Music of my Ancestors?

Did the Vikings have rock stars? I imagine the music of my ancestors must have sounded something like this.

Did the Vikings have rock stars? I imagine the music of my ancestors must have sounded something like this.


It has been a busy summer thus far. In addition to my day job at RealTraps, which keeps me quite busy by helping people make their realities sound better, I have been writing quite a bit, and also doing some mixing & recording.

alley-fistMost of the writing has been over at Gods & Radicals, where I’ve written 3 articles since the last update here:

Also, I published here my first ever published article, written way back in 2000 when I was a student at USM. It’s a piece called A Barnraising In Cyberspace: Linux & The Free Software Movement, and is an analysis of my early days using Linux back in 1999, as well as some of my thoughts about the broader potentials of the Free software movement as a commons (though I didn’t really have that language of the commons back then). I think the piece holds up really well, if I do say so myself.

In addition to the writing, much of my free time has been spent working on Morgan Lindenschmidt‘s next EP, which is coming along beautifully. Not that I’m biased, but it’s great fun watching this young artist continue to grow in every possible way as an artist. I can’t wait for the world to hear this stuff.

I’ve also been trying to spend more time outside, given that it’s summer and I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. So, yeah. Busy time of year. Not too conducive to lots of writing online. Let the lamentations begin.


Mix CD#1: Jack & Betty

One genre I didn’t hear much of at home, but did hear at my Uncle Jack & Aunt Betty’s house, was progressive rock: Yes & King Crimson stand out; Floyd and Genesis not so much. This is significant because prog rock became — and remains so to this day — my favorite genre of music (if you force me to choose one). So I made this mix CD, burned it, wrote up some of commentary, and sent a couple copies to Jack & Betty.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, I had a lot of musical influences. Both of my grandmothers had a love of music that was instilled to me. We had a stereo at home and Mom & Dad had a bunch of albums, everything from jazz to 50s and 60s folk, rock, & pop. As a little kid I went through an early Elvis infatuation (circa 1977, just before and after his death), and then I discovered KISS.

One genre I didn’t hear much of at home, but did hear at my Uncle Jack & Aunt Betty’s house, was progressive rock: Yes & King Crimson stand out; Floyd and Genesis not so much. This is significant because prog rock became — and remains so to this day — my favorite genre of music (if you force me to choose one). I also heard some edgier stuff (Bob Dylan) that I hadn’t heard much at home.

So I made this mix CD, burned it, wrote up some of commentary, and sent a couple copies to Jack & Betty. Some people have expressed an interest in it, so I decided to writeup this entry sharing it with the world.

Now, of course I’m an audiogeek, so I mastered this CD, adjusting the relative levels between songs (turning the overcompressed ones down a bit, for instance), and trimming off some transitional intros & outtros, making sure the pause between each song is right. This is what I grew up doing with cassette tapes, applied to the digital realm. Modern tools & 35 years of experience doing this means I’m a lot better at it now than I was on my Fisher Price record player, old GE portable cassette recorder, and the cheap cassettes I could afford at the time. :-)

But then, were I to simply upload a FLAC or an MP3 of my mix CD, I would be violating copyright law, idiotic as this fact is. Therefore, I will include the text of what I wrote, and I will embed each song from youtube. Enjoy!

1. Time Flies
Porcupine Tree
from The Incident

I was born in ’67
The year of Sgt. Pepper
And Are You Experienced?
Into a suburb of heaven
Yeah, it should’ve been forever
It all seems to make so much sense
But after a while
You realize time flies
And the best thing that you can do
Is take whatever comes to you
‘Cause time flies

OK, so I wasn’t born in ’67, it was ’69. But the sentiment of the song stands for me. Steven Wilson (see below for more of his solo stuff) is really doing a lot of great stuff these days with music. He is the main songwriter, singer, and guitarist for Porcupine Tree, who are now in hiatus. I really like the drummer, Gavin Harrison, who is now touring with King Crimson. I love the dynamics of Wilson’s arrangements. And he doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but I love what he does with it. He gets some really lush vocal harmonies. I can hear the Yes influence for sure. He also incorporates more ambient and electronic musical forms as well.

2. Good Intentions Paving Company
Joanna Newsom
from Have One On Me

It took me a while to get Joanna Newsom. Morgan turned me on to her, she’s a big fan of hers. She’s a master harpist (people like to call her the Jimi Hendrix of harp), and she’s part of the “freak folk” scene. Her voice is definitive for sure, but this is the first song of hers that I really got. It took her a long time to grow on me but now I really love her music. This song is another masterpiece at layering vocals. I love the Appalachian roots of her sound.

3. Lost In The Woods
Afghan Whigs
from Do To The Beast

Afghan Whigs are Cincinnati boys. They hit it big with Sub Pop in the early 90s when grunge happened. Angsty, angry, emotive young men they were. They were the local heroes because they got the most attention of anyone from the Cincinnati music scene back then. They reunited last year and did this album, and it’s fantastic. I think it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I love the influence of funk; I think back to the King records/ Cincinnati influence.

Sin is a line of a poem
Unknown with a need to know
A throne in a room with a view
But you’re lost in the woods

4. Home Invasion &
5. Regret #9
Steven Wilson
from Hand. Cannot. Erase

So Steven Wilson realized after the last Porcupine Tree album in 2009 that he liked being a solo artist better. And I admit it’s pretty cool, because he gets some amazing musicians to play with him. The lead guitarist, Guthrie Govan, is one of my favorites playing today, but these two songs are driven by the organ/keyboard player, Adam Holzman, who has played with Miles Davis and a bunch of other people. I love the organ groove throughout Home Invasion. Nick Beggs on bass/Chapman Stick is also very good. Marco Minneman is a great drummer. As Steven Wilson says at his solo live shows “I’m by far the worst musician on this stage.” I can hear the King Crimson influence on this track for sure in some of the edgier pieces, but Wilson also gets some dreamy, ambient soundscapes in it. And a stellar guitar solo from Guthrie Govan in the second half of Regret #9. I love this stuff.

6. I Feel Your Love
Laura Marling
from Short Movie


Laura Marling is another big inspiration for Morgan, and she turned me on to her stuff. She’s young, like 23 or 24, but has a very mature sound to me. This album is her newest one, and is self produced after working with Ethan Johns (son of Glyn Johns, nephew of Andy Johns) for a few albums. Her vocals are outstanding.

7. These Walls
Kendrick Lamar
from To Pimp A Butterfly


If these walls could talk
(I can feel your reign when it cries, gold lives inside of you)
If these walls could talk
(I love it when I’m in it, I love it when I’m in it)

I don’t listen to a ton of hiphop, but this album is really good. I love the acoustic instruments on it, and the sonic spaces in the arrangement. And the vocals on this are really good. Some good guitar and organ too.

8. Matamoros
Afghan Whigs
from Do To The Beast

This one just has a groove that I love. The sound is a bit overcompressed for my taste, but for a song like this they can get away with it. It just kinda slams. I like the jarring string arrangement in parts of this, and just another masterpiece of midwestern angst.

9. Deform To Form A Star
Steven Wilson
from Grace For Drowning

This is from his 2nd solo album in 2011. All his solo albums are good. He’s a busy guy, having been remixing a lot of back catalogs for people like King Crimson. He’s fond of, good at, and known for doing mixes in 5.1 surround sound. It’d be awesome to hear his stuff in 5.1 sometime, I never have….. Anyway, Tony Levin does bass on this song, and Jordan Rudess on piano is really good. Theo Travis on clarinet. The sense of space in this song is really lovely. This is one of his strongest vocal arrangements he’s ever done, in my opinion. And as always with Steven Wilson, the dynamics on this song are stellar.

10. Gurdjieff’s Daughter
Laura Marling
from Short Movie

This is the single from her newest album. It’s nice to hear her play some electric guitar. Look at the stars. Keep those eyes wide….

Who’ll weep for them? Sometimes I do.
I do sometimes
You can’t see it, it might be behind you
Keep your eyes wide
Keep your eyes on the back of your mind

11. How Much A Dollar Cost
Kendrick Lamar
from To Pimp A Butterfly

A great question. How much does a dollar cost? Backing vocals on this by James Fauntleroy are gorgeous. I love Kendrick Lamar’s flow, and the fact that his lyrics are very intelligent and paint a vivid picture. Production on this entire album is really good.

12. These Sticks
Afghan Whigs
from Do To The Beast

Greg Dulli, the singer of Afghan Whigs, is at his achy-est here. And that’s saying a lot. He’s really got a good range, he can do the quieter, haunting stuff, but then he can snarl & belt with the best of them. Incidentally, Dulli sang the parts for John Lennon in the Beatles movie Backbeat in 1994. Not bad for a Cincinnati boy….. although technically he’s a Hamilton boy.

13. Happy Returns
Steven Wilson
from Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hey brother, I’d love to tell you
I’ve been busy
But that would be a lie
‘Cause the truth is
The years just pass like trains
I wave but they don’t slow down

This one ends with a lush arrangement and another tasty guitar solo from Guthrie Govan.

Many Happy Returns indeed!

Preiddeu Annwn

Preiddeu Annwn is an old middle-Welsh poem, attributed to the Bard Taliesin, that dates back (in written form) to the 9th century. It was originally included in the Book of Taliesin. Like all Celtic literature of this time, it is based on a much older oral tradition, gradually finding its way to written form.

Preiddeu Annwn — prounounced PRY-thee AHN-oon — translates as “the treasures of the Underworld.”

This poem is significant for many reasons. One of them is that it seems to be an early prototype of the Arthurian Grail Quest. It contains the refrain “Except seven, none returned,” despite the fact that the quest began with three ships (Prydwen, Arthur’s ship) full of men. The later Grail legends focused on the cup, only the water symbol. This early poem contains all 4 Hallows for each of the four elements, retrieved by Quest from the underworld.

There are a few translations (my favorite is the one by Caitlin and John Matthews) of this poem available, but I didn’t find any of them satisfying. Some of the translations better convey the meaning of the poem, but lose the gorgeous rhyme & rhythm of the Welsh. It’s stunning to hear:

As a result, I compiled my own version in English. I don’t read or speak Welsh so I can’t say this is my own translation. I do not vouch for anything remotely like accurate Welsh scholarship here — I did this merely for fun, as a creative exercise, to create something with some rhyme & rhythm in English, that might convey some of the original meaning.

With that said, here is my version of the poem, with the original Welsh on the left, and lots of creative license in my English rendering on the right.

Preiddeu Annwn

The Treasures of the Underworld


1. Golychaf wledic
pendeuic gwlat ri.

1. Hail!

2. [r]y ledas ypennaeth
dros traeth mundi.

2. Sovereignty!

3. bu kyweir
karchar gweir
ygkaer sidi.

3. Gweir’s prison was prepared in Caer Sidi,
the Fortress of the Mound

4. trwy ebostol pwyll

4. in the manner of Pwyll and Pryderi.

5. Neb kyn noc ef
nyt aeth idi.

5. None before Gweir went down,

6. yr gadwyn trom las
kywirwas ae ketwi.

6. into the heavy blue/gray chains
that bound the loyal youth.

7. Arac preideu annwfyn
tost yt geni.

7. And before the spoils of Annwn
he sang his bitter sound.

8. Ac yt urawt

8. Forevermore,
The bards will speak this Truth.

9. Tri lloneit prytwen
yd aetham ni idi.

9. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men
sailed to Annwn

10. nam seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer sidi.

10. Except seven
none returned from Caer Sidi,
the Fortress of the Mound.


11. Neut wyf glot geinmyn
cerd ochlywir.

11. The bard’s song sounded

12. ygkaer pedryuan
pedyr ychwelyt.
12. in the Four-Peaked Caer Pedyrvan,
forever turning.
13. yg kenneir
or peir
pan leferit.
13. And of its cauldron
was my first song sung
14. Oanadyl naw morwyn
14. Nine maidens kindled the cauldron
breathing it to life
15. Neu peir pen annwfyn
pwy y vynut.
15. What is the nature of
Lord Annwn’s cauldron?
16. gwrym am yoror
16. Enameled iridescence
and pearly white its rim.
17. Ny beirw bwyt llwfyr
ny rytyghit.
17. It will not cook a coward’s food;
its destiny sings a nobler hymn.
18. cledyf lluch lleawc
idaw rydyrchit.
18. The flashing sword of Lleawg
was thust into it.
19. Ac yn llaw leminawc
yd edewit.
19. And left in Lleminawc’s hand
20. Arac drws porth vffern
llugyrn lloscit.
20. Before the door of Hell
lamps burned grand.
21. Aphan aetham ni gan arthur
trafferth lechrit
21. And when we went with Arthur,
We struggled with The Great Work.
22. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer vedwit.

22. Except seven
none returned from Caer Vedwyd
Fortress of the Mead-Feast.


23. Neut wyf glot geinmyn
kerd glywanawr.

23. I Taliesin, first Herald of Glory;
my song sounded

24. ygkaer pedryfan
ynys pybyrdor

24. In Caer Rigor, the Fortress of Hardness
On the island Gate.
25. echwyd amuchyd
25. Where night and day
are one.
26. gwin gloyw eugwirawt
rac eu gorgord.
26. Bright wine was set
before the gathering.
27. Tri lloneit prytwen
yd aetham ni ar vor.
27. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men,
we furrowed the flood.
28. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer rigor.

28. Except seven
none returned from Caer Rigor,
The Fortress of Hardness.


29. Ny obrynafi lawyr
llen llywyadur

29. I merit more than scholars
mere scribes and clerks

30. tra chaer wydyr ny welsynt
wrhyt arthur.

30. Who know not Arthur’s valor
Beyond Caer Wydyr
the Glass Fortress

31. Tri vgeint canhwr
aseui ar y mur.

31. Six thousand men
stood high upon its wall.

32. oed anhawd
ymadrawd aegwylyadur

32. It was difficult
to speak with their watchman.

33. tri lloneit prytwen
yd aeth gan arthur.

33. Three shiploads of Prydwen’s men
went with Arthur.

34. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
ogaer golud.

34. Except seven
none returned from Caer Golud
the Occult Fortress.


35. Ny obrynaf y lawyr
llaes eu kylchwy

35. I merit more than cowards,
their shields hanging limp.
36. ny wdant wy pydyd
peridyd pwy.
36. They know not which day
or who was created
37. py awr ymeindyd
y ganet cwy.
37. or what hour
Cwy was born.
38. Pwy gwnaeth
arnyt aeth
doleu defwy.
38. Who made him
who did not go
(to the) meadows of Defwy, the Court of Heaven?
39. ny wdant wy yrych brych
bras y penrwy.
39. They know not the starry ox,
40. Seith vgein kygwng
yny aerwy.
40. Seven-score links
in its fastening.
41. Aphan aetham ni gan arthur
auyrdwl gofwy.
41. And when we went with Arthur,
a sorrowed journey,
42. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer vandwy.

42. Except seven
none returned from Caer Vandwy,
the Fortress of God’s Peak.


43. Ny obrynafy lawyr
llaes eu gohen.

43. I merit more than weak clerics,
their wills gone slack.
44. ny wdant pydyd
peridyd pen.
44. Who do not know which day
our king was made,
45. Py awr ymeindyd
y ganet perchen.
45. what hour
he was born,

46. Py vil agatwant
aryant ypen.

46. nor of the silver-headed beast
they guard for him.
47. Pan aetham ni gan arthur
afyrdwl gynhen.
47. When we went with Arthur,
a sorrowed journey,
48. namyn seith
ny dyrreith
o gaer ochren.
48. Except seven
none returned from Caer Achren
the Fortress of Enclosedness.


49. Myneich dychnut
val cunin cor.

49. Monks throng together
like a pack of dogs
50. o gyfranc udyd
ae gwidanhor.
50. After an encounter with the wise
who know
51. Ae vn hynt gwynt
ae vn dwfyr mor.
51. whether the wind blows on one path?
whether the sea is one mass of water?
52. Ae vn vfel tan
twrwf diachor.
52. whether a single spark
will tinder a fierce fire?


53. Myneych dychnut
val bleidawr.
53. Monks throng together
like a pack of dogs
54. o gyfranc udyd
ae gwidyanhawr.
54. After an encounter with the wise
who know
55. ny wdant pan yscar
deweint agwawr.
55. When midnight
and dawn divide
56. neu wynt pwy hynt
pwy yrynnawd.
56. Where the wind wanders
until its current subsides
57. py va diua
py tir aplawd.
57. what sea it ravages,
what land it strikes.
58. bet sant
yn diuant
abet allawr.
58. How many ancestors
in the ground abide.
59. Golychaf y wledic
pendefic mawr.
59. Hail!
60. na bwyf trist
crist am gwadawl.
60. Sovereignty!

The Valdris Book: A Manual of the Valdris Samband

I discovered a useful book that I am bookmarking here, called The Valdris Book: A Manual of the Valdris Samband. Written in 1920, it appears to be a history/reference book dealing with “the history and description of the Valdris samband, an organization composed of people from the geographical area known as Valdres in Oppland County, Norway who immigrated to the United States.” A quick search of the book’s index shows that my great-grandfather, Mons Fuglie, is mentioned in this book along with his wife, Louise Haldorson. Both were still alive when the book was written.

This book looks like it will be very useful and interesting, and it appears to be widely available including a free ePub format provided by Google Books.


So is anyone who has met me in person surprised that my ancestors come from the Land Of The Giants? Show of hands…..

Tonight I was researching Valdres, a region of Norway where my ancestors are from, and discovered that this area is in the Jotunheimen Mountains, the “Land Of The Giants.” The 29 highest mountains in Norway are all in Jotunheimen, including the very highest – Galdhøpiggen (2469 m).



Heimskringla The genealogy research I’ve done traces one line of my Norwegian heritage to the Yngling Kings, which are chronicled in the Heimskringla. This history was written by Snorri Sturluson, who is also famous for compiling the Prose Edda.

I have Lee Hollander’s translation of the Poetic Edda, and it is one of my favorite translations because it is faithful to the original poetry. I’m sure eventually I will have to get various translations of this Heimskringla as well, because it turns out these are the stories of my ancestors.

From Wikipedia:

The name Heimskringla was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts (kringla heimsinsthe circle of the world).

Heimskringla is a collection of sagas about the Norwegian kings, beginning with the saga of the legendary Swedish dynasty of the Ynglings, followed by accounts of historical Norwegian rulers from Harald Fairhair of the 9th century up to the death of the pretender Eystein Meyla in 1177. The exact sources of his work are disputed, but included earlier kings’ sagas, such as Morkinskinna, Fagrskinna and the twelfth century Norwegian synoptic histories and oral traditions, notably many skaldic poems.

This is very interesting stuff, and I look forward to diving in more deeply.

Initial post on Ancestry

I just uploaded a bunch more detail to the Ancestry page of this site. It’s only a bare beginning, just a list of names with some basic info and a lot of Wikipedia links. This ancestry traces back to the Viking Sagas, and the Yngling dynasty, which is the oldest known Scandanavian dynasty. this goes back through Snorri Sturluson’s writing, and they are mentioned in Beowulf.

This ancestry walks an intriguing line between history and mythology. I look forward to diving in more deeply and adding as much info as I can find. This will likely be a project that unfolds over many years.

Ancestry and Technology

I recently made a breakthrough in my genealogical study of my ancestors, which was one of the catalysts for creating this site, to give me a fixed place to document it. I finally saw a book that other family members had, which traced my Norwegian ancestry back to the year 740. When I saw that, I paired it with some other genealogical research online and was able to trace it back to before the Common Era (ie, before the birth of Christ).

As a result of documenting this, I am exploring various software options to do it. One is to simply create a webpage that lists the ancestry back, generation by generation. Another is to use specialized genealogy software, which looks like a good option at the moment.

I’m a big fan of free software and use it whenever possible. There is a free program called Gramps, and it looks very promising. It’s basically a large database tweaked specifically for geneology, and it can generate all sorts of charts and reports.

In addition, I am in the process of scanning the book that was sent to me. The original was self-published in limited runs, so this will make the information more accessible to family members.

I’ll be keeping things updated as I go, but this is a good initial entry.