The Bible in Translation (disc 1)

by John Harvey

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about

The first release in The Aural Bible series, 'R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A' (2015), comprised a suite of recompositions derived from a wax cylinder recording of the Welsh Nonconformist revivalist Evan Roberts (1878–1951) preaching. The artefacts on this second CD, similarly, address the tradition’s emphasis on aurality, expressed principally through speech and song, using sound.

‘Found sounds’ (for example, recordings of preaching, praying, singing, and scripture reading), as well as fabricated sounds, including sonifications of biblical images, form the basis of the works. The material is derived from analogue and digital field recordings, radio transmissions, Internet broadcasts, and gramophone records. The format of the sound capture – microcassette, compact cassette, 78 rpm disc, or MP3 encoding – together with the acoustic properties of the media and technologies, contribute to the conceptual and audio characteristics of the compositions.

On Disc 1, the source material is made up of an engraving of an inscribed and a spoken biblical text, and an audio bitstream derived from two pictorial engravings illustrating the text.

On Disc 2, the compositional fabric consists of pre-existing and originated recordings.

Unlike a religion’s material and textual manifestations, its sound culture is ephemeral unless recorded. These sounds are the kinetic and auditory expression of what is referred to as ‘lived religion’ – the audible resonances of individuals and communities in action. The sounds serve, variously, as the evidence and trace of religion in progress; to document and enshrine; and as a means of commemoration, advocacy, edification and encouragement, and instruction. Within the framework of these utilities, the album’s compositions serve a sociological function too: they provide a perspective on religious behaviour in relation to the acoustic expression of values, beliefs, activities, and identities, while also interrogating the interplay of the linguistic, phonetic, and structural character of religious discourse.

The works are designedly interpretive and responsive. Broadly speaking, they represent a hermeneutic enquiry that seeks to sympathically elucidate the sources’ semantic content, refocus the evident content, and reveal its subcutaneous significances. In so doing, the compositions intensify, identify, and clarify ideas contained therein, so that the original material may speak of more than its intended meaning. This is not with a view to evaluating, theorizing, or arriving at any conclusions (however they may be construed). Rather, the aim, in part, has been to develop a body of creative engagements with the Bible and its sonic cultures that might inform those disciplines, such as biblical studies and religious studies, which are dedicated to a systematic and deductive analysis.

By breaking into the source material – variously dissecting, inverting, transposing, modulating, layering, juxtaposing, stretching, compressing, amplifying, erasing, disintegrating, and reintegrating its content – an intrinsic musicality, lyricism, poignancy, and, sometimes, visuality is disclosed. Image and Inscription, for instance, evokes dark, forbidding, and dramatic biblical scenes reminiscent of those represented in engravings by Gustav Doré (1832–83) and John Martin (1789–1854). The composition is, in one sense, a suite of sonic landscapes (as distinct from soundscapes), summoning the terrain, cataclysmic phenomena, ritual, and figures featured in the Old Testament narrative. Indeed, the compositional processes used to realize all of the sound works on this album are derived, by analogy, from fine art practice:

Assemblage, collage, décollage, glazing, superimposition, layering, overpainting, reverse painting, washing, texturing, craquelure, chiaroscuro, colouring, tonality, gradating, subtractive drawing, lateral perspective, depth of field, cropping, proportioning, staining, scratching, and distressing all find their corresponding sonic applications.

The Aural Bible series, of which this CD release forms a part, is founded on a principle that is embodied in the second of the Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth’ (Exodus 20.4). The text is both limiting and enabling. In its original setting, the commandment prohibited making representational images with a view to worshipping them. In the context of the series, it opens up several challenging conceptual possibilities, such as imaging pictorially but without representation, representing without recourse to figuration, or ‘imaging’ entirely non-visually – using sound alone. On this album, the spoken word is converted into sonic images that, likewise, respond to attributes of the source.

Exodus 20.4 provides the core text for the album, as either the subject of exposition (namely Image and Inscription, which occupies the whole of Disc 1, and 'The Second Commandment' and 'Graven Image', which open and close Disc 2) or a delimiting and an enabling principle (exemplified by the remaining tracks).

Disc 1
'Image and Inscription' is a response to the narrative presented in Exodus 19.1–3.45. It relates the Israelites’ arrival at Mount Sinai amid thunder, lightning, darkness, and earthquakes; the establishment of God’s covenant with his people; his delivery of the Decalogue, laws and ordinances, and repeated prohibition against image making; the Israelites’ fashioning and idolatrous worship of the golden calf; their repentance and God’s punishment of the sin; Moses’ and the elders’ visions of, and encounter with, God; the patriarch’s prolonger confrontation with him on the mount; and, finally, Moses’ radiant return to the people.

Disc 2
The works on the second disc were composed and recorded between 2010 and 2015. Like Image and Inscription, they are settings of written and spoken biblical texts. However, the material for the compositions is far broader, encompassing also aural recordings of scripture reading, teaching, preaching, ministry, radio interviews, music, and the paraphernalia of worship. The endeavour has been to collaborate with and redirect the material to create sound works that remain faithful to the source while extending the boundaries of its original intent.

'The Bible in Translation' is the second CD release in The Aural Bible series. The series deals with the Judaeo-Christian scriptures as the written, spoken, and heard word. It explores the cultural articulations and adaptations of the Bible within the Protestant tradition. The works on the album embark upon a critical, responsive, and interpretive intervention with aspects of its sound culture. The websites that accompany the series’ CD albums are dynamic. Material will be added, and sub-sections fleshed-out, as opportunities for the work to be presented, discussed, reviewed, and broadcast present themselves.

Further information about this album’s concepts and compositions is available at the following website: auralbible.weebly.com

credits

released July 2, 2021

Personnel: Timothy Cutts, demoniacs, exorcists, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, A. W. Pink, Foster Richardson and orchestra, unidentified pulpit preacher, unidentified radio preacher, unidentified street preacher, unidentified barrel organist and voice, and John Harvey.

Instrumentation and Production: Adobe Audition 3.0 and CS6, Allen & Heath Xone:23C mixer, Apogee Gio guitar interface, Apple MacBook Pro, Apple iMac OS X 10.11, Apple MainStage2, Avid Pro Tools 10, bells of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Boomerang III phrase sampler pedal, Boss ME-25 Multiple Effects unit, Canon PowerShot G12 camera, Digitech Hardwire DL-8 delay/looper pedal, Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi pedal, Electro Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer pedal, Eventide PitchFactor pedal, Eventide Time Factor pedal, Eventide Space pedal, FMR RNLA 7239 compressor and gate unit, Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar, Korg Kaoss Pad KP3 and Kaoss Pad Quad, Lehle Julian Parametric Booster pedal, Moog CP-251 Control Processor, Moog MF-101 Low Pass Filter, Moog MF-102 Ring Modulator, Moog MF-103 12-Stage Phaser, Moog MF-104M Analog Delay, Moog MF-105 Midi Murf, Moog MF-108M Cluster Flux, Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone compression pedal, RME Fireface UCX, Roland FV-50H and FV-50L volume pedals and Roland SP-404 SX Linear Wave Sampler unit, Roberts R9962 Compact Shortwave Radio, TC Electronic Flashback Delay pedal and Nova Reverb pedal, Traveller EG-1 guitar, Seymour Duncan SFX-01 pickup booster pedal, Sony ECM-DS70P microphone, Sony Microcassette-corder M-627V, Sony MZ-RH10 Hi-MD Walkman Digital Music Player/Recorder, Tascam DR-2d digital recorder, Sherman Filterbank 2 filter unit, Sherman/Rodec Restyler filter unit, Stanton S-150 record turntable, and Zvex Box of Metal fuzz pedal.


* The metal matrix engravings of the text were made at Aberystwyth Trophies and Merlin’s Services, Aberystwyth (March 13, 2010, and April 20, 2015, respectively). The readings of Exodus 20.4, by Timothy Cutts and Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, were recorded at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth (June 22, 2015). An audio manipulation of those recordings was undertaken during a 24-hour open-studio event held at the Drwm, The National Library of Wales (September 24–25, 2015).

** Recorded live at a lecture entitled ‘An Art of Predestination: Textual–Visual–Aural Approaches to Imaging the Bible’ delivered at the ‘Calvinism and Culture’ conference, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, USA (April 15, 2011).

*** Recorded live at a lecture entitled ‘The Un- “Graven Image”: An Aniconic Art’ conference, Liverpool Cathedral, UK (December 11, 2010).


'Amen Amen' (sample derived from a recording of a mission meeting led by the Argentinean evangelist Luis Palau, held at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, May 16, 1988); 'The Conversion of St Paul' (sample derived from a recording of bell ringing heard outside St Paul’s Cathedral, London February 20, 2005); 'Double Talk' (recording of an unknown Christian radio broadcast in the USA, July 1, 2013); 'Erased Messiah Recording' (78 rpm recording of George Frederic Handel’s ‘The People that Walked in Darkness’, from Messiah, Serial A185, Zonophone Records, Z-042093, c.1915–26); 'Eschaton Ekstasis' (recording of a Christian radio broadcast in the USA, July 1, 2013); 'Free Delivery (Deliverance) End-Time Deliverance Ministry' (samples derived from recordings on the open-access online archive of the ‘End-Time Deliverance Ministry’, accessed February 2012); birdsong captured at Gregynog Hall, Newtown, Powys, May 26, 2012); 'Image and Inscription' (samples derived from two engravings depicting Moses on Mount Sinai printed in 'Bibl yr Addoliad Teuluaidd' (London: Printing and Publishing Company, [n.d]) and 'Imperial Family Bible' (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1844), courtesy of The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth); 'Preach to the Beat' (sample derived from a recording of street preaching at the closing celebrations of the ‘We Face Forward: Music from West Africa Today’, free festival held at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, UK, September 15, 2012); 'The Second Commandment' (sample derived from recordings on an open-access online archive of sermon by A. W. Pink and other ministers, accessed June 2012); 'The Wounded Heart Ministries' (collapsed homepage of The Wounded Heart Ministries website, accessed February 2015).


All compositions ℗ and © 2016 John Harvey
Engineered and produced by John Harvey
Cover Concepts and artwork by John Harvey
Cover image: John Harvey, Pew Bibles, Old Whalers Church, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, 2009
Conceived and mastered at School of Art, Aberystwyth University, 2010–16 (GEN8003)
Prepared for CD by Sain, Llandwrog, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
Released by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, 2016


​The project and recording are a collaboration between The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and the School of Art, Aberystwyth University.

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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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