All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
In my first post, I laid out plans (you might even call them my “best laid plans” at the time) to select and refine lyrical content during the second phase of my project. So, naturally, this required me to devote the last few months exclusively to sketching out musical ideas and avoiding lyrical ones at all costs. In the process, however, an overall structure and concept has started to emerge, albeit possibly an overly ambitious one at this point. More refining, limiting, and general paring down will definitely be in order, BUT in the meantime, I’ll attempt to make some sense of the current disparate glut of ideas.
I keep coming back to the idea of the oblivion – or even serenity – of Nebuchadnezzar’s “punishment” for hubris. It doesn’t actually sound all that bad to spend seven years unselfconsciously communing with animals. Is it better to know, or is self consciousness a burden? Is an omniscient God therefore infinitely miserable? You could even see how Nebuchadnezzar’s chastening brings him relief: from having to know, from being a god among humans. The unknowability of mental states other than our own (and maybe even including our own) is endlessly fascinating, as is the variability of one’s own mental state and identity. Accordingly, I’ve been sketching out a sonic psychological journey somewhat inspired by Nebuchadnezzar, as he moves from a sort of “innocence” – the naivete of solipsism – into experience: an awareness of not only the ‘self’ but also of the ‘other,’ of the infringement and imposition of something greater, of something different from his own absolute sovereignty and will.
The way I’m hoping all this will play out is in a series of short movements or a musical collage representing a state of flux, like psychological weather or a sort of mental channel surfing. The changes could be jarring or synchronous. I’m hoping to include some choral and instrumental interludes, and may also cut between brief excerpts from several of my own “orphan” unrecorded songs to represent the manic channel-changing transitions between movements. I like this idea of “sampling” myself – my older unrecorded work – as a representation of memory or identity itself, the illusion that we’re ever a fixed point or something other than dynamic. These previous works therefore function like memories or artifacts of a different self in a different psychological state.
I’ve included four rough instrumental sketches, and a few pieces of sheet music. Here’s my current sort of Rorschach interpretation of them:
- Sample 1: oblivion, indeterminacy, movement, disorientation, flux, introspection
- Sample 2: oblivion, haze, holy nature, pastoral, serene, picturesque, transitioning
- Sample 3: dreamy, free, easy, floating, here (also the clear sonic outlier here – work in progress!)
- Sample 4: reconciliation, emergence, revelation, daylight, resolution, experience, settling, stasis
All music written, performed, and produced by Aaron Beaumont.
The challenges moving forward will be selecting lyrics that support the musical ideas, refining the music, and weaving the discrete movements into a seamless work. I’m also hoping to work with a few instrumentalists and vocalists – at this point I *plan* to incorporate violin, harp, bass, and horns. And, as exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar’s impromptu foray into the animal kingdom, if one thing is reliable, it is the best laid plans of mice and men!
Read Aaron’s first post to follow the development of his 2017 Artist in Residence project.
Listen to Aaron’s previous work created for Spark and Echo Arts: “Narwhal and Ocelot (Dietary Restrictions)”.
Read Aaron’s artist bio here.
These materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
Help more artists create works on biblical text by donating to Spark and Echo Arts.
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