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Composer Jonathon Roberts is inspired by Ezekiel 1 and Chef Aarti Sequiera's "Ezekiel's Wheel Chickpea Salad" to create Wheels, a song that now exists in two versions, one for rock band and one for chickpeas.

Ezekiel 1:15-21

The Wheels


The Spark & Echo Band


Musicians: Jonathon Roberts (vocals, piano), Emily Clare Zempel (bassoon), Matt Bauer (harmony vocals), Jay Foote (bass), Mason Neely (drums)
Mixed by Alex Foote
Mastered by Matt Shane (Masterdisk, NYC)

Curated by: 

Spark+Echo Arts


Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

Now as I saw the living creatures, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, for each of the four faces of it.
The appearance of the wheels and their work was like a beryl. The four of them had one likeness. Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel within a wheel.
When they went, they went in their four directions. They didn’t turn when they went.
As for their rims, they were high and dreadful; and the four of them had their rims full of eyes all around.
When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them. Then the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.
Wherever the spirit was to go, they went. The spirit was to go there. The wheels were lifted up beside them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.
When those went, these went. When those stood, these stood. When those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up beside them; for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.

Ezekiel 1:15-21

The above rendition of "Wheels" is from the debut album of the Spark & Echo Band. The song, however, has an interesting history. In the first year of Spark+Echo Arts, when it was called Bible Confrontatie, the project emphasized confronting or responding to another artist's response to Scripture. In that vein, this song was originally created as a response to Chef Aarti Sequiera's Ezekiel's Wheel Chickpea Salad, another work in the Spark+Echo project.

To create the song, I recorded the great sounds that came up as I made her salad in my kitchen: firing up the gas burner, roasting a red bell pepper over the burner (it whistled and popped), stirring up tahini, pouring chickpeas, chopping shallots, boiling beets, scraping the skin off the bell pepper with a knife, dropping and toasting walnuts in a pan (we were out of pine nuts). Then I sampled Aarti saying two words from her video: "Tahini" and "Chickpea." I used the tah, iin, and chi sounds.

In the spirit of a Food Network style challenge, I limited myself to only the recorded sounds from the salad prep and Aarti's three syllables (tah, iin, chi) when making the composition. I cut the sounds up, pitched them at different octaves, and added delay and reverb.

The text is adapted directly from the story of Ezekiel's Vision of God in Ezekiel 1. There are so many fascinating parts of this story, but since Aarti focuses on the mysterious wheels that Ezekiel saw, I thought I would also make this the focus of the song.

I imagine the narrator emphatically telling the story of what he just saw to the first person he sees. When we see something incredible, barely believable, sometimes we focus on just one component of what we saw, the only part we can wrap our head around. Imagine a couple telling their grandkids about an extreme storm they just witnessed. The storm had tornados, torrential rains, and affected thousands of lives, yet the part of the story they tell over and over is that there was a mailbox in perfect condition yet up in a tree. The rest of the tale was unfathomable so they keep coming back to that mailbox.

That reminds me of Ezekiel a little bit when he spends so much time focusing on the wheels‚-how many, how they intersect, that they move but don't turn. Perhaps of all the wild things he saw, the wheels were something that he could wrap his head around and communicate so he really focused on them.

So those are the parts of Aarti's Recipe and Ezekiel's story I am confronting with this "Chickpea Edition" of the Wheels.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

The Spark & Echo Band is a family outfit of songwriting-storytellers led by husband and wife duo Jonathon Roberts and Emily Clare Zempel. Their music brings forgotten poetry and wild stories from the Bible to life: visions of sparkling wheels in the sky, hunger and thirst, and legends of love as strong as death weave with memorable melodies and captivating rhythms. Drawing from a classical background, influenced by the pianism of Rufus Wainwright and Ben Folds, and emulating Paul Simon’s narratival techniques, Spark & Echo sings epic tales of love and adventure.

The duo has collaborated on three full lengths albums (Spark&Echo, Inheritance, Cities Project), one video album (In the Clocktower), in addition to many theatrical collaborations, this very nonprofit, and two children. They live in beautiful Beacon, New York, with all of the above.

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