In his work, Babbler, composer Jonathon Roberts combines the sounds of his toy Yamaha keyboard with lyrics warning against gossip from passages in the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 1:10; 4:24; 10:18; 11:13; 12:13; 14:7; 14:23; 16:28; 18:6-8, 20-21; 20:19; 24:1-2
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19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
18 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.
13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
13 The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.
7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
23 In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. 7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. 8 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
20 A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. 2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.
It was 1989, I was 8, and my father brought home from Toys R Us a Yamaha Portasound PSS-680 as a keyboard for the family. I loved it. It had 100 different sounds, 100 rhythms, drum pads, and coolest of all, a little synthesizer that allowed you to build and modify your own sounds.
After a few years of heavy interest in the keyboard I was wooed by the traditional piano and its 88 fully-weighted keys. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC and joined the great absurdist comedy band The Renaldo The Ensemble that I fully appreciated the Portasound’s potential. For 5 years I carried my axe on the subway and played its crystal clear tones for late night crowds at the Living Room on the Lower East Side.
I love just about everything about the Portasound, it’s mini-synthesizer, perfect portamento, the light feel of the keys, 5 octave range, aero-dynamic design, fully printed list of songs and styles on the case itself, MIDI outputs, and of course the demo–whoever composed this endless journey of a song should have been given a Grammy.
Now with kids of my own, I don’t play out as much. I enjoy the finer moments of home life. One of those is a chance to really explore the Portasound’s extraordinary features.
Another thing that I’ve explored more fully is the book of Proverbs. I love just about everything about this book as well. Its pithy comments, rants on wisdom, outlandish metaphors, timeless advice.
Thus was born an ongoing project of mine, Portasound Proverbs, a collection of songs that explore two great things in my life, the book of Proverbs and the Yamaha Portasound. The project features sound and percussion entirely played from the Yamaha Portasound PSS-680 and lyrics entirely from the book of Proverbs.
This tune, "Babbler," explores verses in Proverbs regarding gossip. By arpeggiating the bubbly sounded of the Portasound I am depicting the deceptive allure of gossip. The singing is focused and intense, and eventually devolves into desperation just like the gossips and babblers describes in Proverbs.
The piece hinges on this verse:
Proverbs 20:19 (NRSV)
A gossip reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a babbler.
The rest of the lyrics are comprised of or adapted from others quote on gossip from Proverbs including:
My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.
Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.
Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
The lips of fools bring them strife,
and their mouths invite a beating.
The mouths of fools are their undoing,
and their lips are a snare to their very lives.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.
From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.
Jonathon Roberts is a composer and sound designer for games, film, theatre, and ensembles. His style grew out of classical and jazz training, and evolved through quality life adventures: touring the country in an RV with a one person theater piece on the Apostle Paul, living in Brooklyn with an improv music ensemble, performing in a downtown NYC absurdist comedy band, and a long stint writing music for the renowned slot machine company, High 5 Games. He has released four albums including the latest, Cities a song cycle personifying biblical cities. He created the popular podcast/web series ComposerDad Vs. Bible, in which ComposerDad accepts intense compositional challenges from a mysterious Bible while out with his kids. He frequently collaborates on music and theater projects with his wife, actor Emily Clare Zempel. They live in Beacon, NY, with their two boys and a tangled box of electrical cords. www.jonathonroberts.com