For me, each of the Sputnik Birmingham Hub get-togethers have been special events. Oh, to have the ability to teleport various creative friends, far and near, into our living room so that they can get a touch of the magic vibe.
This time round the featured artist was my friend, author and singer/songwriter, David Benjamin Blower. He kicked off our session by performing his latest album ‘The Book of Jonah’ in its entirety – just him and his slightly wonky guitar.
What really struck me as David sung, stamped, wailed and whistled his way through this story, about a man traveling to Mosul to reason with extremists, was how terrifying Jonah’s prophetic calling was. No wonder he ran in the opposite direction.
The songs, part-spaghetti western, part apocalyptic folk, are interwoven with readings of the biblical text in the King James Version and surprisingly these are not at all incongruous. The songs were able to galvanize my empathy for Jonah and Nineveh in a way that the text alone hasn’t done and as David whistled the closing theme my appreciation for and understanding of the Book of Jonah had increased.
With no fanfare or warning a lounge-full of people had just experienced a dramatic, powerful piece of Biblical art, a real life example of creative work, which actually included readings from the Bible that had avoided corniness, sentimentality, cliché, on-the-nose-isms and clunkiness.
David talked a little about the making of the record, acknowledging N.T. Wright and Alastair McIntosh who narrated the recording and the other musicians (some of whom were in the room) who’d helped make this tale of imperialism, grumpiness and repentance come to life. ‘This is probably the most collaborative album I’ve ever done’, David stated.
The question was posed to the group: how closely does your art relate to Biblical texts? This set off a lively conversation about inspiration. Our creative practices are all quite distinctive. Some of us have an eye on the text as we work, others just ‘make’ with the truths, questions and paradoxes of scripture flowing through our creative blood vessels.
How ‘bout yourself? Do the various letters, poems, statistics, biographies, dreams and historical narratives that make up the Bible directly inspire your art?