, from transience, their share in their lives, whose bellies you fill with your treasure.
Let them be satisfied with children,
and leave their surplus to their progeny.
אֲנִ֗י בְּ֭צֶדֶק אֶחֱזֶ֣ה פָנֶ֑יךָ
אֶשְׂבְּעָ֥ה בְ֝הָקִ֗יץ תְּמוּנָתֶֽךָ
15 I in righteousness will gaze on your face.
I will be satisfied to awaken in your similitude.
Verses 13 and 15 are both in two parts, separated by the mid-verse atnach. Verse 14 is a tri-colon with a long first part ending with ole-veyored, then a pair of cola with the mid-verse rest on children.

I think it is very important to hear the music. I had no experience with it in 2008, but the last dozen years I have concentrated on it – and not just for the psalms. 

Here is the music for just those three verses. It's an accident that I just discovered a setting of the English underlay that I did from 2014.

Psalms 17:13-15 from 2014

Anonymous asked me yesterday to do a word by word underlay. It's just possible that I might be able to do an interlinear lyric with automation. It would be very strange though because the glosses would be in Hebrew word order. And I would have to divide the English into syllables. That's the impossible part. I programmed the syllables with the Hebrew because the music fits it and the syllabic rules are (relatively) clear. This underlay was done by hand - I tried to catch the typos. It's a very old program - still showing the qere and ketiv (bar 74) - something I eliminated once I had made my translation choices.

The music is quite intense - note the rise of the fifth mid-bar on מִֽמְתִ֬ים. The accent is the illuy. Over the text it is an ornament - a jump of a fifth. Under the text it sets the reciting to the dominant (the fifth above the tonic). In this case, the reciting note being the tonic, the illuy strikingly calls out the dominant for just one syllable. "From men!" (The word, mt, is really male. It is used only 20 times in the Bible.)

We are in the process, as are many, of leaving (our) surplus to our progeny.

Sunday, 14 August 2022

SimHebrew, inferring the pronunciation

Using Charles Loder's transliteration site here, I have created a comparison grid of five versions of Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Hebrew, English, SimHebrew, and two transcriptions - the first using the SBL general purpose version, the second, a custom template created on the site for SimHebrew. Transcription is always emphasizing the words and missing the music - but see below for the music.

(I have not made the music algorithm public because it is too specific to my Oracle framework, but I have specified the mapping from Hebrew to Music XML, here, here, and here.)

Notice all the final kafs (ç). And of course the repetition of you / your that corresponds. I did this exercise to try to understand more of the pronunciation of Hebrew at sight using SimHebrew as the primary transcription - since it is an isomorphic mapping - one to one onto the Hebrew consonantal text. 

The other transcriptions are not isomorphic and therefore not reversible. But anyone who 'gets' Hebrew in its fully spelled mode as used in modern Hebrew will see that SimHebrew could be as readable as any English text - but like Spanish and French, with different pronunciation rules and exceptions that the language processor in our brains will easily learn (when it's in its youth). Anyone who doesn't 'get' square script with diacritics or weird transcription schemata will come to love the transparency and reversibility of SimHebrew.

Learning such language recognition exceptions is part of my discerning and marveling at the quantum processing that goes on in the brains of God's creatures and indeed all creation.

The raised comma is a guttural (aleph), the raised y is a deeper guttural (ayin). The double ii is the English y sound. In SimHebrew, /a/ is aleph - but what vowel does it carry? In English we know how to pronounce many. Here the English /a/ carries an /e/ sound. So also the aleph sometimes carries an e sound in Hebrew. You can see some below in iwral, and in alohinuand in akdThe other guttural in Hebrew is the ayin. That too can carry different sounds. I transcribed it as a superscript /y/ to match the /’/ typically used for aleph.

Note that the /w/ is sh and sometimes s. This is another thing that speakers reading SimHebrew would just memorize as an extension to their reading skills. Hebrew letters are often the mirror image of the Latin script - consider for instance r and resh (ר). In SimHebrew, therefore, the Latin /c/ is kaf (כ) and the Latin /k/ is used for the heavy aspirate het (ח). There is a longer introduction here. But if you read what follows closely, you will see how, with practice reading out loud, you might come to need no transcription at all.

SimHebrew sometimes spells out for the reader the i, o, or u vowels. And where you don't know, just use a schwa. I see one area where there is no clue in the SimHebrew about final /a/ sounds. The hearing of final pronouns and verb forms are something learned by a speaker that has to be memorized rather than be explicit in the text. These are fortunately much more regular than English /ough/ usage (I had a thoroughly rough time up the tree, coughing while on a bough kneading dough, and I ought to have known through experience that such would lead to hiccoughs).

The grid elements are - 

1-left. the square text from the WLC, 1-right my translation, 
2-left SimHebrew, 
3-left SBL general purpose, 3-right my schema as saved from the transcription site.

Perhaps more to the need of our age, how do we teach these famous words that are an invitation to love. (My thanks to for this recently used phrase.) These verses are not easily heard, and were often foisted upon me 50 years ago in my brassy immaturity. Let them not be merely patterned grunts uttered by rote from a closed social structure stuck in a 19th century reaction-formation. Is it the seed's or the sower's fault if it fails to germinate and bear fruit instantly? There is indeed love in Torah and Tanach.

שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד
4 Hear Israel,
Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.
d wmy iwral
ihvh alohinu ihvh akd

shemaʿ yisraʾel
yhwh ʾelohenu yhwh ʾekhad
shəmaʸ iisra’el
ihvh ’eloheinu ihvh ’ekad
וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ
בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ
5 And you will love Yahweh your God,
with all your heart and with all your being and with all your capacity.
h vahbt at ihvh alohiç
bcl-lbbç ubcl-npwç ubcl-maodç

veʾahavta ʾet yhwh ʾelohekha
bekhol-levavekha uvekhol-nafshekha uvekhol-meʾodekha
və’ahavta ’et ihvh ’eloheca
bəcol-ləvavəca uvəcol-nafshəca uvəcol-mə’odeca
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ 6 And these words which I am commanding you today will be on your heart.
v vhiu hdbrim halh awr anoci mxvvç hiom yl-lbbç

vehayu haddevarim haʾelleh ʾasher ʾanokhi metsavvekha hayyom ʿal-levavekha vəhaiu haddəvarim ha’elle ’asher ’anoci mətsavvəca haiiom ʸal-ləvaveca
וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם
בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ
7 And you will sharpen them for your children, and speak in them,
when you sit in your house, and when you walk in the way, and when you lie down, and when you arise.
z vwinntm lbniç vdibrt bm
bwbtç bbitç ublctç bdrç ubwocbç ubqumç

veshinnantam levanekha vedibbarta bam
beshivtekha bevetekha uvelekhtekha vadderekh uveshakhebekha uvequmekha
vəshinnantam ləvaneca vədibbarta bam
bəshivtəca bəveiteca uvəlectəca vadderec uvəshacəbəca uvəqumeca
וּקְשַׁרְתָּ֥ם לְא֖וֹת עַל־יָדֶ֑ךָ
וְהָי֥וּ לְטֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵינֶֽיךָ
8 And you will fasten them for a sign on your hand,
and they will be frontlets between your eyes.
k uqwrtm laot yl-idç
vhiu l'to'tpot bin yiniç

uqeshartam leʾot ʿal-yadekha
vehayu letotafot ben ʿenekha
uqəshartam lə’ot ʸal-iadeca
vəhaiu lətotafot bein ʸeineca
וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם עַל־מְזוּזֹ֥ת בֵּיתֶ֖ךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ ס 9 And you will write them on the posts of your house and your gates.
't uctbtm yl-mzuzot bitç ubwyriç s

ukhetavtam ʿal-mezuzot betekha uvishʿarekha s ucətavtam ʸal-məzuzot beiteca uvishʸareca

And here's the music to sing with my original transcription scheme.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 An invitation to love - to will the good of God