Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Psalm Tones: Psalm 143(144) - Tone VI

GauntletImage via Wikipedia
You may already know that there are two different ways of numbering the psalms, one based on the Septuagint and one on the Masoretic text. Eastern Orthodox translations use the numbering of the Septuagint (Greek), Protestants the Masoretic (Hebrew) and Catholics tend to put both numbers.

Why do I mention this? Because this little factoid has confounded my modest plans. I assumed that the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood's Psalm Tone Distribution Table would use the Septuagint numbering system. Why? Mostly absent-mindedness I think, but also because I think all the links I've seen about how Martin Luther believed a heap of things that only Catholics (and the Orthodox I guess) are supposed to believe put the notion that Lutherans are probably pretty trad in my head. Plus, a "Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood" who sing using the traditional psalm tones? Sounds pretty tradder-than-thou to me - it'll be like High Anglicanism right? Silly me.

So I learnt the words for Psalm 90 (91) by heart (a Psalm for Sunday Night Prayer, which means you can also sing it any day of the week, you see) but with the "wrong" tone. It's not the end of the world; it seems to work okay, and I'm pleased, with my rubbish memory, to have committed some scripture to memory, but this Prayer Brotherhood probably had a good reason for choosing their tones, so I was planning on following their suggestions.

Anyway, this tone isn't listed for any of the psalms in Compline. So I just picked a psalm I liked that it is listed for:
Blessed be the Lord, my róck†
who trains my árms for báttle,*
who prepares my hands for wár.
[...]
Reach down from heaven and sáve me;†
draw me out from the míghty wáters,*
from the hands of alien fóes
whose mouths are fílled with líes,*
whose hands are raised in pérjury.

To you, O God, will I síng a new sóng;*
I will play on the ten-stringed hárp
to you who give kíngs their víctory,*
who set David your servant frée.
I've just taken some select verses, making sure to leave in a couple of flexes (joined lines) and dactyls (it means "finger" and is a metrical foot - scansion, you couldn't make it up!) to keep it interesting. I cheated and only copied the stresses which are relevant for this tone; in any case, like last time, I suggest you read it through, stressing the stresses, aloud or in your head.

Now here's the notation for the tone:


(This might be a good point to look back at the last instalment, since I'm going to use the same terminology that I did there.)

There are two differences from the last tone that I should mention. First is the termination; in tone III there's one preparatory syllable before the final stress, here, there are two. So in the third line you sing the tenor until you drop down on "hands" and sing "for" on two ascending notes (that's what the two-note neume there means) before you sing the stressed "war". So in addition to reading through the text for the stresses, you'd be well advised to look for the two preparatory syllables in the lines that contain the termination (without a † or * at the end). The second is a reminder that the intonation is usually sung only on the first line; "Reach down from heaven" should all be on the tenor for example.

I deliberately didn't mention something last time, but I'll mention it now. There's a little problem with these tones; they were written for use with Latin, and English (you will have noticed) isn't Latin, so essentially they don't quite work. But the good news is that it doesn't really matter - just fudge it! Apparently there are lots of competing methods for adapting these tones for use with English, but there's no official way and there never will be, so just do what works for you.

My version is here. If I didn't have a 9 month old daughter I would probably record a few takes until it sounded better. Meh.
  • Take the first line, for example. Finishes on a stressed syllable. Very common in English but very rare in Latin; that's why whoever wrote the psalm tone assumed that there would be another syllable (perhaps even two) after the stress of the flex (first on the left). What I do is pretend that the lower note is the stressed syllable. Sounds fine to me, whereas the other possibility of singing the stressed syllable on two notes sounds a bit iffy so far as I'm concerned.
  • For "lies" and "song" (mediant), I think it sounds better to just sing the note of the stress and forget about returning to the tenor (reciting) note until the next line
  • Similarly, there should be a syllable after "war" for the termination at the end of the third line. Here, I nonchalantly sing it on two notes; same with "foes", "harp" and "free".
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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fratelli d'Italia pt. 6

A loaf of white bread. Photo by sannse, 18 Jul...Image via Wikipedia
Hmm. Been a while.

Wot, no beer? - Everyone knows that Italians know about food and wine, what I don't understand is the blind spot when it comes to beer. Obviously they find wine much more appealing, but I can't get my head round the fact that they have no interesting beer on their supermarket shelves. Obviously they don't have to be as interested in beer as we are, but it seems odd that they're not more bothered about it when they can be so anal about other comestibles.

White Bread and Sandwiches - Again, this is odd because it doesn't seem to tally with the tendencies of the Italians themselves. In addition to being more bothered about food than we are, Italians seem to be more interested in their health too. Now, we all know that sensible grown-ups eat brown bread because its better for you, and young whippersnappers are the ones who will only eat white bread and even have special hybrid bread made for them to tempt them away from the white variety. But if you go into an Italian bakery, you'll see heaps of white bread, and if you're lucky you'll manage to make out some brown stuff in the corner. Monica tells me that it's something to do with the fact that brown bread has historical associations with poverty (a phenomenon that was widespread much more recently in Italy); that's fair enough, but talk about old habits dying hard!

Then there's sandwiches. Monica doesn't like English bread; it doesn't meet her expectations, which is easy to understand if you buy normal bread in Italy, it's much more hard, so English bread seems, well, half-baked, which apparently is bad for the digestion or something (made of flimsy stuff these foreigners, eh?). Well that's fine by me; different strokes for different folks and all that. What confuses me is that when you get a tramezzino (sandwich) it always comes in this ridicuolous plasticy white bread without crusts which seems to me to be the epitome of poor quality.

Bidets vs. Shit Toilets - In Italy, everyone has a bidet. That's just how it is. The Italian abroad is generally in want of a bottom-cleaning device and surprised (possibly somewhat disgusted) to see the rest of the world getting on without them. However, while this area of fundamental hygiene seems so important to them, their spotless domestic bidets stand in stark contrast to their wretched and rare public toilets. Woe betide the hapless wayfarer who dares to do their business out of doors. You usually have to pay, they're sometimes of the hole-in-floor variety (the country that gave us aqueducts now wants us to wee on our shoes?), there's never any bloody soap, an electric hand dryer is a rarity and the paper towels have usually run out; then of course they're mucky and full of graffiti. Hold it in, that's my advice.

Ridiculous Names - I've noticed that Italians seem to have a disproportionate number of outlandish surnames. Some examples: we bought our clothes rack from the Bastardi (yes, bastards, obviously) round the corner, the rt. hon. Bocchino (blowjob) is a well-known politician and another Bocchino earned Italy 8 points in the Rugby World Cup with conversions this year, I've seen reports on channel 7 by a Chiappaventi ((arse) cheek-winds) and an "and finally" story about people who go by the unlikely name of Mastronzo ("stronzo" literally means "turd", but Italians use it in much the same way as we use arsehole, of a person, only it's ruder).
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