by Dave Skipper
SERIES PAGE: ELIJAH
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Story Summary: 04 Soaked Stones
[1 Kings 18:30-35]
After the prophets of Baal had finally given up, failing to call down fire from heaven, Elijah prepared his sacrifice, built an altar of 12 stones and requested that the altar and surrounding ditch be soaked and filled with water. Remember that this was after three years of drought; they would have had to use precious water from a nearby well. And of course this made it impossible for him to sneakily set anything ablaze himself. Calmly and deliberately, he gets everything ready. It all seems set up for failure, and the hundreds of people gathered there watch on bemused…
Sounds & Structure
The sounds I used here were easy to prepare: just water! Copious spraying and splashing courtesy of my shower and bathtub! The natural acoustics of the bathroom make a nice intimate vibe, reflecting the personal action and attention to detail from Elijah. Various intermittent banging sounds evoke the altar’s stones. The way that some sections of sound get looped during the recording add to the sense of planning and orderliness that Elijah is undertaking. But these are retrospective thoughts and interpretations, it was again just jamming on the chopped samples with various FX and processing that dictated the direction of the track.
This is not a strange fact to noise fans, but the incredible Japanese noise artist Aube (Akifumi Nakajima, 1959-2013) is noted for his many wonderful recordings which use only a single sound source that he proceeds to open up into deep and glorious vistas, often unrecognisable from said sound source. One of his famous releases was constructed from the sounds of pages of the Holy Bible. And for quite a few of his releases he used only sounds of water (that’s the link to this track). My favourite of these that I have got hold of so far is Submerged Tension Remix, in particular Part 3. A lot of Aube’s work is on the more minimal/ambient end of noise, so he is a good entry point into noise for the initiated, and he remains massively respected and missed in noisedom (I am sad I never had the chance to meet him or see him perform).
Elijah built his altar out of 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, the whole people of God (this is explicitly mentioned in the text). And this despite the fact that Israel had in fact split into two kingdoms (the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah) – a hint here that Elijah sees future reconciliation across the 12 tribes, reconciliation that must come via the blood, water, and fire of sacrifice. As for the water itself, this was a baptism of sorts on the altar and bull. Water is commonly associated in Scripture with creation, cleansing, rebirth, new creation, judgment, destruction, purification, life, and abundance. More than just making it harder to set alight, Elijah’s use of water here indicates that he sees that covenant renewal requires cleansing and rebirth for Israel. It’s a glimpse of the New Testament church practice baptism. And it was also a prophetic act – water over the 12 stones for 12 tribes, and the outcome is going to be new rain on the parched land of Israel, coming soon after 3 years of waiting. It is a prayer for rain.