by Dave Skipper
Story Summary: 03 Slashing Flesh While Deities Slumber
[1 Kings 18:25-29]
The events on the day of the contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal were absolutely gripping. They meet at Mount Carmel, with a crowd of unspecified in attendance. After preparing their bull and altar, the prophets of Baal start calling out to their god to bring down fire for the sacrifice. As the afternoon wears on with no response, they grow ever more frantic, dancing in a frenzy and cutting themselves with knives. Elijah taunts them: maybe Baal is away on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and louder shouting is required to awake him? But no matter how wild and crazed the prophets get, nothing whatsoever happens. Exhausted, they finally give up.
Sounds & Structure
This is my favourite track from Part 1 (tracks 1-8) of the album, and it is also Part 1’s longest track. The field recordings I used here are of a distant hedge-trimmer/chainsaw, a broken drinks/vending machine, and one of my kids crying as a tiny baby! But processing and chopping those sounds turned out better than I could have imagined. Dynamic, fraught, tense. This track needed to be hard-hitting and intense, escalating in violent desperation and culminating in frustrated exhaustion. Towards the end there are some gorgeous feedback tones which come from the Make Noise Mimeophon (stereo delay module) entering self-oscillation. As well as how the actual sounds ended up, I was also really happy with how the flow and development worked out. The basic trick I used to transition between sections (as on several other tracks too) was to divide up beforehand the prepared field recordings into different splices for each block of sounds. In this way, I could stay jamming on one splice (i.e. one set of sounds) for a while, and had control over when to shift to the next splice. This gave me a good sense of structure and direction from the start, though the post-editing and chopping out unnecessary sections/fragments was where this was honed in (see screenshot below for that chopping evidence).
Early on in the planning of this album I thought I would want to find as authentic sounds as possible for the different parts of the story. In terms of slaughtering and cutting up the bulls for sacrifice, I wondered if I could use recordings of real bulls being butchered. I even looked up the main place in Tokyo where they do this. In the end I decided against pursuing this idea – I wasn’t sure if getting access permission to record this activity would even be possible, and the methods used in modern-day Japan are surely not the same as those used in the Ancient Near East. So if I really wanted to go for greater authenticity I would presumably need to visit some country where they use old-school butchering techniques – an impractical and unpleasant proposition! And of course some people would find this whole notion quite sick and unnecessary (you might be one of them!). Anyway, focussing on capturing the mood of the proceedings was definitely sufficient for what this track needed.
What do we learn from the prophets of Baal? When it comes to demonstrations of supernatural power, false gods (who are in fact no gods at all) will always come up short. Some level of show and power may be possible in collusion with demonic forces, but fire from heaven was clearly much too big of an ask. And when it comes to the efficacy of dealing with sin and its effects (a substitutionary animal sacrifice, a petition against adverse climatic conditions), then it doesn’t matter how worked up you get, nothing’s gonna fix it. Do you think the prophets of Baal hadn’t been already entreating Baal to break the drought these past 3 years? Self-mutilation, ritualistic blood-letting, orgiastic ecstasy, getting deep ‘into the zone’ – no good. But what about Elijah’s behaviour, do you think his mocking taunts, goading the prophets on, was a rather unkind lack of sportsmanship? Well, the Bible itself offers these words on the pagan habit of idol-making:
3 ‘For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it will not totter.
5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good…
14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.
The images he makes are a fraud;
they have no breath in them.
15 They are worthless, the objects of mockery…’