Ecclesiastes the Preacher Kohelet

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

The only French translation of the Bible that would interest me is the one that Francois Rabelais forgot to write.

Ruth Jacobson, "Kohelet"

Ruth Jacobson, "Kohelet"

From: Pierre

Date: 17 November 2009

Subject: Re: zut#

Scott, je ne pense pas que vous soyez fou ! Si je ne réponds que très peu aux emails c'est juste par manque de temps. Composer de la musique demande un investissement mental très grand, et je passe le plus clair de mon temps à essayer d'éloigner de mon cerveau ce qui n'est pas lié à ça. Ce qui n'est pas simple, car j'ai beaucoup d'obligations "sociales" afin notamment de gagner ma vie : trois enfants, l'émission de télévision chaque semaine, la radio tous les jours et d'autres petites choses.

La traduction de Chouraqui est intéressante pour les français, en ce sens que c'est la première fois qu'un franco/israëlien traduit la bible (nouveau testament compris) et surtout que c'est une traduction qui permet, pour ceux qui ne parle pas l'hébreu, de mieux comprendre le texte, débarrassé des traditions et erreurs des traductions que l'église catholique a faite ces derniers siècles.

Exemple dans Qohelet, il explique comment le mot vanité a remplacé le habel hébreux, et donc comment on donne une dimension moralisatrice à un propos métaphysique.

Pour la gematria dans Bach, et l'Art de la fugue, mon propos est simplement de montrer que cette oeuvre, à mon sens la plus grande oeuvre de l'histoire de l'art occidental tout entier, qui est une oeuvre inachevée, est en fait une oeuvre volontairement inachevée, une ouverture sur l'infini.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 17 November 2009

Subject: B&B:K&K

Pierre has an innovative theory of radio-television broadcasting, he only speaks of that of which he knows, this morning Schubert's sonata for some weird kind of guitar played with a bow. Part two tomorrow. In keeping with this novel ethic, I'll stop rambling mindlessly about music, about which I know nothing, and take up his offer to look at translations of Ecclesiastes. Let me begin by saying that Chouraqui is not at all interesting, precisely for the reasons Peter has specified. Modern translators are bean-counters, trying to be faithful to the spirit (bad translators) or letter (good translators) of the source text. This is obviously bullshit. Martin Luther & the King James Poets (the translators, not the punk rock band) were faithful to their fucking languages, of which they were masters, Martin Luther basically making up modern German as he went. Igor once said: "Shakespeare is true, & universal," in his inimitable Russian accent. Yet Igor wept when he read Pasternak's translation of the Sonnets. When he wanted to read Shakes, he read him in English. When he wanted to read Pasternak, he read Shakespeare's sonnets in Russian. Also, please keep in mind that the translations I am going to show to be far superior, were both made during/after religious wars and reformations that freed Luther & the Poets from those very bonds to the dreaded Roman hierarchy, both made into languages that were just hitting their historical literary stride. (The Septuagint & the Vulgate, on the other hand, were both translated into languages already deep into a steep cultural decline, hence the complete lack of interest, the downright ugliness of those works.) So let's just pick a few examples of the translation of verses 2-5 of Ecclesiastes, since that is the text Peter has chosen for us:

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Es ist alles ganz eitel, sprach der Prediger, es ist alles ganz eitel.
Was hat der Mensch mehr von all seiner Mühe, die er hat unter der Sonne?
Ein Geschlecht vergehet, das andere kommt; die Erde aber bleibet ewiglich.
Die Sonne gehet auf und gehet unter und läuft an ihren Ort, daß sie wieder daselbst aufgehe.

Fumée de fumées, dit Qohèlèt; fumée de fumées, tout est fumée.
Quel avantage pour l’humain en tout son labeur, dont il a labeur sous le soleil?
Un cycle va, un cycle vient; en pérennité la terre se dresse.
Le soleil brille, le soleil décline; à son lieu il aspire et brille là.

Vanité des vanités, dit l'Ecclésiaste; vanité des vanités, tout est vanité.
Quel avantage a l'homme de tout son travail auquel il s'occupe sous le soleil?
Une génération passe, et l'autre génération vient, mais la terre demeure toujours ferme.
Le soleil aussi se lève, et le soleil se couche, et il soupire après le lieu d'où il se lève.

Vanidad de vanidades, dijo el Predicador; vanidad de vanidades, todo es vanidad.
¿Qué provecho tiene el hombre de todo su trabajo con que se afana debajo del sol?
Generación va, y generación viene; mas la tierra siempre permanece.
Y sale el sol, y se pone el sol, y con deseo retorna a su lugar donde vuelve a nacer.

I'm not even going to bother checking the Hebrew, because that's basically irrelevant. If you read Hebrew, then please help me build Cantillizer, and stop worrying about translations of the Bible. That's why the Jews have never cared about this problem: "Why would we want to translate the Bible, so the Christians can fuck it up for us?" Eh, I have checked the word that's obviously bothering Peter, but only because he's my friend. Now at first glance, Chouraqui seems consistent, translating each of the five occurrences of the root habal as something to do with smoke. The inflected hebel is somewhat more common, particuliarly in Job, where both words occur, as well as ashan "smoke". Please remember that vowels have very little lexical significance in Semitic languages, which is why they are omitted. Now Job & Ecclesiastes were not written by the same man, maybe not even in the same language, as Job may well be a translation, in the great tradition of Luther & the Poets, meaning a translation that cared nothing for fidelity to the source text. Although it is probably an older text, Job does, however, seem close enough to me in poetry & philosophy to Ecclesiastes, and I'm not going to make an exhaustive study anyway, even for my friend Peter, unless he asks very nicely and helps me build Cantillizer, in which case I'll do whatever he wants. Chouraqui gets trapped in Job, and has to translate ashan as "smoke" as well, but it isn't the same fucking word in Hebrew. Now don't you think that a sacrificial people (before the advent of the rabbis & their synagogue Judaism) would be pretty sure what smoke was and wasn't? Point to King James, David Martin, & the Spanish, since Luther reduces five occurrences of the root habal to two of "eitel", which is unconscionable. Point two to King James, Luther, and the Spanish, since they all translate the word "preacher". Bro, how does it help a Frenchman who can't read Hebrew to transliterate the Hebrew word Qohelet? He still don't know what it fucking means. Point three to King James, David Martin, & the Spanish, since the Hebrew uses the word Adam, so it's obviously a man, not a human or a Mensch. I'm going to give point four to Luther, for the shear beauty of the word "Geschlecht". That whole verse is just breath-taking: "Ein Geschlecht vergehet, das andere kommt; die Erde aber bleibet ewiglich." Half a point to King James for the word "abideth". Point five, and the whole of verse five, goes to King James. This is the magnificent poetry we love: "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose." No one else got this right. Why do you think our books are all called The Earth Abides, The Sun Also Rises, etc.? Winner obviously King James. Luther seems to have outsourced this passage, but rewritten verse four, which no one else could possibly have come up with. Chouraqui earns literally not one point. His translation is fucking ugly. Why would anyone want to read the ugly translation of a beautiful book? Surely that can not be faithful. As to the distinction between a moral & a metaphysical proposition, that's just an outrageous anachronism. The man who wrote Eccesiastes was a preacher, a poet, a philosopher, & a scientist. He would not even have understood why we feel the need to draw a distinction between those complementary aspects of his activity.

On administrative matters, Pierre. We all know the terrible price one must pay in order to think, remember, and create. We are all still talking about, thinking about, a note (high E) that Murder played on the night of 26 April 2000. That one note, which has spawned so much literature, probably cost Murder more than most people can give in a lifetime. It (that note, that high E) also helped save my life in the awful summer of 2007, when Rose was kidnapped by her mother for seventy-four days. For some reason my mind latched on to that note (even though I couldn't find the text that described it, so I was working only from memory) and it kept alive my faith in life, in art, in my friends. No one wrote to me much at that time, but they wrote, John, Joy, laurent, & Nichelle. I do not think I could have survived without those words & my memory of that note that I never heard. Donc tu ecris si tu veux, comme tu veux, en quelle langue tu veux, ou pas du tout, tu lis ou tu ne lis pas. C'est gratuit, & sans obligation, mais nous sommes heureux de t'avoir parmi nous. Si tu as un enfant d'environ trois ans, ou d'un autre age apres tout, et que tu souhaites lui exposer a un environnement anglophone pendant des vacances, previens-moi, car mes parents sont helas souvent la. C'est plus facile pour moi, qui suis un rate de la vie, a welfare queen in the inimitable words of Ronald Regan. J'ai tout mon temps pour m'occuper de ma fille, si Dieu le veut, et pour ecrire, que Dieu le veuille ou non.

Enfin, quand a Bach, je vais de nouveau parler de ce dont je ne sais rien, la musique, or rather I will not. I will only recall what Harry Jablonski of Friedenau 41 in old West Berlin told me when I drunkenly explained to him that Beethoven, whose name you pronounce: "Beethove", was the king: "Beethoven ist der Koenig, und Bach ist der Kaiser."

From: Pierre

Date: 18 November 2009

Subject: Re: B&B:K&K

Cher Scott,

merci pour ce long mail que j'ai lu avec plaisir et très grande attention et auquel je n'ai malheureusement pas le temps de répondre, pour l'instant en tout cas !

Juste pour te dire que la semaine prochaine je vais faire plusieurs épisodes du mot du jour sur la Note, ce qui n'est pas facile parce que c'est un sujet que j'ai déjà abondamment traité l'année dernière (l'origine, le nom, les diverses et arbitraires graduations du grand tout sonore).

Mes enfants sont grands maintenant de 14 à 19 ans, mais ça n'empêche pas de se rencontrer un jour quand je viendrai dans la région ce qui ne manquera pas d'arriver prochainement.

Date: 18 November 2009

From: SAGReiss

Subject: Can someone please help me find the delete key?

J'ecoute ton emission maintenant tous les matins, dans la voiture et sur l'ordi le mercredi. J'en ai parle aux potes de boulot, enfin celui qui joue du Chopin le soir & celui dont la femme est chilienne, parce qu'ils m'ont demande ce que je faisais dans le parking. Tu as commence tot. J'etais deja un vieux degueulasse avant de devenir pere, mais cela ne semble pas trop deranger Rose. J'ai ri quand j'ai vu que tu as une soeur (?) qui s'appelle Adelaide Rose Edith. C'est un peu comme mes prenoms, un goy, un indetermine, un juif. Elle est mignonne en plus, si je puis me permettre. J'arrete avant que Cor(r)in(n)e ne me dise: "Behive," a ta place. Il y a dix occurrences de l'expression "high e" dans la Rose d'Ardon, et la deuxieme lettre traite longuement de ma theorie de la musique, qui est traitee aussi dans Art Analogique & Representation Numerique, mais je ne sais pas si ces textes peuvent t'aider. Je ne suis pas academique, et tu fais un travail de vulgarisation. Maybe Murder can give you something more accessible. How many mutual friends did you find? I'm sick & ill, bronchitis that the Jewish doctor of Les Vans mistakenly attributes to Gitanes Mais, which are indeed quite healthy, as cigarettes go, but perhaps I smoke too many of them. It happens every winter. Oops, it suddenly occurs to me that Adelaide Rose Edith is your daughter. Um, please delete the text above. I guess it was her skin color that misled me into temptation, but the color spectrum, which could easily be used as the basis for a digital system or representation, is not, so it remains analog in our culture. You remember Des Esseintes in A Rebours wanting to create a symphony of smells, and there is no reason why he couldn't, but he would have to define a reasonable, & finite, number of olfemes (given the biology of the nasal apparatus, I think a rather high number, such as fifty, would be about right) and then compose the symphony based on their hierarchical relations & olfactory combinations. I have no time for this kind of bullshit, however. I need to get Cantillizer out of my system before I can embark upon another project. All I really want to do is educate my daughter. To that end I finally managed to find Elvis(f)'s father to confirm our Sunday afternoon on the ile of Caliban. He seemed interested in my proposition to create a canoe/aircraft package for his guests, especially since I worked out a free baptism for him to check out our test pilot's services. Yes, I am a whore. I'll do anything to find friends for Rose, especially Anglo friends.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 18 November 2009

Subject: PIR

16 November 2009

Nichelle: Back from PIR. Ready for a rest.

17 November 2009

SAGReiss: Post(-mortem) Incident Review, Passive Infrared, Protein Information Resource, Public Interest Registry, Phoenix International Raceway, Peak Information Rate (frame relay), Parachute Infantry Regiment, Portland International Raceway (Portland, OR, USA), Post Implementation Review, Polyisocyanurate, Property Irregularity Report (reporting lost/damaged luggage at an airport), Public Infrastructure Renewal (Canada), Private Information Retrieval (cryptography protocol/concept), Project Implementation Report, Price Is Right (TV show), Program Information Report, Protein Identification Resource, Partners in Injury Reduction (Alberta, Canada), Project Implementation Review (systems development methodology), Priority Intelligence Requirement

Nichelle: Gaby- Phoenix International Raceway

SAGReiss: I must admit to being a little disappointed. I was kind of rooting for Parachute Infantry Regiment, Post Implementation Review, Property Irregularity Report, or Public Infrastructure Renewal, and I only copied the first page of results. What do you think of our new friend Pierre?

Nichelle: I was rooting for Persichetti's Ingenious Regtrogrades, but Parachute Infantry Regiment was a close second.

I'm behind on my email- I'll let you know what I think of Pierre once I catch up.

SAGReiss: I'd hurry up, if I were you, which obviously I am not. laurent is about to be keelhauled, I'm going to the gallows, & Murder is working overtime to keep me happy. It's not good news. I think we need your mediation. Peter is a big bad man from the Paris/New York classical music/media scene. I have no idea why he's willing to talk to us. Maybe we aren't such idiots after all.

Nichelle: It's about time we classed the place up. Murder is a brilliant musician, as he always has been, but I only count as half of a classical musician these days- I'm in the bicycle world, where sharps and flats are things to be avoided at all costs.

SAGReiss: I'm glad I can always count on you for puns. So what would laurent be, a dminished fifth? (We must remember that he did score number 22 one year on the hardest mathematics exam on Earth, and he only took it for fun.) I think Joy deserves at least what's called a mid-level exception in basketball, for obvious reasons. negatron, well, he needs to build Cantillizer, and I work for free. Cor(r)in(n)e has three kids, and I am in favor of welfare queens. Does that cover everyone?

Nichelle: I diminished a fifth last night.

Nichelle: Laurent is a musician as well. I have never heard him play, but have seen photos of him with both a sousaphone and a saxophone.

SAGReiss: Sweetheart, I didn't know you were a drinking woman. I guess I usually took care of that important job when we were together.

Nichelle: You remember correctly on both counts.

SAGReiss: laurent is an accomplished multi-instrumentalst, sexophone, trumpet, guitar, etc. He played semi-pro in the French army. There are some other photos, but I'm not sure I should mention them in public.

18 November 2009

SAGReiss: There used to be photographs on laurent's site of him playing the trumpet in the French army, not exactly the picture of a lean, mean, killing machine. I think he may have forgotten to tell them he could program computers, so he could stay out of the killing side of the business. I've also seen a YouTube, but I don't know where, of him wandering around drunkenly playing the tuba or perhaps the French horn. Joy has jammed with him in Hotlanta. I wish we had a YouTube of that.

From: Nichelle

Date: 18 November 2009

Subject: (no subject)

Gaby, I'm still trying to catch up with the five bazillion messages you have sent while I was working out of town this weekend. I am saving time by not translating the bits in French, though I now intend to learn the language. (I just want to be able to say I'm bi.)

It's unclear to me whether your new friend Pierre is a willing participant or a hostage, so Pierre, if you're reading this please accept either my welcome to you or my heartfelt apology, whichever is more appropriate.

I'm off to work, something I do for money, as is the custom these days. You might consider that when asking people to build computer programs for you.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 18 November 18 2009

Subject: Answer to a question unasked

I'm glad you've asked that question, Peter, because I can answer, as can my friends. What we have that you need is a revolutionary method for the creation of art, music, & poetry, in real time & in any genre or format desired. Our environment is tried & true, tested since 22 February 1996. It works. Nichelle & I were joking about our various qualifications (which don't matter very much within our system), but Murder is a world-class musician (who can write, when he has time), laurent is a world-class mathematician & accomplished multi-instrumentalist (a polyglot of vast literary culture), Nichelle had the skills & education to become a world-class musician if circumstances hadn't intervened (& is still the greatest writer on Earth, even if she prefers to ride her bike), Joy can blow her bassoon (& will soon be a nurse or doctor), negatron is a world-class hacker (& even his mother is a good writer, as we've recently learned), Cor(r)in(n)e, although she was the first member of this list I knew, I know the least about, in many ways. And myself, well, I have been very lucky, I've been able to pursue an education virtually uninterrupted since I was fifteen years old, I am blest with the beautiful daughter you may have seen on my site, I have a trustworthy ear for music, & a bear-trap of a mind for words, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time, at the dawn of the web, and just happened to meet Nichelle, who made all of this happen. Together, there is nothing we couldn't do, and if that somehow doesn't include Cantillizer, because no one else thinks it's interesting, that doesn't really bother me. I've done my part. Someday someone else will pick up my document and use it to solve the thousand-year-old riddle of cantillation marks.

From: Joy

Date: 18 November 2009

Subject: Re: Answer to a question unasked

Revolutionary method for the creation of? Are you talking about Google Wave? For the life of me I can't figure out what it's supposed to do, other than allow some sort of collaborative process.

Also, this is the internets, no discussion is complete without mention of a cat. Mimosa just drank out of my cup of water, and appears to be very satisfied at the moment.

I think I'm late for class.

Date: 18 November 2009

From: SAGReiss

Subject: Re: Answer to a question unasked

Joy, I was kicking myself for forgetting to mention cat literature. Thank you for correcting my mistake. Pierre, Joy is the dedicated mistress of all things cat literaturistic, and we love her for that, among other things. Thanks to Joy, we all remember the late Ginkgo.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: negatron & the Rosetta Stone

Whose ass you trying to cover, Nichelle? negatron & laurent are big boys. I think they can probably protect themselves from a forty-six-year-old who weighs a hundred and thirty pounds. I know laurent works hard, and that his leisures, music & monkeysex with Mrs laurent, tend to take his mind & body away from a keyboard (at least a computer keyboard), so that he can't hold anything but a supervisory role, the Exiliarch of Cantillizer, for example, and wear some kind of funny hat in the team photo. negatron, on the other hand, is a slacker. His job is annoying, not hard. I'm not even sure he works on school holidays. He can build Cantillizer for me, and for you, and for Pierre, and for everyone. This is not just something that will make ten million kikes happy, although it will certainly do that. It is not every day that a thousand-year-old riddle is solved, in the motherfucking Bible. This is not a hobby horse. It is somewhat less, but only somewhat, than the deciphering of the Rosetta stone. Let's look at it this way, in a worst-case scenario negatron loses six months of leisure time (not counting monkeysex with Miss Limeblossom, which takes priority) and I can't figure out how to interpret the results of the analyses. Big fucking deal. It won't take him much longer than that because he is a bad man, will hate hearing me complain about his mistakes, and like me hates doing things twice because they weren't done right the first time. Now let's look at the two other, more likely, dare I say, possibilities. Either we discover a thousand-year-old grammar, which is what this almost certainly is. These men were not idiots. Noam Chomskey's father translated David Kimchi's thirteenth-century Hebrew grammar into English because it is a great book, full of beauty & insight into language, and still relevant today. In this case we all become famous in the same way that, say, Jacques Derrida is famous, from MIT to the Sorbonne, but there's more. What if the music turns out to be good? We've just set the whole fucking Bible to music. Murder will be playing Psalms on every stage in the world. Pierre will be speaking in his C(l)ous(t)eau-esque accent on every radio-television show on two continents. negatron will have a real job, or more to his liking become an "IT consultant". I'll be cowering to hide from interviewers. OK, so maybe I'm just a foolish dreamer. Maybe this is a hobby horse, a chimera, another fucking illusion. Humor me. As Rose says: "Let's check."

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Klezmer with Hebrew lyrics

To the kind attention of Fred,

Fred,

Our mutual friend Nichelle (CC above) has kindly referred me to you in the context of my search for a good, fairly representative Klezmer tune with Yiddish lyrics. Nichelle has never really liked vocal music because she plays the clarinette, or something like that. I don't think she cares for singers who refer to their voice as an instrument.

Just to give you an idea, here is what I've done (at considerable pains, typing the Hebrew words backwards within the sentence, and the Hebrew letters backwards within the words) to represent Ladino music (I know the font [Ezra SIL SR] is wrong, but I just can't find a Sephardi script font):

http://www.sagreiss.org/portrait_gallery.htm

I am trying to build some kind of shrine to preserve our culture for my daughter, and your daughter, and Pierre's daughter, and all of our sons & daughters.

Please let me know if you can find something.

Thanks, and best regards.

Scott, father of Rose

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Chickenshit American

The late Igor Stravinsky spoke to me this morning, and he said: "You chickenshit American, you called me a 'mind-control asshole'? I'll give you keelhauling: Je considère la musique, par son essence, impuissante à exprimer quoi que ce soit, un sentiment, une attitude, un état psychologique, un phénomène de la nature, etc. L’expression n’a jamais été la propriété immanente de la musique." Pierre's take on this is twofold, but we must remember this is Pierre's public voice, so our friend Peter might reasonably want to nuance, or completely contradict this point of view, which is his right. He claims that Igor was pissed off at Mahler (whom I called Mendelsohn in the Rose of Ardony for some reason) and Romanticism, which I can understand, at least as it pertains to music or French poetry. But part of it was serious, and then Pierre went into a learned discussion of how music can say what words cannot, and so on with a beautiful quotation from the music of the planets man, whose name escapes me. This is all well and good, but me & Murder have already discussed this, and we agreed with no difficulty that Stravinsky (with no actual reference to his name, although both of us were familiar with this text) was absolutely, literally right. Music quite simply has no meaning whatsoever, which is very different from saying it's not meaningful, of course. I would even go further, poetry & poetic language in prose both tend towards the same lack of meaning, since we have already defined poetry as that use of language that motivates what is otherwise an arbitrary or conventional relationship, that of the signified to the signifier. It is the random nature of that bond that allows for meaning to inhabit otherwise meaningless matter, sounds or scribbles. Once the poet forges a necessary link from signified to signifier, then meaning becomes less possible, in direct variation to the ease of translation. As poetry goes up, meaning comes down, & so does translatability.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Poetry, not meaning

Attached: ecclesiastes_01_02.jpg

Ecclesiastes 1:2

Just to try and tie up a few loose ends from the last few days, let's test my theory of music & poetry (or song, the kind of language closest to music). I've cropped for your viewing pleasure chapter 1 verse 2 of Ecclesiastes, the one with the five occurrences of the inflected morpheme hebel. I will claim (and you are welcome to call me a crazy drunk) that all of you, not only Peter, who can read at least a little Hebrew, probably better than I, can read and learn to love this verse of poetry in prose, simply by looking at it, and seeing its material or graphical qualities, not to mention those lovely fucking cantillation marks in Ezra SIL SR font (which is perfect for them, if unfitting for Ladino text). Reading & parsing from right to left, you can see the word hebel undergoing its various transformations from nominative singular (word 1) to some kind of genitive plural (word 2), the same variation repeated in words 5-6, followed by the beautiful alliteration/rhyme of word 7 (I have no idea what it is, but you can see that it begins and ends with the same letters as hebel.) and resolving itself into word 8. You'll also notice that each of the five occurrences is inflected slightly differently. Words 1-2 & 5-6 have the same vowels (under letters 1-2) but different cantillation marks (under letter 2 [words 1 & 5], over letter 5 [word 2], under letter 3 [word 6]). Word 7 has the same cantillation mark as word 5 (under letter 2 in each case, the only letter that distinguishes them), with which it alliterates & rhymes. Word 8 is inflected quite differently with both a vowel (first mark) and a cantillation sign (second mark, noting the end of the verse) under letter 1 and another vowel under letter two. The colon is a Biblical pilcrow sign reiterating the end of the verse. Now all of you can understand the unfathomable beauty of this verse, despite the fact that none of you can understand its meaning (whatever Chouraqui or anyone else might think that is) because all of you understand poetry & music. The majestuous precision of this theme & variation and the unearthly alliteration/rhyme of word 7 (and I repeat I have no idea what this word means), which is literally underlined by a fucking cantillation mark. I'm sorry. I rest my case.

19 November 2009

Nichelle: Gaby, I tried translating that french quote in your email, and it crashed my browser. Maybe I will have to go get some lower rent version of Rosetta Stone. It annoys me not to know what you are talking about just slightly more than it annoys me to know.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: BabelFish or Bust

Nichelle, I spent half an hour trying to find that fucking quote in English, from Igor Stravinsky's well-known 1936 book "Chronicles of my Life". Here, I'll translate it myself, only for you, even though I hate translating, and have to do it at work, translations of technical manuals & aerodynamic theories I do not understand:

"I consider music, in its essence, impotent to express anything at all, a feeling, an attitude, a state of mind, an act of nature, etc. Expression has never been an immanent property of music."

I can only imagine the screams of horror you're going to emit when you see the fucking cantillated Hebrew text of Ecclesiastes. I thought you were going bi or poly or something.

From: Joy

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Re: negatron & the Rosetta Stone

She's got a point. Your plans seem to involve other people doing lots of work for you, their interest seems secondary, and the greatest reward appears to be that you'll stop harassing them afterwards.

Remember the MOO? C'mon, you can treat people better than this. Nobody gives a damn or they would have responded by now. If you're going to continue trying to pursuade or cajole the unwilling, please remove my name from the list. I've got enough spam.

Nichelle, always a pleasure to hear from you.

Joy

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Re: negatron & the Rosetta Stone

Ouch. OK, Joy & NIchelle, you must be right, and I must be wrong, so I apologize to each of you, and to negatron & laurent. I won't mention it any more.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 19 November 2009

Subject: Fwd: Poetry, not meaning

No one cares, and maybe this is spam, but I forgot to mention one salient point. Word 4 picks up the first & third letters of the word hebel, which occur in the second & third letters of word 4, which is Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, the preacher & poet.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 20 November 2009

Subject: (h)acol beseder

Word 7 of course is "(h)acol" meaning all, as in "(h)acol beseder" all's well. In modern Hebrew the initial aspirated h- of this word is more or less optional, but in ancient Hebrew I believe it was spoken. In any case we now know all of the words to our verse, and can try to come up with some kind of semantic analysis, however poor. To summarize, words 1-2, 5-6, & 8 are all forms of the same word, meaning "vanity" or "smoke" or something else. I don't think it matters much. The pattern runs s-pl, s-pl, s, with slight variations of inflection (cantillation & vocalization [in the final word]). The only other three words in the verse are: "said preacher" (words 3-4) and "all" (word 7, which serves mainly the phonetic purpose of alliteration & rhyme). What allows the poet to pile instances of one word up in a tower (of Babel) like this are the facts of Hebrew grammar, an article seldom used, no preposition to express the genitive, the copula suppressed in the present indicative. The poet exploits these resources to the fullest here, simply repeating a word into oblivion. It doesn't really matter if the word means "vanity" or something else, because what the words themselves perform is an evisceration of meaning. The futility of human gesture is quite literally demonstrated in the littering of this verse with five meaningless occurrences of the same word. All that is left is a little phonetic play, alliteration, rhyme, vocalization, cantillation, to vary the deadening repetition of the word "habal". Vanity indeed.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 20 November 2009

Subject: Mutiny Mode

Ecclesiastes 1:2

In full mutiny mode, I might as well finish what I've begun, so here are the cantillation marks in Ecclesiastes 1:2.

Image Word# SignName Syntax Value

Mehupakh 1 Mehupakh conjunctive 7

Pashta 2 Pashta disjunctive 17

Munakh 3 Munakh conjunctive 8

Little Zakef 4 Little Zakef disjunctive 22

Merekha 5 Merekha conjunctive 6

Tifkha 6 Tifkha disjunctive 20

Merekha 7 Merekha conjunctive 6

Silluk 8 Silluk disjunctive 26

In this case each word carries a sign, and there is no difference of interpretation between syntactic & musical configurations, which we were going to call modes except that we needed that technical term to oppose to "key". Keep in mind that the conjunctive (linking or non-pausal) signs occur in semi-automatic fashion, as slaves dictated by the master sign that follows them. Their value is thus somewhat arbitrary. The value of the disjunctive (breaking or pausal) signs is highly controversial, but we are borrowing our working hypothesis from the tables of Wickes, a British consensus builder who (while he lacks the poetry of Joseph Derenbourg) is the most bloodlessly rational of cantillizers. The pattern is typical, 17-22-20-26 (the highest & always the last sign), modulation is slight. The caesura is not marked by Atnakh, everyone but my favorite sign, which does not occur in this verse. I find it lacking charm, both in name and shape, but it is very useful to different people's theories, especially constituent structure analysis (appearing at the top or root node of their tree diagrams representing syntactic hierarchy), and we may find it to be so too. It is however easy to locate, even though I don't know how many syllables there are in this verse, since I can't speak Hebrew. The caesura occurs after word 4, in the middle of the verse, at the occasion of a major syntactic break, which we would represent by a comma or by the closure of a two-word parenthesis. I'm not sure if this is conclusive of anything. As a final gesture of futility, I'll just note the musical values of the signs (reminding you that we are in a prosodic book, so Phrygian mode in C major, treble clef, quarter notes, beginning on C above middle C and moving downscale):

C-F-B-D-F-G-F-E

That is the tonal hierarchy. The first note is actually E, for the first syllable is unmarked, and E (silluk) is considered the default sign, or the constituent degree carried over from the last sign of the previous verse, if you prefer. Syllabification I cannot do, for I do not have a syllable count. The return of the constituent degree is automatic here, since we have an open (unmarked or slack) syllable after each of the two appoggiature (words 2 & 4), so there would normally be another C after the first F and another B after the D. The sublinear signs (words 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8) are repeated on any following slack syllable. I hope I haven't made any mistakes, or hurt anyone's feelings.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 21 November 2009

Subject: Oops

C-G-B-C-F-G-F-E

If I could read Hebrew, read music, or perform simple mathematical operations, this would be a lot easier. Someday a machine will do this for us. I was using the tonic (E) to determine the ornaments (superlinear signs, 2 & 4), instead of the active constituent degree (previous sublinear sign). This makes more sense, with C, G & F all being reiterated in leapfrog fashion. Pierre, your book/CD arrived. Thanks. I mean I bought it, but thanks anyway. Rose didn't want to listen right away. Maybe tomorrow.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 21 November 2009

Subject: C-D-B-A-F-G-F-E

God damn it.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 21 November 2009

Subject: The Rest is Silence

According to an old Israeli girlfriend of Iraqi origine, our verse counts nineteen syllables. According to Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, those syllables are sung and/or played on the following notes (left to right [referring to Hebrew right to left], word breaks marked by a pipe [|], caesura marked by a double slash [//]:

E-C|C-C-D|C-B|B-A-B//B-F|F-F-G|G-F|E-E

Click here to play Sephardi Hebrew reading of Ecclesiates 1:2.

Click here to play Yemenite Hebrew reading of Ecclesiates chapter 1 (verse 2 from 0:09 to 0:15).

Ecclesiastes 1:2

SAGReiss
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