Monday 27 February 2023

Finishing Amos

I had to finish the first book in this new pass at translating for the music. I changed 146 verses during this short project (102 of them not in Amos).

The opening verse interrupts with a single note a long low recitative on the tonic. The subdominant is approached through the dominant and the raised mediant. This creates a full close in the subdominant. (That's why this represents an emotional rest -- through the vibrations -- even though the modal tonic is a fourth below.)

Emotionally, the last chapter is a promise of change. The change begins in verse 11. So much destruction and so much promise and it seems the world has not changed a bit. What transformation in the prophet caused the last verses to be written? 

Saturday 25 February 2023

Thoughts on Exodus 17

I looked this morning at Exodus 17 within the story: the beginning of the migrations (chapter 16) in the wilderness right after the great song of the sea (15). Chapter 17 is choc-a-bloc with imagery: the grumbling about water (Psalms 95), the rod of Moses, and the rock that Paul writes - 'is Christ' and the striking of the rock once. And here we have Caleb's son, Hur, assisting the priesthood (Aaron) and the law (Moses) in the battle that Joshua (Jesus) wages against Amalek (often identified with 'the flesh').

How does one begin to unravel such a tangle of potential 'interpretations'? Even if we take Amalek as a symbol, we run the risk of dehumanizing the people for the sake of the image. If we take Amalek as 'flesh' vs spirit, we risk losing the marvel of the life of flesh that we have, and the image of the Word becoming flesh, and the beauty of our genetic programming. I have just finished a long study of genetics by Siddhartha Mukherjee - the flesh is really astonishing as a piece of the created order - or should I say, the disorder of natural programming!

As a 'translator' I think through the music of the te'amim and stay close to the Hebrew word order - these are huge constraints. And I leave in the ambiguity of who is who in the sentence. But recognize the potential for what is hidden in the words, the sudden appearance of Amalek in this context underlines a continual struggle in the human spirit to know the power of being lifted up as Moses was by the faithfulness of his companion Aaron, and the strength of the faithful Caleb, companion of Joshua. 

So this chapter is the memorial, and it remains unclear who is the 'he' in verse 1 'and he said' within the immediate context.

Amos 17, 16 - the symbolism of Amalek
I am responding here to a comment from Claude Mariottini on this post.  My comment was probably not clear and so did not make it past the moderator. Claude writes: 

Your translation is good and reflects the Hebrew. However, the speaker (Moses) was speaking to Joshua. Your translation seems not to address Moses’ words to Joshua.

True, there is ambiguity in the text and I as translator refuse to remove it. I was reading a post from 2009 of my own. It expresses exactly why I refuse to take this degree of power over the text. 

"Difficult - but when you read this slowly - all sorts of decisions become apparent that have nothing to do with communicating in the present to a target audience. Important though that may be - it is not really in your power as translator to do the work that your reader must do. What is in your power as you develop it is to choose words that match in tone and form the language that your ancient poet used. Your primary job is to communicate with that ancient writer and only secondarily to form a sentence or poem for the modern reader."

Hmmm - really? I looked even further back to 2007 - when I was less than a year old in my Hebrew study.

Music of Amos - chapters 7 and 8

... not a famine of bread and not a thirst for water but of hearing the words of Yahweh ...

The words of Yahweh could not be heard because the people could not hear each other. - Would the music support this interpretation of God with us?

Consider the indictment of the people beginning at verse 4 of chapter 8 -- 

The reason for famine Amos 8:4 ff.

Who is this mystery whose presence we deny by our actions? Every one of the actions above is visible in our social structures today. Each one of these actions degrades and inhibits the body politic. This is not about eternal life, but about temporal principle, in a word 'presence'. We are 'face to face' with our own actions and their consequences. This is not an external God who is doing this to us. But we can still attribute the consequences to the actions we pursue, so Yahweh can say in the oracle, I will do this ... Perhaps a little fear is relevant.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Proverbs as an example of the music for poetry

It's a long story to talk about prose and poetry in Hebrew. The first thing to note is that the te'amim, the accents above and below the text that are cantilation signs, are divided into two sets: those for the three books, Psalms, Proverbs, and the speeches of Job, and those for the other 21 books of the Hebrew Bible and the prose sections of Job, chapters 1, 2, and 42 from verse 7 to the end, and as well, each of the single phrase introductions to the speeches by the narrator. These three books are called poetic. This post is about the observable differences in the music of the three books.

Only in the three books do we find the combination accents ole veyored and revia mugrash. The lowest reciting note c (darga) of the 21 books does not occur in the poetry of the three books. And there are six ornaments that occur only in the 21 books, the double geresh (or tarsin ב֞), zaqef qatan (upright small ב֔), zaqef gadol (upright big ב֕), segol (bunch of grapes ב֒), and the two horns, qarne farah (both horns together), telisha (detached ב֩) qetanah/gedolah (ב֠).

Putting aside these preliminaries, I have here a thought or two about the musical lines in the poetry. I will skip the process of underlay here. This post has a different purpose from refining my translation for lyrics (as if that were even possible!).

I need you to hear. I had dictated this into my phone with singing, but I destroyed the recording while editing. It does need to be sung and heard so that you can distinguish the fourth note of the scale from the fifth or the octave (that interval does not exist in the three books!). And so you can hear the tone of the message.

One of the chief characteristics of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura's deciphering key for the te'amim is the mid-verse cadence on the atnah -- this is a mid-verse recitation note on the sub-dominant. It would be highly unusual for a 20th century musician to consider this as suitable for the mid point of a musical form. The music of the last 4 centuries has been an exploration of the move from tonic to dominant, modulating to create tension in the middle of a piece that sets up a longing for the return to the tonic at the end of the piece. The recitation to the sub-dominant doesn't set up such a tension. It is a cadence that allows a sense of rest. Recitation on the sub-dominant after the atnah often carries the sense of rest further. Here is the first such note in Proverbs 1:1a:

Proverbs - the opening notes.

The tonic is e. -- Not as if it were fixed but it is generally convenient for the human voice. Raise or lower the tonic for the individual singer as necessary. Notice that the book of Proverbs starts on a g (tifha is the accent name - it is always the third note of the scale). This connects the book of Proverbs as a continuation of the Psalms which is itself a commentary on Torah and Prophets. Psalms, Proverbs, and Job all start on a note other than the tonic. They with Deuteronomy and The Song are the only sections of Scripture that do not have e as the opening reciting note.

Sing those three notes -- imagine e as your home base, but go up the third to g (natural in this mode) then to the fifth (the dominant - signified by the accent munah), then to the mid point cadence on the syllable vid. We of course use the dominant as a note in a phrase, but we don't come to a cadence in it as modern music might. The idea of cadence in another 'key' is foreign to the Biblical recitation. The movement to the subdominant (atnah) is not a modulation. (Though if I am arranging such melodies, I do allow such a treatment occasionally.)

The second part of this verse returns to the tonic. As is common in the poetry, the pair of accents revia-mugrash above the text occurs as part of the return. It occurs 2,839 times in the 4,442 verses of the three books that use the poetic te'amim. It is always in the last part of the verse. The verse structures will be repetitive, but there is much variation in tone, in emotion, in ornaments, and so on throughout the forms that will be encountered as the study continues.

The first two verses of Proverbs

Notice the similarity and the difference between the shapes of the two verses. In all three of the poetry books, this pattern and variations will be evident. [The g in melek is an accident - a bug in an old program that I have never noticed till now - when the melisma is over 4 notes, the usual sharpening is ignored.]

Several verses in the three books are tri-cola, having two mid-verse cadences. There are arguments for tri-cola in the 21 books as well, but no verse in any of those books hase a second significant cadence on the supertonic. If a verse in the poetry has two cadences, the one on the second step of the scale always precedes the one on the 4th step of the scale. A cadence on the second step is always preceded by the ole, an ornament to which Haïk-Vantoura assigns a leap of the fourth. E.g. in Proverbs 1, these three verses from 21-23.

Three verses in a row that use the ole-veyored coming to a cadence on the supertonic.

Bars 99 to 103 express a verse that is a bi-colon, having one cadence only on the supertonic. Bars 103 to 109 illustrate a tri-colon with cadences on the supertonic and the subdominant. Similarly bars 110 to 116.

Similarity of accent sequences (= melodic line shape) is very easy to see and hear with Haïk-Vantoura's deciphering key. It is also easy to learn to sight-read this notation.

A claim was made to me that the poetry books differ from each other. I doubt this, but it is a question that statistics would confirm or deny with some degree of confidence.

Getting to the atnah (A) - the Psalms have greater variety of phrase as seen in the table below. These are phrases getting to the atnah with a frequency of use greater than 10 times in the book. 

Read it this way as you sing the note sequence: The first line of the table: Munah atnah in accents occurs 13 times in the Psalms and not at all in the other two books. The second line: B-g-B-A Munah-tifha-munah-atnah occur in all three books, 42 times in psalms, 72 in Proverbs, and 16 in Job. The seventh line: Silluq munah atnah occurs 329 times in psalms and 92 times in Proverbs and 181 times in Job. And so on. Given the length of the books, it seems to me that all the accent combinations are used in each book, and there is no significant difference in the composers' use of the differing phrases.

In volume 10, The Progression of the Music of my series, the Hebrew Bible and its music, you will find every phrase and can examine this data at your leisure.








B-mun A




B-mun g-tif B-mun A




B-mun g-tif A




C-mph B-mun A




C-mph B-mun g-tif B-mun A




C-mph B-mun g-tif A




e-sil B-mun A




e-sil B-mun g-tif B-mun A




e-sil B-mun g-tif A




e-sil B-mun g-tif e-sil A




e-sil C-mph B-mun A




e-sil C-mph B-mun g-tif B-mun A




e-sil C-mph B-mun g-tif A




e-sil C-mph e-sil f-mer A




e-sil C-mph f-mer A




e-sil C-mph g-tif B-mun A




e-sil d-gal f-mer g-tif B-mun A




e-sil f-mer A




e-sil f-mer e-sil A




e-sil f-mer g-tif B-mun A




e-sil g-tif B-mun A




e-sil g-tif A




e-sil g-tif f-mer A




g-tif B-mun A




g-tif e-sil B-mun A

Thursday 16 February 2023

Music of Amos chapters 5 and 6

This process, at the current rate, will take a long time. 2 weeks for 6 chapters -- 100 verses. So for roughly 232 times that gives 464 weeks or about 9 to 10 years. Mind you I am not at home - we are in a hotel while the extension to the house is being built. I haven't reported on this project yet. It is somewhat difficult dealing with the regulatory issues from city, province and the federal government as well. So I can work on the music and translation only in odd hours. Still it would be nice for it to take even longer - if I got any feedback and criticism. And it would be much shorter if I had a serious volunteer or two.

I have made changes to 25+ verses in the last two weeks. Mostly to Amos. Mostly word order in the English. I looked to see the concordance changes that should perhaps be considered for similar phrases in other books. It's curious that the several word pairs that I checked were hapaxes (e.g. cawr preceded by the divine name, or yxmim preceded by ixa) in Amos. Another suggested a change in Jeremiah (house of autumn) - and the phrase I used there (autumn-house) would have had similar problems with the lyric underlay. Several changes were improvements in sense and concordance when compared with an equivalent phrase (house of ivory) in 1 Kings. Concordance on individual words is controlled - but on pairs of words I need to do some searching. And it could be that some books deserves some stylistic uniqueness. Also I think I understand the first 6 chapters better. The work is worth the time. Oh, and I also corrected a few mistakes.

So if you want to, please do comment on the translation - but do it as you see it in the music - after all, that's the point, to read for and with the music. It will, of course, demand more of your time than speed-reading and that trickster of associating verses that you shouldn't. If you would like to do some underlay, let me know which book or chapters you would like to do. I can produce the music with the English embedded by half verse. That makes the work quite focused.

Now - for the analysis: chapter 6 continues chapter 5. They are joined by the opening note, the sixth tone of the reciting note, that begins chapter 6. It is worth hearing this pitch for its sense of appeal - and it may indicate some emotion. In this case, the sense of longing that Yahweh expresses in these chapters is reflected directly in the words ascribed (see chapter 6 bar 56) and in the human dialogue (bars 65-81 - I struggle to find the right word for אָ֑פֶס on the rest note - in a sense that would parallel the 'Hush' of the following bar). Let us hear what else you discover. If you have some thoughts, do not remain silent.

Friday 10 February 2023

Another conversation with chatGPT about Ecclesiastes 3:11 (Qohelet)

What languages can you read?

As a language model AI, I have been trained on a diverse range of languages and can generate text in many of them, including but not limited to: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Japanese, Korean, and many more.

I have been trained on a large corpus of text from the internet, so I can also respond to questions and generate text in many other languages, although my accuracy may be lower for languages that I have not been specifically trained on.

However, it's worth noting that my abilities in each language vary and may not be equivalent to that of a native speaker. Additionally, my training data may not be up-to-date with the most recent developments in a language or cultural context, so my responses may not always be fully accurate or culturally appropriate.

Can you make something from this? אֶת־הַכֹּ֥ל עָשָׂ֖ה יָפֶ֣ה בְעִתּ֑וֹ גַּ֤ם אֶת־הָעֹלָם֙ נָתַ֣ן בְּלִבָּ֔ם מִבְּלִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹא־יִמְצָ֣א הָאָדָ֗ם אֶת־הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מֵרֹ֥אשׁ וְעַד־סֽוֹף

This is a verse from the Bible in Hebrew, which comes from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:11) in the Old Testament. The verse can be translated to English as follows:

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

The verse reflects the idea that God has created everything in the world with purpose and in its own time, and has placed within us a sense of eternity, a longing for something beyond this world. The idea is that no one can fully understand the magnitude of God's work, from the beginning of creation to its end.

I'm sure you know that מִבְּלִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֧ר is a hapax. Why is it not something like 'without which' a rendering that reverses the simple meaning with 'yet' as you have given it.

Yes, you are correct. "מִבְּלִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֧ר" is a hapax legomenon, which is a term used to refer to a word or phrase that occurs only once in a text. In this case, "מִבְּלִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֧ר" is a unique expression that has not been found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.

Regarding the translation of this phrase, "without which" is a possible alternative to the rendering "yet no one can fathom." Both translations aim to convey the idea that the human mind is unable to fully understand the extent of God's work, but they differ in their emphasis.

The translation "without which" focuses on the missing element or condition that makes it impossible for humans to comprehend God's work, while the translation "yet no one can fathom" emphasizes the inability of the human mind to grasp the magnitude of God's work.

Ultimately, the choice of translation depends on the translator's interpretation of the text and their goals for the translation. In my previous answer, I aimed to provide a faithful and understandable rendering of the verse while keeping the intended meaning and flow of the text.

If it is 'without which', as a language processor you will know that the relative pronoun requires an antecedent. What is the antecedent in this phrase? The word 'yet' does not require an antecedent.

You are correct. "Without which" would require an antecedent, which is the word or phrase that the relative pronoun refers to. In this case, it is not entirely clear what the antecedent of "which" is referring to.

It is possible that the antecedent is implied and refers to the "eternity in the human heart" that was mentioned earlier in the verse. However, the exact meaning and intended antecedent of this phrase is open to interpretation and may depend on the context and the larger literary and theological context of the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole.

This ambiguity in the text highlights the difficulties that can arise when translating ancient texts, and why multiple translations of the same text often exist. Each translator may have different interpretations and goals for their translation, and these can influence the choices they make in their rendering of the text.

A snippet about translation and theology

Having done just 4 chapters of Amos to the music, it becomes clear to me that my whole translation needs reanalysis phrase by phrase to fit it to both pulse and accents. The English must follow the Hebrew word order whenever possible, even if like Yoda-speak it sounds, or a fast-moving sports announcer using a proleptic pronoun and then clarifying the reference. Singers of the underlay shrewd in their interpretations must be.

It's clear too that on sounds-like translation I failed in a number of areas. I governed concordance with an algorithm, but I left myself more degrees of freedom than necessary sometimes. There are intractable problems with prepositions of course. Some of my early decisions, made somewhat in jest, need revisiting. Perhaps I will eliminate the earthling for adm and use groundling instead to sound like the ground (admh) that it reflects. (And perhaps not.)

And the mismatch between syllables in the two languages is sometimes impossible and sometimes fits like a glove. It's all very strange to think we base our thoughts about God on such a history.

Here's an example that illustrates the reason as much alignment of text is important.

Ruth 2:6 showing the word-painting around "the lass is Moabite".

Note how the lass is emphasized, and her history is sung at a low pitch, perhaps almost a whisper.

Ecclesiastes 3 at evensong I read recently and I noted that verse 11 contains a double negative that is ignored by all translators except Young's literal. So I read the assigned translation that was put before me (not a great translation) till verse 11 and then put verse 11 back together. The phrase mbli awr is a hapax. The word mbli is a negative and it is followed by a negative la-imxa hadm

אֶת־הַכֹּ֥ל עָשָׂ֖ה יָפֶ֣ה בְעִתּ֑וֹ

גַּ֤ם אֶת־הָעֹלָם֙ נָתַ֣ן בְּלִבָּ֔ם מִבְּלִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹא־יִמְצָ֣א הָאָדָ֗ם אֶת־הַֽמַּעֲשֶׂ֛ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים מֵרֹ֥אשׁ וְעַד־סֽוֹף

To me it renders easily as without which the sentient humus would not find out etc. Qohelet is not all hopeless. This preacher identifies here the very things that our 'sense of time' allows us to discover: i.e. what God does. The word for age, time past, eternity and obscurity, ylm, is also somewhat difficult to render. The translation put in front of me rendered it as a sense of past and future. Well, that was a bit of a surprise. I reverted it to the eternal. But I prefer the obscurity in this case. I should throw out the words ever, never, everlasting and so on since time is trickier than we suppose. Our four-dimensional hologram gets subsumed in a larger frame- so that we can say:

The whole he has made beautiful in its time,

even the obscurity he has given in their heart without which the human would not find out the doings that this God has done from beginning and to conclusion.

The point is - we do find out what God is doing. Even our limited vision is beautiful. As Amos says, For my Lord Yahweh will not do any thing, except he uncovers his deliberation to his servants the prophets.

The scientists are revealing the doings of God through their work, whether it be the astronomers or the geneticists or the lawyers. These are the prophets of our time. And some of them are specific, hard-nosed, hard-working, coordinated, and determined.

Books to read: The End of Everything by Katie Mack; East-West Street by Phillipe Sands; and The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Music of Amos chapters 3 and 4

What are the unique motifs in the musical phrases within a section of the Bible? There are always stats if you don't have time to listen to every song!

The opening of Amos chapters 3, 4, and 5 is one such unique phrase. Tarsin (gershaim) with lyric 'hear' (wmyu) starts a verse 3 times. There is one difference in the three. Chapter 4 lacks the direct object marker. No other verses in the Bible use this start for the word 'hear'.

Tarsin (gershaim) with lyric 'hear' (wmyu) starts a verse 3 times.
Tarsin with the tonic begins a verse 675 times.
Tarsin itself is used 1,660 times.

Given this unique phrase, I thought I would check out the use of qarne (over the resh on the second syllable) with awr (אֲשֶׁר֩) that I noted in the first post in this series. This ornament on the very common relative pronoun occurs 119 times out of 5,612 opportunities. It is rare - 2% of the occurrences.

I noticed while doing this that most verses in Amos are verse by verse unique musical phrases. This is not uncommon. 14,790 verses of the 23,197 in the Hebrew Bible are unique. What makes them unique? Usually it is the ornamentation. The verses that have identical shape in Amos have no accents above the text. The consequential verses in chapter 1 show this commonality.

A common musical shape - (41 occurrences). Notice there are no accents above the text.
1:4, e f g# B ^A g# f e - 46 verses have this form;
1:7,10, e f g# B ^A g# e - 41 verses have this form;
1:12, e f g# ^A g# f e - 68 verses have this form.

I wonder though whether some note sequences (i.e. accent sequences) with or without the accents above the text carry information about the verses that could be deciphered from their shape. Possibly some of this could be translated into natural language for the non-musician.
A recurring word pattern in Amos 4

Common shapes often occur with repeated words. So in Amos, the phrase an oracle of Yahweh with some variation occurs 21 times, 10 of these in chapters 3 and 4. Verses 8 to 11 of chapter 4 has a clear pattern that is easy to see both in the words and in the music. In the pdf below for chapter 3 and 4, search for oracle to see the musical variations in verses 3:10, 13, 15 and 4:3, 4, 6, 8-11.

Friday 3 February 2023

Amos 1 and 2, the musical structure

 This is a first report on underlaying the music of Amos with an English lyric. I have let stand complete the transcribed underlay, read left to right as expected, and the square text above the notes, words read left to right but letters of course read right to left. The Hebrew underlay and the music are fully automated - untouched by human hand, a rendering of my source text (WLC). The transcription was coded in 2013 and is a rough phonetic rendering. 

I have done just the first two chapters so far. The pattern in the music follows the pattern in the text as one would expect. One of my problems composing, when I do, is to know how to use repetition. Amos uses repetition in the first two chapters to great effect. Notice the consistency one would expect in the opening phrase of each of the 8 sections as described below. Then notice the variations in the consequences stated. The demonstration is with snippets of music. The full score is below.

Note how what we might think of as an unimportant word
is emphasized by the qarne ornament.
Begin with verse 1 which states the historical context. I notice that the description is of the prophet gazing and the description is on the subdominant, after the mid point rest. The prophet is therefore 'at rest' and his eye is the means of communication.

That might be pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but I think the reciting note has suggestive qualities.

Comparing two settings of 'in the days of'
Also note that Uzziah gets the proclamation on the dominant, and then a quiet low phrase to indicate his kingship over Judah, but Jeroboam gets a recitation on the (possibly) plaintif sixth. It suggests to me a subtext, "Why did we have to put up with this ruler in Israel?"

It is quite obvious that in chapters 1 and 2 there are 8 repetitions of a pattern. What does the music say about the variations within the repetitions. Again here are some snippets from the variability.

Damascus (1:3-5)
The return to the tonic is by way of a descent of a fifth.
Gaza (1:6-8)
A similar trope for the second of the eight phrases.
Tyre (1:9-10)
The third of the eight words continues with a more elaborate phrasing.
Edom (1:11-12)
The fourth accusation remains on the rest note
but rises immediately to the sixth.
the children of Ammon (1:13-15)
The fifth accusation rises only to the dominant and approaches the tonic without the lower notes.
Moab (2:1-3)
The sixth word reverts to a drop of a fifth, but the continuation differs.
Judah (2:4-5)
The word to Judah is like the word to Tyre but followed by a long recitation on the dominant.

Israel (2:6-16)

The word to Israel is unlike all the others, reproach after reproach to the end of the chapter. 
...  and the next 5 chapters - but hold on, the music is bound to change. Analysis will not yield to speed. And music has to be performed, not described.

The complete two chapters follow.