Crazy, Fun, Light-Hearted Stories for a Strange Time this Sunday in NH

When times appear dire, there’s nothing like some meaningful, innocent humor to revive the spirit. This Sunday night August 20th at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, NH, I won’t be offering long, powerful myths like The Odyssey or Beowulf. Instead, the show is called THE LIGHTER SIDE OF ODDS BODKIN and the stories are unashamedly funny and innocent. You’ll even get to sing if you like.

The show is at 7 pm. The only adult themes will be stewardship, cleverness and civilized wisdom. You’ll laugh, I guarantee it.

Tickets are $10 in advance here, or $12 at the door.

Come refresh yourself!

Weapons from the Sky

2,400 years ago, give or take a century or two, storytellers in ancient India described the use of strange weapons. One that’s particularly memorable is an arrow shot into the sky that explodes into thousands of spinning discs, their edges sharp as razors. This cloud of discs is designed to plunge down onto enemy ranks, killing everybody standing there.

 
Reminds me of modern “cluster bombs,” weapons looked down upon by modern conventions of war (supposedly), which explode above the ground and release “bomblets” that rain down upon enemy ranks, blowing whoever is down there into tiny pieces. Children in war-torn lands all over the world are still picking up unexploded bomblets from such munitions, thinking they’re toys, consequently losing their limbs or more often their lives.

 
In the ancient Indian case of these “mantra” weapons, or “spell” weapons, they’re described in The Mahabharata, one of the two great informing Sanskrit poems of India, the root stories of Hinduism. Arjuna, the legendary archer in this ancient story, knew many such mantric weapons, and used them on the battlefield. As an aside, he also spent time transformed into a woman during his and his brothers’ exile, along with their wife, their eldest brother having gambled away all their status and fortunes in a game of dice.

 
Yudisthira at Heaven’s Gate, one of the tales I’ll be telling this coming Sunday evening at the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar in Nashua, New Hampshire at 7 pm, comes from The Mahabharata. This particular story doesn’t include any war scenes, but does probe human virtue, as do all the hundreds of sub-stories in this old epic, the war stories included.

 
Interestingly, in the scene with the spinning razor discs, there’s actually a defense against them. When the opposing general looks up and sees what’s coming, he yells from his chariot to all his warriors, “Stand absolutely still. Drop your weapons. Think only of peace.”
The razor discs thunk into the ground among them, missing them all.

 
Tickets for the show are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. You can get them here.

Sitar-Tuned Tales from India at The Riverwalk

What’s The Mahabharata? It’s the Hindu Bible, one of the two great epic Sanskrit poems of India that tell tales of the Vedic gods and ancient human heroes. Over three thousand years old, it’s a vast, long story with hundreds of smaller tales hung along it like pearls on a necklace. For my upcoming show at the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar in Nashua, NH on Sunday May 28th at 7 pm, I’ll be telling a few. Tickets are $10 here.

 
What you’ll really enjoy I hope, along with the vivid characters, is the two 12-string guitars I’ll alternate playing as I tell, each tuned to sound like classical Indian sitar music. I first heard a sitar when I was sixteen at Woodstock in 1969. Ravi Shankar was playing as my friend Tom and I arrived at the festival with the throngs. I fell in love with the sitar that night, and own one now. In honor of Indian classical music, I’ve done my best to develop ragas played on guitar. It’s a fulsome, wondrous sound.

 
I hope you’ll come and enjoy these stories. Powerful and beautiful, they are from an ancient time and you’ll be amazed how startling they are. You’ll even meet fire-born Draupadi, she with five husbands, all of whom are brothers…

Mahabharata Backstory: Births of the Pandava Brothers

Once Upon a Time in Ancient India…

 
Out hunting one day, King Pandu comes upon two deer copulating and against all wisdom shoots them both in their helplessness. When he approaches to retrieve his arrows, the stag is still alive and says, “For killing us in our moment of delight, I curse you. If ever you make love again, you will die in that instant.”

 
Pandu’s two new wives, princesses Kunti and Madri, are horrified upon hearing this but stay with him anyway. The three go to live in the forest. However, before she was married, an old hermit, covered in ashes, has told Princess Kunti that if she ever wants sons by the gods, to utter a certain mantra. And so one night, alone in her bed, she calls upon the Sun, Lord Surya, and to her amazement, he appears in her room. The next day she gives birth to a son and sets him floating down the Yamuna River, which flows into the Ganges. He is found by a couple and raised, becoming the greatest warrior who has ever lived.

 
But then, two years later, Kunti wants sons to keep, so she summons Lord Dharma, the God of Justice, and the next day gives birth to Yudisthira the Wise, the first of the Pandava Brothers. Next, Vayu, the Wind, fathers a son destined to be the strongest man in the world, Bhima. Lastly, Indra, the God of a Thousand Eyes, fathers Arjuna, destined to be the greatest archer of all. When Madri, Pandu’s other wife, sees this, she asks for the mantra and summons the Aswins, Physicians of the Gods, and produces the Pandava twins, Nakula and Sahadeva. And so the five Pandava brothers come into the world, all with heavenly fathers.

 
In Yudisthira at Heaven’s Gate, a tale I’ll be telling this Sunday, King Yudisthira, now old, must journey to Mt. Kailasa to die, entering the the gates of heaven there. The battle discussed in the Bhagavad Gita is long past. But Arjuna and Bhima won’t let him go alone. Nor will Draupadi, wife to them all. What happens during their journey, and what happens at the gates, is one of the most dramatic stories I’ve ever learned to tell. With full characterizations, it’s accompanied by sitar-tuned 12-string guitar. Come here it!

 
The show is Sunday April 9th at 8 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. Tickets are $20 and $10 and you can buy them here.

 
India’s Ancients: Tales from the Mahabharata and Beyond.

Opioid Addiction in The Odyssey

Meaninglessness is tough for everybody and lately, in the U.S., along with a lot of unemployment hopelessness, it’s led to the Opioid Crisis, as it’s called in the news. Folks from all social strata are now overdosing on heroin and fentanyl, ruining their own lives and lives around them to get that orgasmic rush for a little while.

 
It’s not a new human problem. In fact, in Homer’s Odyssey, set down 2,700 years ago in ancient Greece, the poppy and its effects are part of the tale. In The Odyssey the plant is called “lotus”, but that’s just a word-shift. This isn’t t the thousand-petaled pink lotus of Hindu lore, a symbol for the opening of consciousness. No, this is chewable heroin. At least it is on the Isle of the Lotus Eaters, a place full of drug addicts where Odysseus and his men land, early on in their journey.

 
Blown by a great storm into strange waters, they can smell the island’s alluring perfume from afar. Desperate for water and provisions, they land and Odysseus orders three sailors to explore the island and find provisions. They come upon a group of people, prone on their backs, eating flowers.

 
“Silly foolish man,” says one. “You don’t want provisions. You want lotus.”
“What’s lotus?” asks a sailor.
“Lotus is love. And lotus is bread. And lotus is sport. And lotus is wine,” replies the addict, “depending upon who you are when you eat it.”

 
Trying it once, the sailors are hooked and end up prone with all the others. It’s a humorous episode and they escape alive, but only after Odysseus finds them, realizes what the flowers are, and sails away, preferring to starve a little longer than be trapped there forever. He knows the power of poppies. How they rob a man of his will. Calling to the other fleet captains, he yells, “Nobody eats anything here! Do not breathe if you can help it!”

 
Their next adventure is in the cave of the cyclops, where, in order to survive, Odysseus needs all the will he can summon.

 
I’ll be telling the Lotus Eaters as part of The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast this Sunday April 2nd in Cambridge, MA at 8:00 p.m. with my 12-string guitar to add beauty. It’s a 90-minute show. Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square is the location. Fun evening. Hope you can make it.

 
Tickets are $20 here.

Odds Bodkin

WHEN A GUITAR SOUNDS SYMPHONIC

I’ve been playing 12-string guitars to accompany stories for a long time. Nowadays I play a Taylor 12 and a custom-built Ron Ho made in Port Townsend, Washington, both great instruments. This coming Sunday night I’ll be using the Taylor to score The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, tuned to a modified open E, a unique tuning that allows the guitar to sound, well, symphonic. Or at least that’s the goal.

 

The music is like a second voice, adding drama to the spoken words, much the way a movie score works. Leitmotif is a cool word coined by Richard Wagner denoting themes for characters and emotions, and The Odyssey is filled with many of them. One is a soothing, broad oceanic theme meant to relax my listeners. Another is a haunting, melancholy theme of longing that signifies Odysseus himself, wishing he were home even as he’s facing terrifying dangers. Polyphemus the Cyclops has his own music, too, bursting atonalities played in double-stops on the bass strings. Musicians tend to enjoy the accompaniment as much as the tale itself.

 

The show is at 8 pm on Sunday, April 2 at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. If you know anyone in New England who might enjoy this performance, please pass it on.

 
Tickets are $20 here.

Rapunzel’s Window: Anti-Pop Music

Rapunzel’s Window is the title of a haunting new composition of mine that features air flute and strings. If you know a teenage girl who’s feeling overwhelmed, buy her this 3:09 piece of music to listen to. It’s a whopping $.99 at my online store and is guaranteed to let her know she’s not the only one who’s ever felt that way.

It’s subtitled “Lonely Music for Air Flute and Strings” and so isn’t supposed to make anybody happy. Just reflective.

In preparing to publish this and a few other instrumental pieces, I sent Rapunzel’s Window to a dynamic young woman mover-and-shaker here in the town where I live. I don’t know her very well but together with her husband and others she was part of funding a project here at my home this past fall, so the symphonic songs were a thank you.

About a month later I got a card back, having wondered for a while if she’d ever downloaded them from Dropbox. Turns out she had, and that of all of them, Rapunzel’s Window moved her the most. That was nice to hear. I think of this tune and the others I’ve composed as “anti-pop” or something like that. No thudding rhythms. No sampling of other people’s loops. No obscenities that cheapen love. Just music made by hand on a synth keyboard or with real instruments, or both.

The full tune is available here.