אֵלִיָּהוּ / Elijah / ‘Eliahu’ / エリヤ / 「エリヤーフ」
by Dave Skipper.
In this series of posts I give background information and details regarding my new concept noise album release אֵלִיָּהוּ/ELIJAH. Check the series page HERE for basic intro and info.
My first involvement with the φonon record label was joining their compilation CD Mutually Exclusive Music 2, which I wrote about here. Release date: 2020/02/21. On the back of my participation, though prior to that album’s release, φonon invited me to record a solo noise album for them, specifically to be based on something from the Bible. Invitation: 2019/10/03. I was surprised and excited at this request and opportunity, so I set to work thinking of some possible topics that this album might explore. After presenting a shortlist of ideas to φonon, they picked out the story of the prophet Elijah from 1 Kings 18-19 in the Old Testament. This narrative is by turns dramatic, violent, noisy, and surprising – a perfect fit for a concept noise album! I will give an overview of the story itself in part 3 of this series. Elijah chosen: 2019/12/14.
I had been wanting to record a concept album for years, but had never had the time, topic, or opportunity to make it happen, so I relished this project from the start. Being asked explicitly to base it on the Bible was an additional motivation, as the Bible is the greatest inspiration in my thinking and life and so I thought that this would give me the impetus to create something unique. It was such a fresh project to tackle after years of focussing on live activities, and the coronavirus-enforced break from gigs turned out to provide the perfect timing. Album completed and submitted to φonon: 2020/08/06. In the next article I will explain my creative processes and approach to recording the album.
I am very grateful to φonon for all their efforts on my behalf: the original invitation to record this album, their promotion of the album, all their support and encouragement along the way, and just making it happen!
I could have kept it simple and just called the album ELIJAH, the prophet’s name as I am familiar with it from most modern English translations of the Bible. Instead I decided to use his original name in Hebrew as the album title, i.e. אֵלִיָּהוּ (note that Hebrew is read from right to left). Problem: how is this pronounced properly? As it turns out, ELIAHU is a more accurate transliteration of the name, and indeed this form is sometimes used in English. Actually the ‘a’ is stretched out, so it is said more like ELIAAHU. Alternative spellings have included ELIAS, ELIA, and ELIYYAHU. Anyway, as this album is made and released in Japan through a Japanese label I figured that having the pronunciation noted in Japanese would be most helpful. Hence エリヤーフ. Problem: his name doesn’t appear this way in Japanese translations of the Bible, but is rather written as エリヤ, which would be ELIYAH or ELIYA in English.
Confused yet? Well, this is an underground noise album, so I thought no matter, having a Hebrew title is suitably unconventional as it is, and including the Japanese transliteration simply aids the local listeners here to be able to say the album title properly. But in order to look up the prophet online or in a Bible you would need to search for ELIJAH or エリヤ. So there we have it.
And what does the name mean? Elijah means “Yahweh is my God,” Yahweh being the self-revealed name of God in the Old Testament. (Note in particular Exodus 3:14 when God reveals himself to Moses as Yahweh, or more precisely the four Hebrew letters YHWH, roughly translated as, “I AM WHO I AM,” the eternal self-existent One.)
Unexpectedly, φonon asked me to write out the title by hand, calligraphy-style, for them to use on the album cover design, rather than use a computer font. Here is an unused version:
And here is the final version that was used, the label preferring the extra curves:
Some people may have misgivings about the very idea of a “Christian noise album,” so let me make a couple of remarks about this to allay any concerns.
Firstly, there is no distinct genre of “Christian noise.” I have simply made a noise album which I want to stand up on its own sonic merits. It’s not an album for Christians, but for anyone… except Baal-worshippers. (Joke! Spoiler alert: 450 prophets of the ancient storm-god Baal are killed in the story.)
Secondly, I am not pushing an agenda with the album; it’s a creative piece of art that doesn’t preach. I am presenting essentially a soundtrack to a thrilling story. My goal was to make something as excellently as I could. I am glad that I can present this rather strange Bible narrative about Elijah to noise fans who wouldn’t normally pay any attention to the Bible. I believe the Bible is the living and powerful and true Word of God, and so I tried to capture some of the atmosphere and power of the story in the album. But at the end of the day it’s just a noise album! My track-by-track notes which I will post on this blog will include some comments about the meaning and application of the text for today, but the album itself doesn’t go into that territory.
Thirdly, in their promotion φonon describe me as an ‘active missionary.’ Although technically true, I don’t normally describe myself as a missionary as I don’t fit the traditional mould (e.g. I am not a pastor or church-planter). My Christian beliefs and faith commitment are vital to who I am and to how I understand reality, and so I am always ready to listen to and answer and talk with anyone who wants to discuss any religious/spiritual/philosophical/personal matters. Practically, I want to share God’s love and truth by putting my faith into action and by endeavouring to be a blessing through my words, actions, relationships, and activities. My blog is where I am most frequently forthcoming about my faith, but here you can ‘take it or leave it’ or ask me about what I write with no expectation or pressure.
I hope these explanations are helpful.