Thursday, October 21, 2010

Concert: Athens V. Sparta 10/23 @ 8p

Just when you thought no one would ever get around to making a rock opera about the Peloponnesian War, Charlie Roadman (along with fellow musicians Kevin Higgenbotham, Cliff Brown, Creston Funk, Jamie Roadman, and Rob Turknett) gets all musical over some classical text written (mostly) by Thucydides (the father of "scientific history" and the school of political realism). Ancient CliffsNotes meet ethereal music and narration in Athens V. Sparta. Common ground: While Thucydides chronicled the war (which dragged on from 431 to 404 BC), he focused on human behavior in times of conflict. Roadman (an Austin-based attorney and well-known defender of musicians facing drug-related charges) also focuses on human behavior- in the PowerPoint presentations he gives outlining the dos and don'ts of conflicts like getting busted with drugs. $10, 8pm, Blue Star Brewing Company, 114 Blue Star,,

From the creators' website: 

“A great war, more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it.” So begins Thucydides’ great history and the story of the Peloponnesian War, the conflict that took place in the latter part of the 5th century BCE and enveloped the entire Greek world for more than thirty years. Although the major grievances were between Athens and Sparta – the two most powerful Greek states throughout the period – the horror, scope, and complexity of the struggle eventually spread across the Mediterranean Sea, from Sicily in the West to modern Turkey in the East. The war brought violence and catastrophe to disparate people throughout and forever changed the course of history. An Athenian general and aristocrat, exiled for much of the war, Thucydides was well placed to observe the ensuing conflict from all points of view, and his timeless and sometimes unsettling tale remains as fresh today as it was two-and-a-half thousand years ago. As the historian concluded, he was not writing merely for his own contemporaries, but to give the world “a possession, for all time.”

So it is not without due cause that historians and scholars have attempted to understand and retell Thucydides’ story, without pause, since it was first written. Athens v. Sparta now joins that tradition, infusing the classic narrative of the Peloponnesian War with a take that is vibrant, modern, and above all, musical. Led by a veteran of the San Antonio and Austin indie music scene, Charlie Roadman, Athens v. Sparta was inspired by Thucydides and his successor Xenophon (who took up the history upon Thucydides’ death) to create a new version, capturing the gravity of the ancient narrative within the approachable framework of well-crafted latter-day musical sensibilities. The result is a vivid, fascinating, occasionally humorous, and often surprising fusion, which achieves its aim well: to present the fullness of the war, its circumstances and consequences, to ears not yet attuned to the niceties and nuances of ancient history. The CD educates and entertains. It is ideal for garnering the interest of students new to Greece and the classical world.

This kind of challenge was not easy. Adapting the war to a music album has taken three years to put together, with 20 musicians involved in creating the final product. Thucydides and Xenophon’s narratives present two substantial volumes, intimidating to even the well-seasoned historian. Using the celebrated edition of Thucydides by Robert B. Strassler, the principal and most dramatic events of the war are divided into fifteen tracks, chronologically ordered, covering the full extent of the conflict. Each track develops the story in two ways. First come the words of Thucydides and Xenophon themselves, poignantly narrated alongside musical backing by renowned Austin actor and director, Ken Webster. Second, cutting through the narrative, is Charlie Roadman’s own interpretation of the events, put to lyrics, and often telling the stories of those who do not find a voice in Thucydides’ text: onlookers, combatants, hapless victims of the battles. Like the primary sources, the musical version of the Peloponnesian War covers not only those moments of confrontation between the two sides, but also reflects the rich detail of the period: life in Athens, relationships between allies, the open sea, diplomatic encounters, and the historical reputation of the principal characters in Thucydides’ work, from Pericles to Alcibiades. All in all, each song, with great pathos, relates the essence of this deep and drawn-out conflict and the ancient texts that told it, attracting newcomers, history enthusiasts, and music fans alike.

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