All about a legendary new Beowulf album

The cover art for LMAW's Beowulf album.

Art by Paolo Puggioni. Follow this link for more details: https://lmaw.bandcamp.com/

Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with the Legends, Myths, and Whiskey podcast. I’m just a big fan and want their Beowulf album to be a huge success so that they can give similar treatment to other epic stories from other cultures.

The world of podcasts is a very densely populated one. Since the medium’s rise to popularity among people with things to say, characters to share, or stories to tell, around 2009 (when over 1/5 of the population of the US over 12 became listeners), just about everyone of those sorts of people has launched a podcast. In terms of topics, these podcasts cover a range of things: politics, pop culture, science, serial radio dramas — there are even a few about history!

But one area that you don’t hear much about when it comes to podcasts is the stories that people have told for millennia. There aren’t very many podcasts about mythology or folklore.

There are some shows that are like excellent creepy pasta come to life (Welcome to Night Vale), but there aren’t many that focus exclusively on retelling old myths, legends, and folklore. Thankfully, there is one podcast that covers all three of these kinds of stories and does so expertly: The Legends, Myths, and Whiskey podcast.

On each episode of the show, hosts Tanner Campbell and Eric DeMott take two stories and one whiskey. They read translations of the stories, sample the whiskey and tell listeners what they think of both. Thanks to these gents I’ve learned about stories like The Faithlessness of Sinogo or A Parrot Named Hiraman. And although I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, their commentary on what they’re drinking for the episode consistently leaves me feeling intrigued.

But this isn’t just an entry to share one of my new favourite podcasts with you all. I’m writing about the LMAW podcast because after hours and hours of work they’ve put together their first album: Beowulf: A Mythosymphony. This album features Tanner and Eric reading J.B. Kirtlan’s 1913 prose translation of Beowulf and adding their summaries, commentary, and analysis after finishing each of the story’s sections.

Beowulf facing off against Grendel in art for "Beowulf: A Mythosymphony".

Original art from Paolo Puggioni for the upcoming “Beowulf: A Mythosymphony” album. https://lmaw.bandcamp.com/

Along with the hosts reading and reflecting on Beowulf, this extended version of the LMAW podcast features brand new music that composer Nico Vettese (https://wetalkofdreams.com/) made specifically for this reading. It also features original art by Paolo Puggioni (http://www.paolopuggioni.com/).

If you’re at all curious about this album and want to find out more, I highly recommend that you check out the LMAW podcast’s bandcamp page. There you can listen to a couple of sample tracks. You can also put in a pre-order for the Beowulf: A Mythosymphony, which is set to be released on September 15.

After having listened to the two tracks that Tanner and Eric have made available, it sounds like the complete Beowulf album will be amazing. Tanner nails reading Kirtlan’s translation and the musical accompaniment fits the tone and content of Beowulf’s boasting beautifully.

If this album sounds like something you’d enjoy, definitely check it out!

What are your thoughts on podcasts as a way to tell stories?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Thoughts on Beowulf’s new rock musical adaptation

So, come September, Beowulf will be getting the musical treatment!

And not just any sort of musical treatment, but the rock ‘n’ roll musical treatment!

Though, according to this article, this musical isn’t going to be a straight telling of Beowulf. Not entirely, anyway.

The twist with Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage is that while the events of Beowulf unfold (simplified so that all three monsters attack Heorot), a panel of academics criticizes and unpacks what’s going on in the story.

This sounds like a really cool concept, especially because of the “rock” label that’s being applied to it. Musicals with the flavour of rock music are some of my favourite operas, after all. From prog rock concept albums to early attempts like The Phantom of the Paradise — the rock musical is a solid genre.

But what sticks out about this to me more than anything is that a new Beowulf musical suggests that history does indeed repeat itself.

Back in the 70s there was a musical version of Beowulf, simply called Beowulf: A Musical Epic. It might have slipped under the radar of many because it was a Canadian production, and I don’t think it had much of a run south of the border. But this production’s varied (too varied for “Rock” alone to suit, I think) musical score by Victor Davies and the lyrics by Betty Jane Wylie make for a fantastic retelling of the story.

But what I like most about the 70s adaptation is that there really aren’t any changes to the story.

Some of the digressions in the original are cut out or reworked, and at least one character is renamed, but other than that, Beowulf: A Musical Epic stays true to the poem: Beowulf goes to Heorot to fight Grendel, fights Grendel’s mother, then goes back to Geatland where he eventually becomes king, has to fend off a dragon, and leaves his warrior legacy in the hands of Wiglaf. For its fidelity alone, I think Beowulf: A Musical Epic is worth listening to, since so few adaptations let Beowulf grow old and show us his end.

In the popular culture (all of the movie, and book adaptations) Beowulf is usually seen only defeating Grendel and maybe Grendel’s mother, but we never really see Beowulf fighting the dragon as an old man and his death, and I think this is an essential part of the poem. The fact that the poem covers it suggests that the early audience of the poem thought much differently (maybe more complexly?) about heroes than many of us do today, and certainly more so than most modern people would give early medieval people credit for.

So I’m excited for this new musical, but, whenever (and however) I manage to engage with it, I know to approach it as something more than just an adaptation. Though, that said, I’m hoping for some raucous academic commentary to go along with the brutal physicality of so much of the story.

How do you think this new Beowulf musical will work out? Will it be the next Hamilton, or just enjoy a small run in Providence, Rhode Island? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Beowulf finds new life as chamber opera

The news: Hannah Lash's Beowulf Opera.

Brian Church (Beowulf) and Aliana de la Guardia (Beowulf’s mother), in Hannah Lash’s new opera, Beowulf.

Beowulf has found expression as a chamber opera.

I guess there’s life in this old story yet.

Setting aside whatever your impression of opera may be, it sounds like this opera (also named Beowulf) is most entertaining. This is a glowing review, but I’d like to think that just as some people might approach opera with rolling eyes and negative preconceptions, a reviewer might approach something based on Beowulf (even if its in a form that they’re generally fans of) with the same rolling eyes and negative preconceptions. So I think that this adaptation must legitimately be good.

Though this opera sounds like it’s not just a straight adaptation of Beowulf to the same kind of stage that might see Madama Butterfly or Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The story in this opera is that the character named Beowulf has come back from a war with PTSD and so can’t quite reconcile the home of here and now with what happened in his past. This Beowulf’s nursing home-bound mother has similar troubles reconciling aspects of her past home with her current home and is also harassed by a wicked nurse (who seems to be this take’s version of Grendel). After a confrontation between Beowulf and the nurse, he and his mother reach an understanding and the story ends.

All in all, how the creator of this piece, Hannah Lash, took all of the war and PTSD-related themes from the original and splashed them over a modern canvas makes for an interesting sounding piece.

Unfortunately, the performance’s somewhat limited showing means that only a few people will ever see it. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this article because it shows how old stories can still be useful as jumping off points for new tales and new ways to try to make sense of our present.

You can read Christian Gentry’s full review of the chamber opera Beowulf here:

Hannah Lash’s Beowulf Premiered by Guerilla Opera

Game of Thrones and history: This Slate.com interview lays it out

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry showing Anglo-Saxon warfare

Image found here: “Bayeux Tapestry 4” by photo by Gabriel Seah – gssq.blogspot.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Game of Thrones spoilers below, and through the link. You’ve been warned.

This interview between Slate.com‘s Ian Prasad Philbrick and Kevin Uhalde, professor of history at Ohio University is more Game of Thrones-related than Beowulf related, but the show is still a gateway to the medieval period. It’s all about historical analogues to the conquests in Game of Thrones and offers a quick summary of some medieval tactics and figures:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/07/07/a_medieval_historian_on_the_real_world_analogues_to_game_of_thrones_daenerys.html

A Blogger’s Beowulf in 2016

This quiet, joyous, community-centric holiday part of the year really isn’t suited to stories of kin-slaying and monster thrashing, so I took last week off from A Blogger’s Beowulf (sorry for the late notice!) and am doing the same this week.

So, watch for the next entry in the new year on January 7, 2016.

This entry will mostly be like those that came before it.

Mostly.

Thanks to a semi-reliable Google Alert, I’m planning to start posting news stories that I come across that are related to Beowulf every now and then (expect two per month).

Also, since I’ve picked up a better mic for a podcast I work on, I’m planning to catch up on the “Recordings” section of the posts. Though, this isn’t going to happen right away, it’s just something that’s on the slate for 2016.

As to what’s not on the slate for 2016, there’s finishing translating Beowulf. Even with another 50 or so weeks (factoring in a couple of weeks off), I’ll still be about 900 lines away from finishing the poem. In fact, at my current average of 10 lines per week, I’ll be finished this blog’s titular project in about three years.

I hope you’ll stick with me along the way.

Much more immediately, though, enjoy the rest of the holidays!
Happy New Year!
Be back in 2016!

Waes hael!

Blog Happenings for the End of 2012

Because I’m using National Novel Writing Month to launch myself back into writing my fantasy series, my blogging time has been short lately. So, instead of pushing through and getting out some sub-par entries, I’ve decided to put my blogs on hold for the rest of November.

However, I will be posting the entry for Stanza 8 of “Dum Diane vitrea” this coming Tuesday, while the final wrap-up entry for that poem will be posted on 4 December.

So, enjoy what’s posted here and over at A Glass Darkly for the rest of November, and watch for new content come December!

Oh, and if you’re interested, watch my Examiner.com video game blog for a new article every Saturday, plus an extra one this Monday!

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The Last of its Name

These look back/look ahead entries have proven to be less useful than anticipated. Because the lists that get posted here are seldom worked on over the course of the week, and part of each of the last three Sundays have been consumed by these entries to little avail, I’m going to be stopping their posting all together.

However, as one final list, here’s what I’m planning on doing between now and the end of the calendar year:

  • Outlined and completed Dekar 4
  • Outlined and completed Dekar 5
  • Edited and made publicly presentable a very loosely autobiographical novel about an English teacher in South Korea
  • Edited and made publicly presentable a poetic novel about mythological creatures
  • Edited and made publicly presentable an epic poem about a night in the life of a dishwasher
  • Gathered and organized all of my poetry
  • Gathered and organized all of my short stories
  • Had 3 short stories accepted for publication
  • Had 1 poem accepted for publication

As you might’ve guessed from such a list of creative writing-related tasks, I’m dropping this update from my blogging schedule so that I can have more time for my fiction and poetry writing.

However, as counter productive as it may seem, I’m still planning to start a video game playlog over over the coming weeks.

Until then keep checking out this blog and my general blog: A Glass Darkly.

The latter has the usual creative writing post on Monday, movie review on Friday (this week: The Screaming Skull), and “annotated links” post on Saturday.

Meanwhile, here at this blog you’ll be able to find the second stanza of “Dum Diane vitrea” on Tuesday, and the first of Wiglaf’s reactions to Beowulf’s death on Thursday.

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