Notes & Samples

                       THE PREMISE

         Every human being will ask, at one time or another in life, some or all of what Crane Brinton used to call The Big Questions:  “How did the universe begin?” “Where did my people come from, and what makes us different from those guys over there?” “What’s going to happen to me after I die?”  “What does it mean to be good?” “How do I get along with my sibling, because we’re all supposed to, when that sibling is a total jerk?”             From society to society, our myths are our collective answers to just such questions. These songs are a representative sampling of answers from 3000 B.C. Mesopotamia to the Viking Saga Age of 600-1100 A.D.

THE SONGS

medporch

     Halcyon days: Vinnie, Barb, and Nick on Mederick Bellaire’s front stoop, Providence, RI.

       Perseus [Greek]. Only a fool trusts to his henchmen when it comes to making away with babies; they’re sure to get rescued, grow up, kill a monster or two, and come looking for you. And maybe it’s a good idea to wear a helmet to the sports stadium, just in case. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

       Sleipnir [Norse]. To ride the “eight-leggéd horse” was an ironic euphemism among the Norse and others for being dead and carried by four pallbearers; Odin was originally, like Mercury, a psychopomp, or conductor of souls to the kingdom of the dead. It is our belief that this song is the world’s only Norse calypso number. (Source: H. R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.)

     Akhnaten’s Gavotte [Egyptian]. One day Amenhotep IV got the bright idea of a single solar deity, renamed himself Akhnaten, and dismantled the entire apparatus of Egypt’s theocratic civil service, annoying an awful lot of people up and down the Nile. Freud thought that this was where the Israelites got monotheism; Graves thought it explained why Orpheus was dismembered. (Sources: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete;  S. H. Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology; Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism.)

       The Wilusiad [Greek]. Now it can be told: Helen wasn’t the only reason for that decade-long Mycenean-Hittite slugfest. Three epics boiled down to four verses. (Sources: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete; Homer, the Iliad and Odyssey; Vergil, the Aeneid.)

       The House of Atreus [Greek]. Chopping the kids up and stewing them is an egregious no-no; so is doing in your hubby in his bathtub, and killing your mom isn’t exactly genteel either. The descendants of Tantalus raised familial feuding to an art form matched only by the family of Oedipus (and look what happened to them). A nice sanguinary Scottish-style border ballad. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

NHBJOFUZ

     Inside Mederick’s studio, Nick provides an explanation    of how, for the Olympians, a dozen came to equal fourteen.

       The Olympian Dozen (All Fourteen of ’Em) [Greek]. So why are there 14 if they’re supposed to be the Olympian Dozen? This song explains all. (Source: primarily Hesiod’s Theo- gony; the tune is an Irish trad number variously known as “Bold Thady Quill” or “Nell Flaher- ty’s Drake.”)

       The Afterlife [Greek]. So where did Dante get all those lurid images in the Inferno? The Greek roots of Christian Hell are deep and robust as this hat-tip to Gilbert and Sullivan explains.(Sources: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete; Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy Sayers, Hell.)

     Heracles and Theseus [Greek]. Everything you ever needed to know about these two perennial odds-on favorites is right here. And all things being equal, smart will generally trump strong. [Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

       Argonautica [Greek]. Postcolonial fiction delights in taking the underdog’s perspective; like Gardner’s Grendel, here’s a treatment of the Golden Fleece story sympathetic to the dragon. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

     Three Monster-Slayers in Search of a Single Malt [Greek]. Thirsty work, the killing of monsters, as this trio of heroes can attest. Warning: The penultimate rhyme in verse #3 is a real groaner. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

       The Oracles [Greco-Roman]. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Well, for a price that rather woozy lady over there on the three-leggéd chair will give you an enigmatic hint. And it’s nowhere near as messy as haruspicy. (Sources: Herodotus, Histories; Livy, Ab Urbe Condita; Plutarch, “The Decline of the Oracles,” in Moral Essays.)

     Fraglied (The Fourteenth King of Uruk His Boatsong)[Sumerian/Babylonian]. “Shall I then die like Enkidu?” ’Fraid so, your Majesty, but it’s worth poling Urshanabi’s skiff all the way to Dilmun just to hear old Uta-Napishtim the Distant run it down about the Deluge. His wife bakes a mean loaf of bread, too.  (Source: the Gilgamesh Epic.)

MIDDLTON

Susan Middleton, superius: a mellifluous voice, and a fine poet in her own right.

PETE&KEN

  Pete Levin (left) and Ken Lovelett (right.) at Sonart Studio.

rainweel

Ken’s  rainwheel made its debut on this disk. (Photo by Ken Lovelett.)

       Inanna’s Waltz [Sumerian/Babylonian]. Goddess gets guy, goddess does the katabasis, goddess loses guy. And that’s why we have seasons. (Source: N. K. Sandars, Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia; S. H. Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology.)

     Ba’al and Mot [Canaanite]. God-who-dies-and-is- resurrected stories abound in Western myth. Here’s a version from Ugarit, a city of Canaan whose heyday was around 1200 B.C.E. near present-day Ras Shamra in Syria. (Source: S. H. Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology.)

       The Triple Goddess [Proto-Indo-European meta- mythology]. Frazerian Ritualists get all dewy-eyed when anyone whispers “Maiden! Nymph! Crone!” Archaeologists counter that there is evidence for “plenty of goddesses, but no single Goddess.” You decide. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

     Hibernica [Irish]. Oh those Celts, be the japers! Come to think of it, there are no kangaroos in Ireland, either.(Sources: John X.W.P. corcoran, “Celtic Mythology,” in Félix Guirand, ed., New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Kenneth Jackson, ed., A Celtic Miscellany, Moyra Caldecott, Women in Celtic Myth.

     Cleobis and Biton [Greek]. Two boys from Argos were their mom’s best friend, deftly impersonating draft animals and saving the day. Hera smiled accordingly, allowing them to get the drop on old age and its aches. Careful what you dream; it might come true. (Source: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Complete.)

   Myth Songs was recorded in 2004 and 2005 at Mederick Music Ltd. in Providence, RI, Sonart Studio in Mt. Tremper, NY, and Studio Dual in Cape Elizabeth, ME).  Mixmasters were Pete Levin and Cynthia Daniels. Producer: Barb Truex.