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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

Proverbs 18:6-8

Proverbs 16:28

Proverbs 12:13

Proverbs 14:7

Proverbs 11:13

Proverbs 10:18

Proverbs 14:23

Proverbs 4:24

Proverbs 1:10

Proverbs 18:20-21

Proverbs 20:19

Proverbs 24:1-2



Jonathon Roberts


Written, Composed, Performed, and Recorded by Jonathon MT Roberts. 2016

Curated by: 

Spark & Echo Arts


Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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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:

Proverbs 1:10

My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.

Proverbs 4:24

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Proverbs 10:18

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.

Proverbs 11:13

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

Proverbs 12:13

Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.

Proverbs 14:7

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

Proverbs 14:23

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 18:6-8

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.

Proverbs 18:20-21

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.

Proverbs 24:1-2

Do not envy the wicked,

do not desire their company;

for their hearts plot violence,

and their lips talk about making trouble.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

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.

Jonathon Roberts

About the Artist

Loving Arms

I Make Tents

The Sower


There Is Room

These are My Sons

Consider Me a Partner


The Day Is Almost Here


Remember Me


How Beautiful

I Am a Fool

The Constant

Ecclesiastes Cows