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Viking-themed a cappella music telling stories of the Norse Gods, focusing on Odin, Loki, the murder of Baldur, and Snorri Sturlson.
Viking-themed a cappella music telling stories of the Norse Gods, focusing on Odin, Loki, the murder of Baldur, and Snorri Sturlson.
365 backers pledged $16,338 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok - Norse Myth Song Cycle project video thumbnail
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$16,338

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Gods 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.

Sassafrass is an a cappella group, specializing in sci-fi, fantasy and mythology-themed songs, and complex polyphony. Our newest project, Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok, is both an audio album and a play, performed in period costumes, in which the songs weave together to tell the history of the Norse Cosmos from its creation to its destruction at Ragnarok.  The play has now had its debut, and recording the album is well underway.  But, in order to keep going, we need your help!

Help fund our second performance, at Worldcon San Antonio (LoneStarCon 3), August 29-Sept 2, 2013!

This photo from the Balticon performance shows the moment that Baldur (L) is shot by Hod and Loki (R).
This photo from the Balticon performance shows the moment that Baldur (L) is shot by Hod and Loki (R).

Our amazing backers have already helped us reach our starting target!  But there is much more still to do.  Here is a breakdown of what we've accomplished so far, and what we will do if we raise more:

We have already:

  • Raised enough to produce a CD of the full song cycle, with eco-friendly packaging and a booklet with lyrics and mythological notes.
  • Completed the debut performance of the play, at Balticon 2013, with authentic Viking costumes.
  • Had a professional video team record the live performance, and raised enough to produce a DVD, so we can share the staged version with friends who couldn't make it to Balticon.

If we  raise additional funds with our stretch goals, we will do even more:

  • Hels us cover our costs to perform at Worldcon!  It is another non-paying venue, and we're eager to share our music, but it will cost us thousands of dollars to get our performers to TX.  The more support we get now the easier it will be!  If the Kickstarter can cover it, that will free us to start looking into a third performance!
  • Better quality digital mastering for the CD and DVD, allowing both recordings to look and sound their very best.
  • Extras for the DVD.  What we can do depends on how much funding we raise, but extras we are considering include (but are not limited to): subtitles, a commentary track, making-of interviews, an insert booklet, region free coding so it can be enjoyed internationally, and more!

For all these reasons, we have high hopes that our campaign will continue to grow. Thank you so much for your support!

Baldur tells the other gods about the dream which foretells his death.
Baldur tells the other gods about the dream which foretells his death.

A Big Step Forward

Sassafrass has been performing for more than ten years, mostly at East Coast science fiction and fantasy conventions, and has released four previous physical albums and two digital.  We have grown since our last album release, and so have the technologies available to small groups for sound editing and production. This new album is a big step above our earlier releases. Check out the streaming samples below:

Audio Sample: Our new recording of "My Brother, My Enemy", a duet for Odin and Loki describing their friendship and how it fell apart:

Audio Sample: "The Futhark Song," teaches the Norse Runic Alphabet, in two versions, a sweet arrangement reflecting the early stages of the Norse cosmos, and a new, haunting modal version representing the sickness which enters the nine worlds after Baldur's death.

Version A:

Version B:

SPECIAL PREVIEW! This is the first portion of the big six-part-harmony finale of the Sundown Cycle, Longer in Stories than Stone, a tribute to the importance of storytelling in Viking cultures, recorded for the first time as part of this project!

For more streaming samples of our music, check out our Bandcamp page, while on our website you can hear recordings of the different signature melodies which represent individual characters in the saga: Odin's theme, Loki's theme; melodies which recur and interweave throughout the twelve songs in the cycle.  Our website also has more information about the Sundown Project, and about the play, the twelve songs in the cycle, the costumes, and Sassafrass itself.

An example of what audio editing looks like.
An example of what audio editing looks like.

As you can hear from the samples above, our music often has two or more different sets of lyrics interwoven at the same time.  Our new recording technology makes it possible to clearly differentiate these competing lines in the new recordings in a way our past CDs never allowed.  But this type of recording is expensive. Sassafrass performs rarely, and mainly at free venues like science-fiction conventions, where don’t profit from ticket sales, so members pay all expenses out of pocket, supplemented by music sales which rarely come close to covering our costs. Every additional pledge and CD sale makes it that much more likely that we will be able to perform Sundown again.

Live performance is the heart of what we do, so we put a lot into our costumes.  We use on high quality materials, authentic period patterns, and design character-specific details.  Below are the specially commissioned belts for Odin and Loki, Odin's studded with runes in hammered brass, and Loki's with twisting beasts in copper.  

How You Can Help

You can support The Sundown Project at any level!  We have exciting ways to say thank you:

For just $1 or more we will thank you personally on the Contributors page of our website, and at higher levels we will also thank you in the CD and DVD.  For just $10, you can pre-order a digital download of the finished album, while for $25 you can pre-order the CD itself, or for $50 the CD and DVD.

For those who pledge more, we have such exciting items as a poster with a beautiful illustration of the Norse Cosmos produced by comics artist friend Rob Snyder, another poster with images from the International Space Station celebrating our space exploration song “Somebody Will“, a libretto, and bound collections of our sheet music.
Exclusive thank-you items include a certificate with your name in Runes, (or other text of your choice) and, at high levels, advanced digital access to the tracks as we finish them, before the CD is released.

Below: samples of our thank-you items:

Left: a detail from the in-progress Norse Cosmos poster by Rob Snyder. This is just a tiny corner of the image, which will show all nine worlds, populated with mythical creatures. Right: the Your Name in Runes (or text of your choice) certificate.
Left: a detail from the in-progress Norse Cosmos poster by Rob Snyder. This is just a tiny corner of the image, which will show all nine worlds, populated with mythical creatures. Right: the Your Name in Runes (or text of your choice) certificate.
Left: "Somebody Will" poster.  Right: "Futhark" poster, a parody of a doctor's eye-chart.  Can you spot an Othila from twenty feet away?
Left: "Somebody Will" poster. Right: "Futhark" poster, a parody of a doctor's eye-chart. Can you spot an Othila from twenty feet away?

NEW: Special Rewards for our Stretch Goals!

At $12,000 we have met our first five stretch goals.  The first two goals mean that our composer Ada Palmer will write twenty-four pages of original notes, discussing Viking culture, Norse mythology, and the ideas behind the songs, and the sources for her versions of the characters.  All backers at the $10 level or higher will receive these notes in an exclusive downloadable PDF!  They will also be printed in the libretto, a bound book containing all the song lyrics and play script, which will be available for sale, and is also a thank-you item for backers at the $100 level and up.  All backers get to suggest topics for these notes, and will be invited to vote for your favorite topics, so if you back the project you can help make sure that your favorite character, song or theme gets special attention. As a special thank-you to our most generous backers, all backers at the $200 level and above will get a note reserved for a topic of your choice.

Meeting our $10,000 goal also means that Nebula- and Hugo-award winning author Jo Walton, friend of the group, has composed an Odin-themed poem set in the world of Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok, and posted it for free on her Livejournal!  You can read the poem here.  It will also be added to the printed libretto, and shared with backers in a PDF.

For our later stretch goals, Jo has composed four more poems to go with the Odin poem.  At $11,000 she shared a short sequel to her Odin poem.  At $12,000 she shared a short poem about Odin and Loki together.  At $13,000 she shared the poem "Ask to Embla".  And at $14,000, Jo responded to her Odin poem with an eagerly-awaited (and metrically challenging) Loki poem.  These four poems will not be shared online, and are ONLY available in an update sent to backers, and will be printed in a special version of the libretto only for backers (though they will also appear in future collections of Jo's poetry).  Our $14,000 stretch goal means that we will send all three of these Sassafrass bookmarks to everyone who donates $25 or more! 

Our three double-sided bookmark designs: Make Them All Real, Sundown, Odin and Loki.
Our three double-sided bookmark designs: Make Them All Real, Sundown, Odin and Loki.

BUT THAT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING...

We have more stretch goals planned, if we can cover the costs of Worldcon.  At $15,000 we will create a digital "My Brother, My Enemy Teaching Album" which will include versions of the song with each of the parts made louder, so you can listen to just Odin or just Loki, plus the sheet music, as well as a MIDI version of the song and a lyrics sheet. Many of our fans have expressed interest in learning to sing Sassafrass music, and we hope the My Brother My Enemy Teaching Collection will help answer this call! 

Every stretch goal brings us closer to another live performance, and a chance to share the experience with friends, familiar and new!  Thank you for your support!

Odin and Loki in old costumes - more photos from Balticon coming soon!
Odin and Loki in old costumes - more photos from Balticon coming soon!

Thank you!

We can't keep this project going without you. So thank you for helping us bring Ragnarok to life!

Special thanks to our amazing video editor, Ciro Faienza. Find him on Google+, Twitter @cirofaienza, and freneticlicense.blogspot.com. Thanks also to our sound editor Nat Budin, our manager Ethan Bassford, our costuming consultant Christina Krupp, our Viking smith and leatherworker Marc Dunn, to David Kowarsky, who is overseeing filming at Balticon, and to many other friends who have helped make this possible!

Like comics?  Manga?  Sci-fi?  Want to support a friend of Sassafrass and get a great book while you're at it?  Kansai Club is currently running their own Kickstarter to finance publishing a limited run of Osamu Tezuka's Twilight Zone-style sci-fi short story collection, The Crater.  It's a great, short series, never before released in English, and a limited release, so you can only get it through their Kickstarter, it won't be in stores afterwards.  Plus it will contain an introduction by Sassafrass's own Ada Palmer!

Learn More About the Sundown Project:

Risks and challenges

Though preparing the concert for Balticon comes with a whole host of challenges, with just a few weeks before the performance many of them are behind us. The biggest potential risks for this project are in the production of the CD and DVD. Recording can be a difficult undertaking. Fortunately, over the past year, we've overcome a huge number of complexities of the recording process, and we have a great system now that simplifies matters a lot and will help us deal with new problems as they arise much more easily. It's also possible that we could run into problems with the companies we're working with to print our CD and DVD, or with the video crew, but we think this is unlikely because we've researched the people we're working with and believe they can be relied on to provide quality work.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    RATATOSK: Personal thanks on our website!

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    DWARF: Digital download of the finished album!

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    ELF: Physical copy of the CD, with lyrics booklet included!

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    VANIR: Physical copies of the CD and the DVD of the Balticon performance!

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    VALKYRIE: CD, DVD and a small poster of the Futhark (runic alphabet)!

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    AESIR: CD, DVD, small Futhark poster, PLUS your choice of either a poster illustrating the entire Norse Cosmos or a poster with the lyrics to our song Somebody Will and a beautiful NASA photo!

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    GERI AND FREKI: CD, DVD, small Futhark poster, plus your choice of either both posters (Norse Cosmos and Somebody Will), or one poster and a printed libretto book with the script and lyrics!

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    SLEIPNIR: CD, DVD, all three posters AND the printed libretto!

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    HUGINN AND MUNINN: CD, DVD, all three posters, and libretto, PLUS an exclusive personalized certificate with Your Name In Runes (or text of your choice), signed, with thanks from the composer and the group!

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    VEDRFOLNIR: SPECIAL ACCESS: Advanced digital access to the new songs as we finish them, and an "Associate Producer" credit on the CD and DVD, plus physical copies of the CD, DVD, all 3 posters, libretto and Your Name in Runes!

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    LODDFAFNIR: All prizes above PLUS an autographed printed book of the complete sheet music for all the songs in the Sundown Project! Or, if you prefer, an autographed printed songbook of sheet music for all of Sassafrass's non-Norse music.

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    AUDHUMLA: All prizes above, plus BOTH printed sheet music collections, including all of Sassafrass's music!

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    YMIR: All prizes above, plus your name will be read aloud and thanked at the Balticon Concert as "A Great Patron of Storytelling," and you will be credited as such on the DVD. You and one friend will also be invited to dinner post-concert at Balticon with Sassafrass!

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    LIF AND LIFTHRASIR: All prizes above, PLUS two or more members of Sassafrass will come give a custom house concert or other performance for you and your friends at a venue of your choice! (Backer must cover transport costs).

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Funding period

- (30 days)