Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Current 93 Present: Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson “Edda”

This album, presented by the English esoteric front Current 93, consists of the recitation of ancient texts from the Icelandic Edda by Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson. The Eddas are a collection of texts and poems in Old Norse that were first recorded in Iceland sometime shortly after it officially became Christian in 1000 AD. The texts deal mainly with the mythology of the gods and goddesses of the Norse pantheon as well as some heroic lays concerning legendary mortals. The texts most certainly preserve a much older oral tradition of bards and priests who would recite these legends for attentive audiences. That practice died out in the face of Christianity, but fortunately a large number of the legends and tales were written down by interested scholars and preserved for our enjoyment today.

Each recording here presents a different Eddic poem in recitation. For those of us who don’t speak Icelandic the text is indecipherable, but the rhythmic and repetitive chants are captivating and certainly conjure the stark imagery one would associate with poems once recited on long winter nights around the fire. The texts of the first two tracks are worth a specific mention though, as they are two of the most commonly presented Eddic texts. The first, the Voluspa, presents a sweeping mythological history stretching from the origins of creation to the destruction of the gods and immolation of the earth. The Voluspa is followed by the Havamal: the maxims of Odin. The poem consists of a series of formulaic stanzas that offer instruction in proper social conduct as well as advice for leading a prosperous life.

Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson was a prominent figure in the recent history of Iceland. Born in 1924 he became a sheep farmer at the age of 20 and went on to become a religious figurehead during the 1970s. He founded a group in 1972 dedicated to the practice of the old religion of Iceland which today numbers its members in the thousands. He also published several books on the verse forms of traditional Icelandic poetry as well as several volumes of his own poetic works. He passed away on December 23rd 1993.

-Ryan Kirk

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