Hebrew lyrics

Posted by: Schroeder II

Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 09:28 AM

Anyone out there familiar with the use of Hebrew language when it comes to song lyrics?
It occurred to me that the score is typically written left to right
But Hebrew is written right to left
How does one combine lyrics and score yet allow for this situation?
Posted by: malkin

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 09:39 AM

Schroeder,
You deserve an award for fun random questions!
Posted by: Schroeder II

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 09:48 AM

I have been saving them up!
Should die down a bit once I have been on a few weeks
One thing I like already are so many avid users on this forum
You get feedback quickly just like above
Posted by: JeanieA

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 10:51 AM

Your question piqued my curiousity. As I am not yet motivated on this cold, wet Sunday morning to get off the sofa and make breakfast, I researched. Here's what I discovered and, although I make no claim to be a language scholar, it might answer your question.

Apparently there is a language process called "transliteration." Which, according to the Online Dictionary means to represent (letters or words) of one language into the corresponding characters of another alphabet. So the "words" remain the same, they aren't translated like you'd translate French into English, but changed from one alphabet system into another.

So, when the Hebrew script is transliterated into romanized characters, the direction in which the text is read is reversed. That would answer your question. And it makes my head hurt to think about reading backwards and forwards! smile

I wonder, though, if the music had been composed by an ancient Hebrew-speaking composer and was actually written down somewhere, if there was some special music notation at that time that did read right to left?
Posted by: jotur

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 11:35 AM

I sing in the High Holy Days choir at one of my client's services, tho I'm not Jewish, it's just fun to sing. Many of those folks speak Hebrew. But in our music it's done the way JeanieA says - it's written out phonetically left to right. Which is not to say that I pronounce it right any way :\

But it's an interesting question about how it was done in the Middle Ages or earlier.

Cathy
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 12:21 PM

The lyrics would either be transliterated, or, for those who don't read latin letters, written syllable-by-syllable backward. I suppose Arabic would have the same problem.

.ple am ex an is Here

Although, thinking about this some more, often just the words are written as everyone knows the tune.
Posted by: Schroeder II

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 12:38 PM

Originally Posted By: jotur
I sing in the High Holy Days choir at one of my client's services, tho I'm not Jewish, it's just fun to sing. Many of those folks speak Hebrew. But in our music it's done the way JeanieA says - it's written out phonetically left to right. Which is not to say that I pronounce it right any way :\

But it's an interesting question about how it was done in the Middle Ages or earlier.

Cathy

In the Middle Ages I would suspect this was not a major issue as 99 percent of the world was illiterate and music was more or less passed down through the generations through one on one demonstration
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 12:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Schroeder II
Anyone out there familiar with the use of Hebrew language when it comes to song lyrics?
It occurred to me that the score is typically written left to right
But Hebrew is written right to left
How does one combine lyrics and score yet allow for this situation?


I recently sang an opera that had some Hebrew lyrics. It was written out phonetically/transliterated. The same goes for Russian or Japanese lyrics.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 03:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Schroeder II
Anyone out there familiar with the use of Hebrew language when it comes to song lyrics?
It occurred to me that the score is typically written left to right
But Hebrew is written right to left
How does one combine lyrics and score yet allow for this situation?


I recently sang an opera that had some Hebrew lyrics. It was written out phonetically/transliterated. The same goes for Russian or Japanese lyrics.


Though for Hebrew speakers, Japanese speakers and Russian speakers, this may not apply.
Posted by: Allard

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 04:20 PM

Japanese is written left-to-right, so there's no trouble anyway. As a Final Fantasy fan, I have some of the OST songbooks. The lyrics are in Japanese. Interestingly, it's entirely written in hiragana (phonetic alphabet), not in kanji (the thousands of different Chinese characters), making it fairly easy to read. One can learn the hiragana alphabet in one or two weeks. I have NO idea what the words mean, but I could sing along happily. Assuming I could sing.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/18/12 05:44 PM

I have a vague recollection of once seeing a song written in Hebrew for speakers of that language, and I think that the music was also written backward from right to left. Or did I dream it?
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/19/12 06:00 AM

Probably dreamt it, music in Hebrew language is written left to right.

But I would like to point out that I am a Hebrew speaker, and I did answer the question above.
Posted by: Ganddalf

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/19/12 07:48 AM

Russian language is also written left to right (and so is Norwegian if the question comes up). In other words, no problem.
As a singer I once performed Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. The text was transliterated and written with latin letters.
I recently composed two songs with lyrics in Tolkien's Elvish language. I considered turning the sheet 90 degrees counterclockwise.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/19/12 08:17 AM

My comment about transliteration was not to imply that things were not read left to right for Russian and other languages, but more addressing the idea of a different alphabet.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/19/12 11:03 AM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs

But I would like to point out that I am a Hebrew speaker, and I did answer the question above.

So you did. I missed it. frown
A google search shows that this question is actually discussed a lot. There is an interesting in depth article of the kinds of decisions that had to be made when the question first came up.
on the topic
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Hebrew lyrics - 11/19/12 12:23 PM

Very interesting keystring. Of course the native Hebrew musical notation (te'amim) is in the biblical text anyway, but if you thought learning to read music was hard, you should try this way...

Edit: Called cantillation marks. Anyone know how to read them?