by Dave Skipper
SERIES PAGE: ELIJAH
Story Summary: 01 Shrivelling Land
[1 Kings 16:29-30,32-33; 17:1]
Ahab was the wickedest king Israel had known, setting up false gods and idols throughout the land. As a result, Elijah the prophet of the LORD says that there will be no rain or dew in the land except at his word. Elijah then disappears, and is famously fed by ravens by a desert stream. He then stays with a widow whose oil and flour – at Elijah’s word – miraculously never run out, and he also raises her dead son back to life! (Read 1 Kings 17 for these stories.) After three years without rain, Elijah meets up with King Ahab to set up a contest with the prophets of the pagan storm-god Baal…
Sounds & Structure
The source materials for this track were taken from recordings I made of rural dawn chorus birdsong, cicadas, woodland crows, running rivers/streams, and other non-urban ambient sounds. As the album opener I wanted to set the scene for what follows, rather than just kick off with a bang as albums often tend to do. My idea was to move from the sounds of a healthy land full of life (birds and water), but to disintegrate that into the lifelessness brought on by drought. And so the bird sounds get messed up and disappear, and the streams and rivers dry up until we’re left with the dusty, crackly sounds of dead leaves and lonely winds. As is often the case on this album, sometimes the acoustic sounds are clearly identifiable, and at other times they are hard to distinguish from the electronic sounds and manipulation of the field recordings.
(Working title was Shrivelled Land)
I found out that dying trees actually emit a very specific kind of ultrasonic noise that means you can tell if they are running out of water! Basically it is caused by air bubbles that form inside the tree’s internal water columns through which they drink. Read more about this phenomenon here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/4/130415-trees-drought-water-science-global-warming-sounds/ Originally I thought it would be cool to include something derived from that sound, but I couldn’t find any actual recordings (for that I guess I would need to contact the scientists who undertook the experiments).
Was it unfair of God, the LORD Yahweh, to bring drought to the land through Elijah? If Ahab was the issue why not just affect him? But you see the problem ran far and wide: it was the people of Israel as a whole, across the land, who had rejected Yahweh and their covenant with him, pursuing false gods and setting up idols. Yes Ahab encouraged, promoted, and partook in this, and he had a particular responsibility as king to lead the way and represent the people, but he was not acting against the grain of the nation at that time. Nearly everyone was involved. So then what purpose did the drought serve? Not just a punishment of sorts, it was designed to make the people cry out to God again. Their physical thirst was to lead to, and therefore symbolise, a deep spiritual thirst. And their greatest spiritual thirst could only be satiated by the Source of all life and water and goodness and satisfaction – God himself. Will the people return to God and discover afresh that he is the Living Water? Or will they remain stubbornly in their idolatry and see the drought prolonged indefinitely?