Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok

 

SundownKickstarterCoverGods and myths of the Viking era come to life in this musical retelling of Norse Mythology.  Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok is a set of songs which narrate the history of the cosmos according to Viking legend, from the creation of the world to Ragnarok and the new world beyond, focusing on the death of Baldur, and the strife between Odin and his blood-brother Loki.

The Sundown Project is both an album and a play, performed in period costumes.  Sassafrass used Kickstarter to raise funds for both.  You can pre-order the CD & DVD on Bandcamp.  You can also listen to a selection of finished tracks on our Sundown Preview Album, and purchase a digital download for $5.

Combining a folk style with medieval modes, complex close harmony and multiple sets of competing lyrics, these songs present detailed and lively retellings of the myths, illustrating different characters’ competing perspectives, and the rival worldviews of gods, giants and mortals who compete to survive in the harsh cosmology imagined by the Vikings.  The songs are closely based on medieval Icelandic sources, and present the stories as they have been handed down, but expanding upon the perspectives of the different participants to bring new depth to the characters. In this example, “My Brother, My Enemy,” Loki and Odin describe how they met, and how their friendship turned into the bitter animosity which leads to Ragnarok.

 

The songs also examine aspects of Viking culture, especially the tradition of skaldic poetry, riddles, runes, and the value placed on storytelling as a form of passing on history.  In these examples, “The Futhark Song” teaches the Norse Runic Alphabet, performed in two styles, one warm, the other using Medieval modal settings:

 

The album, currently in production, will contain the twelve songs in which the stories unfold, recorded and professionally edited.  With funds from the Kickstarter, we hope to pay for digital mastering of the tracks, and a detailed booklet containing all the lyrics to the pieces, some of which are more than ten minutes long with up to seven different parts each with unique lyrics.  Kickstarter funds will also help us make the album green, produced with recycled packaging and using recyclable and biodegradable materials.  We aim to release the album in Spring/Summer 2014, but you can access a preview version now.

From the stage debut: Baldur describes a dream in which he foresaw his death. Learn more about our period Viking costumes.

From the stage debut: Baldur describes a dream in which he foresaw his death. Learn more about our period Viking costumes.

The play is a two-hour stage production in which these pieces are performed as a complete story, narrated by two characters representing the authors of our surviving medieval sources of Norse Mythology: the great epic poet Snorri Sturlson, author of the Prose Edda, and the ancient Seeress whose prophecy is recorded in the first part of the Poetic Edda.  Performed in authentic period costumes, the stage play brings life to the songs, and weaves them together into a complete narrative.  The play had its debut on May 26th 2013, at Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science-Fiction Convention.  Funds from the Kickstarter will be used to pay for costuming, and to film the performance and produce a DVD, so others can enjoy the full theatrical experience. Here is a preview of the play’s finale, “Longer in Stories than Stone,” in which all the characters and motifs from other songs are woven together to celebrate the value Viking cultures placed on storytelling:

 
The video below is a preview sample of the video shot at the debut performance at Balticon.  This shows the full version of our finale “Longer in Stories than Stone.”  It is not a final cut, and still needs to have final polishing to take care of things like color tinting, but it gives a good taste of what the DVD will look like.  We are releasing this preview in celebration of the fact that Sassafrass has been nominated for the Pegasus Awards for Excellence in Filking, in the categories of Best Performer and Best Composer/Songwriter (for our composer Ada Palmer).

Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok has been ten years in the making, from the composition of the original music through the development of the characters, script and costuming.  We hope you will share our excitement, and continue to explore these pages and learn more about the project.  You can pre-order the CD and DVD.  All funds go directly to production costs, costuming, and to paying for our performers to travel to concert venues.  Sassafrass can’t perform without help from friends like you.  You can also support us by purchasing our older music, available through Bandcamp.

The singers who play the roles of Snorri Sturlson (left) and Loki (right)

The singers who play the roles of Snorri Sturlson (left) and Loki (right)

Learn More about Sassafrass and Sundown: