Odin, Then and Now

Odin, Then and Now is a music theatre vehicle about the Vikings, the most resourceful, innovative, creative, orderly, and yet violent societies of its time. The Vikings created great wealth, unbridled greed, lawlessness within the law, encountered and ignored a crippling drought, rising sea levels, and a rapidly moving epidemic. All in all, fifty percent of their population and costal lands disappeared –  a scenario that parallels life today. Their leader was Odin, who was simultaneously the God of War and the God of Knowledge. Odin, the world’s most feared warrior, had also discovered the Runes and poetry, and therefore understood that someday the pen would ultimately be mightier than the sword.

Odin was also warned of his future, yet finds himself helpless to prevent his fate, thus bringing us to the main theme of the saga: “History repeats itself, yet no one seems to listen.”

The story of Odin and the Vikings’ success, as well as their quick demise is narrated by a modern-day tv weather presenter who offers commentary on the Viking history that will unfold upon the stage as well as a forecast about the impact that history will have upon the world today.

Artistic Statement for the Music Theatre Community

The rise of Nationalism following on the heels of a pandemic has placed new parameters and created new paradigms upon virtually everything and everyone, everywhere. Throughout this endeavour, if there has been any universal experience, it has been the ever-present need for accessible music and entertainment.

Therefore, in these trying times, it is of upmost importance that we composers, performers and artistic institutions focus on developing and delivering not just art, but a future-oriented art. For music, this means to communicate new sonic landscapes that offer insight, understanding, and hope for a world that’s more humane and just than the one we inherited. Before we can achieve a “New Normal” we need a new vision to reorient our collective compass in matters ethical, humane, and environmental.

I strongly feel that a key element in creating this “New Normal” in the field of music theatre is to widen our contemporary aesthetic horizon from the limited realm of Minimalism/Post-Minimalism, and re-engage the art form with the playful, experimental legacy left by the most influential 20th-century American composer: John Cage. Whether it’s his pioneering work in indeterminacy, his electroacoustic creations, or his non-standard uses of standard music instruments, found objects, and reused materials, Cage was an artist of vision who never allowed the status quo to restrict the bounds of his imagination. It is his spirit of radicalism and inventiveness that I am bringing to the realization of this new form of music theatre.

The Cage tradition is a missing link, a key component, and legacy in American music that has been neglected by contemporary American theatre. As society completes its move from the Industrial Age into the Technological Age, it is precisely the inventiveness and radicalism of Cage’s work that music theatre needs to thrust us in the right direction. Cage was both a mentor and collaborator of mine whose work engages with many Cage-inspired traditions juxtaposed with form and orchestrative concepts from Depeche Mode. My new opus Odin, then and now offers alternative vocal vocabularies, techniques, and delivery methods in that each of the six main characters has a unique physical structure which, when absorbed into the personal character of each soloist, yields a “never-heard-before” way of communicating / new, electro-acoustical creations on and off stage / the integrated use of Intermedia / the music is completely performed using found objects and reused materials performed by eleven percussionists = a whole new era of music in this Holocene – adventure, wonderment, inspiration, “accessible to all” music, and guidance in our “New Normal” world.

Respectfully submitted,

Donald Knaack – Musician, Composer, Librettist, Environmentalist

**Please note the video below is from a workshop of Odin at New York University. There have been substantial changes made to the opera since this video was recorded. A video of the full opera is available upon request.**

Documents for Download

Odin, Then and Now Synopsis: Odin Complete Synopsis

Odin, Then and Now Scene List: Scene List

Odin, Then and Now Act I: Act-I

Odin, Then and Now Act II: Act-II

Odin, Then and Now Act I Libretto: Odin Act I Libretto

Odin, Then and Now Act II Libretto: Odin Act II Libretto

Odin, Then and Now Backgrounder: Odin Backgrounder

Odin, Then and Now Percussion Orchestra: Instruments of the Percussion Orchestra