About this project
Update: Both CDs funded! Thank you!
We are raising money to release two new collections of close harmony a cappella story and myth music, composed by Ada Palmer and performed by Sassafrass.
"Stories and Stone" is a companion album to our Norse Myth song cycle "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" which was funded by an earlier Kickstarter and released on CD and DVD in Spring 2015. "Stories and Stone" contains alternate arrangements of most of the music from the Sundown project, plus our encore Space exploration anthem "Somebody Will". The music is finished, and the campaign has already raised the funds to send the CD off to production. Now that we have made our stretch goal we will also release a second CD during the next year, "Friend in the Dark," collecting experimental arrangements of our Norse music and many of Ada's earlier songs, which have been out of print while we concentrated on the Sundown project, performed by Ada and Lauren Schiller, performing as the duo "Sassafrass: Trickster & King."
The music for "Stories and Stone" is already complete, which means backers will receive an instant digital download once the campaign is done. Physical CDs will ship no later than September 2015. You can already listen to the entire album streaming below or on Bandcamp. Several finished sample tracks from "Friend in the Dark" are also streaming.
This Kickstarter campaign will raise money for:
- Production costs of "Stories and Stone" (physical and digital)
- Upgraded recording and performance equipment for our new studio
- Hiring production help to increase our productivity
- Since we made our stretch goal, this campaign will alwso fund production costs of "Friend in the Dark"
- Current Stage: extra funds will be used to hire help to put more Sassafrass concert videos and Sundown clips up on YouTube, so we can share the live concert experience with more audiences. Thank you for your continued support!
Scroll down for details about the group, these albums, our future recording plans, and backer rewards including our secret album. Meanwhile, here is half of the "Friend in the Dark Album" already streaming online for you to sample:
Since we made our stretch goal of $8,606, we will give every backer who pledges at the $14 level or above an instant download of all the current finished tracks of "Friend in the Dark", and a digital download of the finished album when complete, and we will also pledge to complete the album within one year.
And here is the complete streaming "Stories & Stone" album, already funded and in production:
About the Group and the Composer:
"Sassafrass is a choral folk group which performs heart-stoppingly beautiful songs... brilliantly written, historically accurate... gorgeous, funny and daring" -Cory Doctorow.
We specialize in complex close harmony polyphonic pieces, with a mix of folk and Renaissance styles, and strong narratives. Our Viking mythology songs are closely based on medieval Icelandic sources, and describe the creation of the world, the strife between Odin and his blood-brother Loki, the murder of Baldur, and the coming of Ragnarok. We usually perform at science fiction and fantasy conventions.
Composer Ada Palmer is an author of science fiction and fantasy, an historian, and the author of ExUrbe.com. Her musical compositions are based on Medieval and Renaissance modes and polyphony, and always tell complex stories. In creating "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" she aimed to highlight how Norse myths reflect the real experiences of historical Viking peoples, and preserve glimpses of a culture and moral system radically different from our own.
About "Stories and Stone":
This CD is the last stage of the Sundown project, a set of twelve songs which fit together into a stage play, which presents the death of Baldur and the strife between Odin and Loki, in parallel with the life of the greatest Icelandic scholar of the Viking age, Snorri Sturlson. 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. The DVD and the CD of the stage versions of the pieces were funded by an earlier Kickstarter. You can hear the earlier album with stage versions of the music streaming here:
The songs in the sundown cycle have so many layers and competing parts that taking them apart and presenting them in different combinations brings out a lot that can't be heard in the stage arrangements. We always planned to produce a second album of variant recordings, to share these hidden lines, especially of our most complex song, "If I Could Ask You." In this quartet, Baldur, after his murder, and Hel, whom Odin banished to the underworld, sing of their questions for their distant fathers, who are responsible for their sad fates, and for doom that is rising to consume the world. Meanwhile Odin and Loki, obsessed with their accusations and vendettas, refuse to answer. The interweaving of the four parts is so dense that it is impossible to hear all the interplay of the different lines when the four are sung together, so this collection takes it apart into two separate duets.
Tracks on "Stories and Stone" include:
- Hearthfire (live from Boskone, 5 part harmony, female lead line)
- Gift of Life - the creation of the sentient races (live from Boskone)
- Here's to Valhalla (alternate multitrack arrangement)
- The seven "character motifs" of the primary characters in Sundown: Odin, Loki, Baldur, Frigg, Hel, Snorri and the Seeress
- Abandoned, a duet for Baldur and Hel (performed by Ada & Lauren)
- If I Could Ask You - Baldur & Hel duet
- If I Could Ask You - Odin & Loki duet
- A New World (solo arrangement)
- Longer in Stories and Stone (live from Boskone)
- Somebody Will (duet)
- Somebody Will (chorus, live from the Balticon debut of Sundown)
- Hearthfire solo with guitar (instrumentals by Patrick Nielsen Hayden)
We are delighted to be able include our most frequently-requested song, our Space exploration anthem "Somebody Will", which was performed as an encore at the debut of the Sundown stage production. This CD includes both the duet arrangement, and the live full chorus version from Sundown's debut. Listen to the duet here:
About our Budget:
Our $5,753 budget includes:
- Production of 1,000 copies of the “Stories and Stone” CD, in eco-friendly digipak packaging, using reduced plastic plus recycled and biodegradable materials.
- Funds to pay a fair wage to the friends who are helping us with sound editing and graphics design on the CD.
- New audio equipment to help us adapt our recording to the different acoustic needs of our new Chicago studio, including a new, superior USB Audio Interface (TASCAM US-4x4), and different designs of mic stands and pop filters.
- A “looper” device, which will let us do live performances of four-part pieces with only two singers, by letting us record two lines live on stage and play it back, singing a second two lines with them. This will let our duo performances include complex pieces like the “If I Could Ask You” quartet.
- Costs of the Kickstarter itself, i.e. shipping costs, printing costs for backer rewards, and Kickstarter’s slice of the pie.
You may be wondering why our budget is close to $6,000 for one CD, when last time our goal was only $7,000 for a CD and DVD plus the whole Sundown stage production.
There are two reasons. The first is that our original budget for the Sundown project was much less than we actually needed. We weren’t sure how much support we would have, so we lowballed our goal to make sure we got something. We were delighted when the Sundown campaign raised double what we had aimed for, and it helped us do much more than we would otherwise, but in the end it still didn’t fully cover the expenses of the CD, DVD, videography, production and second performance at San Antonio.
The second reason is that, with one Kickstarter under our belts, we now know all the hidden expenses of a project like this, and how to budget for them. This budget takes account of all those hidden extras, such as the fees Kickstarter will deduct, the extra costs of printed proofs, color correction for the CD packaging, and other details of the CD production process beyond the flat cost per disc, plus a more realistic sum set aside to cover shipping costs. Very important to this budget is our hope to be able to pay a fair wage to the friends who help with sound editing and graphic design, and who deserve to be compensated for their enormous and generous efforts.
The Stretch-Goal Album: Trickster & King
In addition to "Stories and Stone" we are working on a debut album recorded by composer Ada Palmer and her vocal partner Lauren Schiller performing together as the duo "Sassafrass: Trickster and King." These new recordings play with duet and variant arrangements of the Norse music, including versions with instrumentation, and include new recordings of many of our favorite earlier pieces. Special features of this album include recordings of "Hearthfire" and "Somebody Will" with guitar performances by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and "Winds over Leviathas", a song from the world of the Enepet Folksongs, which has never appeared on one of our albums before. We will release this album someday whether we make the stretch goal or not, but releasing an album is time-consuming so we expect it to take a very long time (more than a year) unless we raise the funds to cover recording and album production and let us hire help for the sound editing and graphic design.
Half of this second album has already been recorded, and you can hear the finished tracks streaming below. We have budgeted $2,854 for this second album. Since we made our stretch goal of $8,606, we will give every backer who pledges at the $14 level or above an instant download of all the current finished tracks, and a free download of the finished album when complete. We will release the album when it contains more than 60 minutes of polished music.
We are especially proud of our new experiments with instruments, as in this new version of Hearthfire with guitar:
The "Secret Album":
We have put together a very special backer reward for this project: our new "Secret Album". This is a collection of new recordings which we are releasing as a private album, accessible to backers only. The "Secret Album" contains a selection of live recordings from recent concerts which--thanks to creaky stages or unlucky coughs--are not quite clean enough for us to put them on a CD, but are still beautiful and worth sharing with our friends. The collection also contains advanced preview versions of several new recordings we are preparing for future release on albums which are far from ready.
The highlight of the "Secret Album" is a set of recordings from Summer 2014, when Sassafrass: Trickster and King performed Viking duets accompanied with Norse poetry written and read by our good friend Hugo and Nebula award-winning novelist Jo Walton at George R. R. Martin's theater in Santa Fe. The album contains our songs and Jo's readings as well, a full recreation of the experience. Access codes for the "Secret Album" will be shared with backers at the $75 level and above as soon as the campaign is complete.
Our basic backer rewards include an instant digital download of the complete album at the $7 level, and a physical CD plus a digital download at the $25 level. At $15 and above, backers will also receive a digital download of the second album, "Friend in the Dark."
For everyone who pledges $50 or above, we have two special rewards, one physical and one digital. Everyone at this level will receive digital downloads of three thank-you recordings Ada and Lauren have made of traditional medieval or Renaissance pieces, "Adam Lay Y Bunden" "Hal en Tow" and "Weep, Oh Mine Eyes." If we make our first stretch goal, we will add addition stretch goals sharing more downloadable recordings with backers pledging $50 and above.
In addition, backers at the $50 level and above who choose to receive physical rewards will receive a set of note cards, inspired by Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok. You will receive four cards, two each of two designs, so you can keep one and send one. One features the rune Othila, associated with wisdom, patrimony, heritage, memory, and Odin, in a woodcut design by Lauren Schiller depicting night and day and the tree of Yggdrasil. The other features the rune Thorn, associated with conflict, catharsis, cleansing fire, curses, betrayal, reversal, and with Loki, in a woodcut design by Ada Palmer depicting the mixing and churning of ice and fire.
We have also created an art print of a "Wordle" or word cloud, made by taking the most commonly-used words in the text of the Sundown songs and arranging them with size reflecting their frequency, creating a visual poem condensing the music's central themes. Because we would like to have the "Stories and Stone" CD available by Worldcon, backers at the $100 level and above will be thanked in the CD packaging of "Friend in the Dark" (but not in "Stories and Stone") and they will receive a copy of this exclusive print, signed by Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller, printed on high quality acid free art paper.
By popular demand, we have created a Sundown-inspired stein, so you can enjoy a wholesome round of mead or your beverage of choice while cheering along to our Viking drinking song "Here's to Valhalla." Our 20 ounce dishwasher-safe design features the Viking Runic Alphabet, so you can teach family and friends to read and write like a Viking. Thorn and Othila are highlighted, reminders of our focus on the conflict between Odin and Loki. Backers at the $150 level or above can receive the stein, along with the CD, "secret album" notecards and art print, or, if you want the stein but not the other items, you can order it as an add-on for $50 (add-ons are explained below).
We also have a few special high-level rewards, including meals with the group at conventions, private concerts, custom recordings (you read that right, custom recordings!), and a very limited number of cast photos from the "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" debut signed by the whole cast. These items described in the Backer Reward list to the right.
Q: Why isn't the stretch-goal "Trickster and King" CD one of your backer rewards?
A: We are only including physical rewards we can finish and ship in September. As we learned from our last Kickstarter, many addresses change in a year, and we don't know when the new album will be finished. If we make our goal to fund the second album, we will give a digital download to everyone who backs at $25 or above, but for physical copies it is better to wait so you can order them when the disc is released, to make sure all the packages reach their destinations.
In addition to the backer rewards above, in this campaign we are offering Add-Ons, extra items you can request at any level, which we will add to your backer package in return for an additional pledge. If you want an add-on, simply add the value of the add-on to your pledge, leave your backer reward selection level at the original level you wanted to pledge at without the add-on, and then send us a message saying you are requesting an add-on, and which one. We will reply to confirm, and add it to your pledge. Add-ons are a way to customize your pledge to get the rewards that you want.
NEW ADD-ONs: BOOKMARKS
As a boost for the "Friend in the Dark" stage of the campaign, we are offering two bookmark sets as new Add-Ons. Each set is available for $5, simply add $5 to your pledge and send us a message requesting the set you prefer.
First, created for this campaign, we have a new set of five single-sided bookmarks printed on golden parchment paper, for a fun medieval feel. The five designs feature the List of the Allfather's Names, Baldur & Hel's themes, Snorri & the Seeress's themes, Viking saga horsemen, and the letters of the Futhark (the Norse Runic Alphabet). A great way to review your Viking lore when you pause in reading your favorite saga.
Alternately, also for $5, you can order a set of the three full color double-sided bookmarks which we created as a stretch goal reward for the "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" Kickstarter. These three designs feature excerpts from Odin & Loki's duet "My Brother, My Enemy", lyrics from our finale chorus "Longer in Stories than Stone", and lyrics from our Space exploration anthem "Somebody Will":
- PDF Libretto with Norse Lyrics: These CDs will not have a lyrics booklet, but you can add a PDF download of the e-book libretto of Sundown, containing lyrics to all the Norse music plus the play script and composer's notes, for $10
- PDF Sundown Complete Score, over 250 pages, with sheet music for all 12 Norse Myth songs, plus the character motifs, variant and supplementary harmony parts, and the solo version of Frigg's Song $25
- PDF Non-Norse Sheet Music Collection, with scores for all Ada's other compositions, lyrics sheets, and guitar parts for many pieces including "Hearthfire" and "Somebody Will", for $20
- Extra Download Code for "Stories & Stone" to share the music with a friend, $5
- Digital Download of the original "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" album, for $7
- Digital Download of the "Somebody Will Teaching Collection" including 3 recordings of the song, PDF lyrics sheet, sheet music and special singalong and karaoke versions, for $5
- NEW: Interested in our other teaching collections, such as "My Brother, My Enemy," "Abandoned" and "The Futhark Song"? Send us a message, and if we have several requests for the same collection we will create a new add-on.
Our physical add-ons for the campaign include:
- Add another copy of the "Stories & Stone" CD for $15
- Add the "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" CD for $15
- Add the "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" DVD for $20
- Add a copy of our Norse Cosmos poster for $10 + $5 shipping
- Add a copy of our "Somebody Will" poster for $10 + $5 shipping
- Add an extra set of our notecards, $10 per set of 4
- Add an extra Sundown Stein for $50 + $7 shipping
- LIMITED: add a "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" tote bag for $45. We made a limited number of these for group members and a couple of special friends, but we have two* left to share. Whoops, all gone! Thank you for your enthusiasm!
Sundown CD with 24 page full color Lyrics Booklet:
Somebody Will Poster:
Norse Cosmos Poster:
Friends & members bag with joke Sundown cover (image shows front and back):
"Stories & Stone" is the last step in the Sundown project, and marks a major turning point for Sassafrass. For the next stage, we are concentrating on smaller group concerts, alternate arrangements, and bringing our non-Norse music back into print.
Especially as composer Ada Palmer is beginning her career as a novelist as well as blogging, teaching, and working hard on research, how much we can record and perform is limited above all by time, and how much we can afford professional help. Much of our hope with this campaign is to raise enough funds to hire outside help, so that from now on others can handle steps like graphic design, sound editing, logistics and publicity, so Ada and other group members can concentrate on what you want us to be doing: creating. We have set a modest budget for this Kickstarter, but the more we raise the more ambitious our next years can be. All extra funds raised will be used either to help members travel for performances, to pay for help with recording and production, or to hire an assistant to help Ada with her many creative projects, her music, fiction, research, blog, and all the other new time commitments that are coming as her first novels come out. We hope over the next months and years to be able to share more and more music, and reach more and more audiences, and every dollar we raise here will make that more possible. Thank you!
Risks and challenges
We learned a lot from our last Kickstarter, so have already planned for many of the challenges we faced last time. The music is completely finished and edited. The graphic design for the CD packaging is done. The backer rewards are all simple and quick to produce, and most of them are digital. Except for the special rewards like meals at conventions and the "It's for You" special recordings, we expect to completely finish and send out everything by the end of September, less than two months after the campaign ends. We have experience with shipping now, firm shipping totals, shipping boxes already in hand, and professional assistants to help out.
The biggest risk which we cannot bypass is the necessity of page proofs and color correction for the CD packaging. Printing never quite matches what you see on the screen, so to make sure our graphics look good we need to plan for physical proofs and color adjustment. The "Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok" CD required several rounds of proofs and color adjustments to get its printing right. We have planned for the time this will take, and also adjusted our graphic designs to be better suited to the color capabilities of the production company's printers. But it is still a risk.
We are also taking a risk by making the first "Trickster and King" album a stretch goal. Our hope is to fund both these albums with one Kickstarter, since every minute group members spend administering a Kickstarter is a minute we can't spend singing and recording. But we know that stretch goals are met less often than main campaign goals. If we meet the stretch goal, we will take it as an indication that there is a lot of enthusiasm for new recordings, and we will make it a priority to finish the new album as quickly as we can, hopefully within a year. If not, we will put it on the back burner, and work on it again when we have time to administer another Kickstarter.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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