Artist in Residence 2015, Spark & Echo Band
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
April 13, 2015
From Jonathon: Emily and I are writing a song cycle personifying biblical cities. The work will be performed with an ensemble of musicians, premiered through Spark and Echo Arts.
The idea first came from Ezekiel 16, which personifies Jerusalem as an adultress wife. This is a tragic and beautifully written section of Scripture full of bold imagery. Years ago I wrote the song I Passed By in response to this section and would perform it in clubs in NYC. It always seemed too heavy to perform alone; perhaps it needed to be part of a larger work.
We’ve been tossing around this idea as we look at other cities in the Bible. We started to realize there are other moments in Scripture where cities are personified. Consider the start of Micah 5, where Bethlehem is told that though it is small, it will bear a ruler. Other cities like Jericho, Hebron, Nazareth seem similarly alive at times.
Listen to the DEMO PREVIEW OF EPHESUS (with instrumental mock-ups)
From Emily: I’ve been working on the lyrics for these songs using biblical text as well as historical accounts, images, and information about these cities as they are today. I see what narrative emerges from these three sources, and how I can get inside the story of each city. The first city I approached was Ephesus. This is the only city that I have had the privilege of visiting as well as studying. When I visited Ephesus I was struck by the fact that, unlike many ancient cities, Ephesus’ remains are so intact because the waterway moved west of the city as silt was deposited. It is such a unique fate for a city, and the ruins are stunning. As I looked for references in the Bible to Ephesus, I saw mainly a relationship between the city and the Apostle Paul. Paul lived in the city for almost three years, and wrote his letter to the Ephesians from prison. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul’s love for the city and it’s people is so palpable. I began to consider how the city loved Paul, and how their fates intersected. Paul is stopped and tied in chains, and Ephesus as stopped as it is abandoned by the people. I decided to write this song as a love letter from the city to Paul. The hook line that returns after each verse is a reference to the Revelation 2:4 which says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
We were alive
my streets were veins
and the people blood
coursed in and out
my ports were full
I was proud
I was proud as a king
all the happenings
when you walked here
and I was told
I had forgotten my first love
When they chased you
They had to chase you
you said their gods were broken
their lives a farce I was afraid
I was afraid
in my theater huge and proud
There was a sea of shouts
and all my walls fall down
My paths and roads congest and you are lost
I was lost
I had forgotten my first love
You sailed away
Cross the Aegean sea l
eaving broken people inside of me
You saw them as one
sealed together with their fractures and their faults
All I feel are splintered pieces
and if they fuse
these veins may block and bruise
Will I be lost, will I lose
I’ve forgotten my first love
Your letter came
Before the sea had left
You wished/prayed me fullness, while I
I tried to know
I tried to know
as the walls grew around
were you safe at last or were you walled up too
Are bones all that remains of me and you
I will remember my first love
From Jonathon: I’ve played around with several instrument combinations and settled on a quartet of wind instruments that I really like: violin, soprano saxophone, trombone, cello, with percussion, piano, and lead and backing vocals. This combination was chosen because of the way they have unique characters but also compliment each other. They can sound loud and big as an ensemble or expressive and detailed as individual instruments. I also chose the ensemble because of specific players I have in mind, and for the next update I’ll have them confirmed and share who they are. I do a lot of writing in Logic Pro and the demo that you hear above is of synthetic instruments I’m using to mock-up the ensemble sound. Now that I’m playing with the instruments in Logic it reminds me of an crossover classical/chamber/blues ensemble my mom took my to see when I was a kid, Harmonica player Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues.
From Emily: I also have a rough draft of lyrics for the song about the New City. At the moment, these lyrics are referencing Revelation 21 and 22:1-5, as well as Hebrews 13:14. I am toying with the idea of the narrator of this song being Adam or Eve, the only two people that experienced the first paradise. It would be such a thrill for these two, who experience the Fall, to see everything made new again.
Listen and watch to Spark & Echo’s latest album, live and filmed!
Follow the development of the Spark and Echo Band’s project by reading this in addition to their second, third, and fourth posts as a 2015 Artist in Residence.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.