Friday 17 March 2023

Suggested answers to the first note questions

Without being exhaustive, here are my suggestions for why psalms, and some psalms in particular, begin on a note other than the tonic.

This post continues the question I asked here in January.

What are possible explanations? How is it that the whole Psalter begins on 'f'? Why is 9 saying something about 8? or 22 about 21? And so on. What do you think?

Psalm First
1 f Psalms continues and comments on Torah and Prophets
2 g Psalm 2 continues Psalm 1
9 g Psalm 9-10 (acrostic) is a celebration of Psalm 8
22 g Psalm 22 outlines the cost of the monarch's role in Psalms 20-21
40 f Psalm 40 expresses the confidence that psalm 39 requests
48 f Psalms 47 and 48 share 25% of their words, most significant perhaps is the recurrence of Yahweh the great king and the kings of the earth.
60 g Psalms 59 and 60 share just under 25% of their words. Psalm 60 is repeated in part in Psalm 108, along with part of Psalm 57. Psalms 56 to 60 are a group of miktamim. Perhaps 60's start on the third note of the scale rather than the first is an indication of the end of this group.
66 g Psalms 65 and 66 share 30% of their words. The inclusio here is prayer.
70 f This analysis gives some room to interpret the psalms that repeat. Psalm 70 is a repeat of part of Palm 40. So it is a commentary, recalling the context of Book 1, on Psalm 69.
83 g The Most High in the context of speech in Psalm 82 and silence in Psalm 83.
88 f 87-89 form the hope of Israel contrasted with two great laments over its failures.
89 f
91 g 90 and 91 share 27% of their words - but there are adjacent pairs of psalms that share many words yet are not connected musically. Psalm 90 is a response to Psalm 89 and the laments in Books 2 and 3. Psalm 91 in turn is a response to Psalm 90, an answer to the prayer.
95 g The series 94-96 connects 92-93 to the final royal celebrations of 96-99.
96 B
102 g Is the prayer a response to the annihilation of Psalm 101?
108 g 107, 108 and 109 appear to be a unit - why?
109 g
111 f Psalms 111 and 112 (acrostics) celebrate psalm 110
112 f
113 f 113 continues the trio of 110-112. 
115 C Psalm 115 - non nobis domine is a counterfoil to psalm 114 - in exitu Israel
116 g 116 is unique in this series from 110 in its singular view. It is a solo song rather than a chorus hymn. 
122 f Among the Sons of Ascent (120-134) there is a very detailed structure. See Mitchell, The Psalms of Ascent. Brief summary here. Mitchell does not mention a non-tonic starting note. I suspect it would support his closely reasoned structures.
124 f
127 f
130 f
131 f
133 f
135 f
137 f 135 and 136 are very closely related as if each was commenting on the series from 120-134. How is it that 137 refers back to this whole series?
139 g Psalms 138 and 139 share 33% of their words. 139 elaborates on the last verse of 138.
147 f Psalms 146 to 50 are a single continuous praise -- so they are joined by the music.
148 f
149 f
150 f

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