Friday, 18 January 2013

From the Odyssey to The exile - part 1

The story behind how the story of The exile developed has almost as many twists and turns as the story itself. In this series I will take you down the road how The exile started off, what the inspiration behind it was, and how it got to where it is.

Even though The exile is an original idea by myself, it did not magically one day pop out and came to be. I got help from a lot a people to get it where it is now.

My first attempt to write a musical was to adapt Homer's classic, the Odyssey. In case you do not know, the Odyssey is a 24 book poem that tells the story of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses (sometimes also called Odysseus), going on a long trip in search of his father. Ulysses was living in exile on an island far away, under the the spell of the goddess, Calypso. The goddess Minerva was given permission by the great god, Zeus, to help Telemachus in his mission to save Ulysses and bring him back home. Seeing any connection here?

In The Odyssey, Homer goes into great detail about Ulysses's journey. He left his home just after Telemachus's birth to join the war against Troy, where he became famous for building a big wooden horse, inside of which they hid. When the Trojans took the horse inside their city walls, Ulysses and his men popped out and sacked the city. Heard the story somewhere? This has been the basis for many movies. If ever you wondered where the term 'Trojan horse' came from - now you know?

There are many more stories of Ulysses's travels in the Odyssey, which you may recognize. What about the one where Ulysses met this one-eyed giant who started eating his friends. Ulysses gave the giant some wine to drink, to make the tasteless humans taste better. As the giant got drunk and fell asleep, Ulysses whacked a huge burning spike into the giant's eye, blinding him and giving them the chance to escape.

You may also have heard the story about the Sirens, or by many believed to be mermaids, who sang this most beautiful song. Whenever sailors heard the song they abandoned the steering of their ships, which had disastrous results as the ships ran into the rocks. Note, I am not talking about a certain Italian casino cruiser here. There is also a story about an island of the living dead, which Ulysses had to visit to get directions back home. This could be the origin of all zombie movies today.

Here are some good links if you are interested in reading more about the Odyssey:

Just as I would regard Tolkien as the father of many modern legends, Homer can be be regarded as the father of many classic tales and legends. Homer lived only about 2,000 years before Tolkien.

You may not find it difficult to see why this epic tale inspired me. Trying to adapt this epic tale to a musical would however have been be a life long venture. A honorable goal to be pursued indeed.

I started writing songs based on each of the books of the Odyssey. The initial songs were just instrumental pieces. I started writing what would have been the first of 24 half-hour musicals. Each musical would have covered one of the books from the Odyssey. I soon realized that I have to get more realistic. Nobody is going to sit through a full 12 hour musical. Wagner almost pulled a similar trick off, but he was kind of already famous by that time. This all had to be brought down to no more than 2 to 3 hours. Next thing was to make this more relevant for people today. I had to find a way to make this story fit into a modern world. Stories about boys with winged sandals, who changes into pretty young ladies whenever they feel like it may not touch the souls of many people today.

This was the start of The exile.

In part 2 of the journey from the Odyssey to The Exile, I will tell you how I shortened the 12 hour story down to a 2 hour story.

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