The Psalms (and much of ancient Hebrew poetry) use an extraordinarily sophisticated numerical structure. These numerical structures involve numbers of words as well a 'gematria' — the numerical value of individual words. (All of this is in the original Hebrew — all of this is lost in translations.)
For example, a common device is the middle word or phrase of a Psalm. In the case of Psalm 23, the middle phrase is "thou are with me". Meanwhile, via gematria, the numeric value of YHWH is 17. In this Psalm there are 17 Hebrew words before and after "thou are with me". In other words, symbolically speaking, "thou are with me" is surrounded by YHWH — precisely the point of this Psalm. (This is only one example of the numerical structures in Psalm 23 — there are more.)
Music and mathematical structures have their own long history, perhaps best exemplified by works of J. S. Bach such as the Musical Offering.
This website is a container for my attempts to create musical settings of the Psalms which incorporate and reflect some of their underlying numerical structures.
For the analyses of Hebrew poetry I am most deeply indebted to:
- Labuschagne, Casper (see his website)
- Fokkelman, J.P. Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible (3 volumes)
- Van der Lugt, Peter Cantos and Strophes in Biblical Hebrew Poetry (3 volumes)
For an analysis of the numerical structures in Bach's music (particularly the Musical Offering and the Art of Fugue):
- Hofstadter, Douglas Gödel Escher Bach: a Pulitzer prize-winning tour de force relating the music of J.S. Bach, the graphic art of M.C. Escher and the "incompleteness thereoms" of mathematician Kurt Gödel which revolutionized mathematics. (Amazon)