Laxdaela Saga
Laxdaela Saga was written by an anonymous author in 13th century Iceland. I decided to put it to music.
I made rough recordings of the songs (The majority were done at Playr Studio, with Kyle Harris, the more elaborate were done by me at home) and put them into a "movie" consisting mostly of the lyrics (color-coded so you can tell which character I am portraying at any point) surrounded by lovely pictures of Iceland.
The results are available:
by download    
Act I (205 MB)  
Act II (137 MB)  
   
on YouTube  
Act 1
Act 2
You can also search YouTube for Hannes Act 1 and Hannes Act 2
   
Act 1 is almost an hour long, Act 2 is about a half an hour. Below are some explanatory notes.
The Icelandic Sagas
The literature of the Icelandic sagas is far less well known than it deserves to be. As an artifact of the thirteenth century -- a particularly desolate period for European literature -- the sagas are historically interesting, but as literature they are far more than a mere curiosity. Their plain-spoken approach, rendered by now-anonymous authors, provides a rich alternative to more flamboyant literary styles. The writing seems to almost journalistically avoid passing judgment on the characters. As is true of real people, these characters alternately act wisely and foolishly, honorably and selfishly, out of genuine love and pointlessly wounded pride. Overall, they are too nuanced and complex to merely be described as “good” or “bad.” Portraying people with that degree of depth is a major achievement for any type of writing.
Laxdĺla Saga
Laxdĺla Saga is among the most approachable of the Icelandic sagas for those unfamiliar with the genre. While the setting and the details are uniquely Icelandic, the story of two friends caught in a tragic love triangle is universal. The themes that animate Laxdĺla -- honor, friendship and duty -- can speak to just about anyone, anywhere. The story transcends its particulars while keeping intact the sense of the harsh, exotic setting of historical Iceland. The characters can be sympathetic and frustrating, noble and petty, but their dilemmas and their reactions are always distinctly and honestly human.
The Music
Writing music to Laxdĺla Saga presented some particular challenges. The first was the need to simplifying the intricate plot line and pare down the sprawling story to manageable size by leaving behind whole enthralling strands of the story. Perhaps even harder for a songwriter is the saga style in which little is directly revealed about the interior thoughts or the ultimate motivations of the characters. The stories prefer to let the actions speak for themselves and let the reader provide the conclusions. Song writing, however, is best suited to conveying emotions. At many points, I took it upon myself to interpret the motives of the actors and present descriptions of their feelings. My version of Laxdĺla is clearly an interpretation and a reaction to Laxdĺla Saga, rather than something approaching a strict translation.
I can only hope that important aspects remain undisturbed. Chief among these is the approach that refuses to resort to simple categorizations of the characters as being good or bad. Hopefully the human complexity remains undisturbed.
Icelandic themes
Several of the uniquely Icelandic issues bear mention. The first is the concept of fate that permeates the piece. Most of the story is foretold in advance by a man with the power to see the future. How one views the inevitability of what follows, and the resulting moral culpability, does not necessarily accord with the typical modern western view of personal responsibility. The second Icelandic artifact revolves around the issues of honor and justice. Iceland was nearly unique in the saga period for lacking any central law-enforcement authority. The responsibilities for enforcing justice that this imposed on the characters are novel and interesting to a modern audience.
Pronunciation notes:
All two syllable words accent on the first syllable.
r’s are rolled at every opportunity
a is pronounced like “ah” or as is “car”
ae is pronounced as a long i.
Bolli is pronounced “Bodli”  
Kjartan is pronounced “Kyartan”  
Hrefna is pronounced “Hrebna”  
The letter đ in Guđrun is a thoth, pronounced as the “th” in “that.”
The letter Þ in Þorgerđ is an eth, pronounced as the “th” in “think.”
TITLES
ACT I ACT II
1 Family and Land 19 Any Other Women
2 Some Dark Day* 20 The Ghost in Our Lives
3 Friends 21 Step by Step
4 I Belong With You 22 Someone Has to Pay*
5 In Norway 23 A Long, Long Time Ago*
6 God's Right Hand 24 The Final Turn*
7 If I Asked 25 December Skies*
8 Somebody’s Shadow 26 Morning Tasks
9 Waiting (A Long, Long Time) 27 Back Again
10 A Woman In Love 28 Stay Your Hand
11 There’s A Ship* 29 Peace and Justice*
12 Don’t Make Fun of Me 30 Guđrun Smiled*
13 Til Death Do Us Part 31 Listen Child*
14 The Truth of the Matter 32 Which One*
15 Skoal 1.     
16 The Stronger Man Walks Away
17 Skoal 2
18 Fire and Ice
*Songs using music written by Ragnar Kvaran
THE SONGS including spoilers!)
  ACT I
1 Family and Land. The Cast provides an introduction to the two families in the story -- one headed by Olaf, the other by Osvif -- as well some themes in Icelandic society.
2 Some Dark Day. Gestur, who can see the future, foretells the basic outline of the tragedies to follow. We meet the main three characters: Kjartan and Bolli, cousins who have grown up as the best of friends in Olaf’s husehold, and Guđrun, the beautiful, strong-willed daughter of Osvif.
3 Friends. The three young protagonists meet at the outdoor spring baths. We learn that Kjartan and Guđrun are romantically involved.
4 I Belong With You. Kjartan tells Guđrun that he and Bolli will leave for adventure in Norway. She wants to go too. When Kjartan declares that impossible, they part of bad terms.
5 In Norway .We see, through Guđrun’s imagination, events unfold in Norway. Kjartan has been spending time with Ingibjord, the sister of Norway's King Olaf. 
6 God's Right Hand. King Olaf sees in the Icelanders a chance to further his ambitions of spreading Christianity. He keeps Kjartan hostage while Bolli is sent home to deliver the news
7 If I Asked. Upset by Kjartan’s behavior in Norway, Bolli approaches Guđrun.
8 Somebody’s Shadow. A lifetime of living as second-best to Kjartan has left Bolli jealous and determined to have Guđrun.
9 Waiting (A Long, Long Time). Bolli and Guđrun’s family seek to convince her that she should forget Kjartan and accept Bolli.
10 A Woman In Love. Guđrun finally tires of waiting and gives in to Bolli and her family’s requests.
11 There’s A Ship. As Kjartan is allowed to leave Norway, Ingibjorg says good-by. He clearly intends to return to Guđrun and find her waiting.
12 Don’t Make Fun of Me. Kjartan returns to learn that Bolli and Guđrun are married. He woes the sweet Hrepna, who agrees while fearing that his affections are false.
13 ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Kjartan and Hrepna marry and remain happily together.
14 The Truth of the Matter. Bolli and Guđrun, on the other hand, have an unhappy relationship because Bolli knows where Guđrun’s affections really lie and because Guđrun suspects that Bolli may have deceived her about Kjartan’s behavior in Norway.
15 Skoal 1. In the first of two feasts, at this one at Olaf’s’s farm, matters deteriorate as Guđrun has her brother steal a sword from Kjartan.
16 The Stronger Man Walks Away Kjartan’s father Olaf, a deep and intense man of peace, urges his son to hold his temper.
17 Skoal 2. In the second feast, now at Osvif’s farm, matters become ever worse as Hrepna’s headdress is stolen and deep insults are exchanged.
18 Fire and Ice. Kjartan retaliates by locking Bolli and Guđrun in their house for three days. While sitting outside he sings a love song to Iceland, or perhaps it is to Guđrun.
  ACT II
19 Any Other Woman. Hrepna jokes that Kjartan still has feelings for Guđrun. He responds angrily.
20 The Ghost in Our Lives. Hrepna realizes that they will not be free of Kjartan’s feeling for Guđrun.
21 Step by Step. Olaf sees the impending tragedy and hopes it can be averted.
22 Someone Has to Pay. Guđrun now suggests that Bolli must take revenge on Kjartan. She enlists her brothers’ help.
23 A Long, Long Time Ago. Bolli remembers the good and the bad of his relationship with Kjartan.
24 The Final Turn.  Bolli and Guđrun’s brothers agree to ambush and kill Kjartan.
25 December Skies. Kjartan and Bolli meet in battle. Kjartan is killed.
26 Morning Tasks. Guđrun both gloats and grieves over Kjartan’s death. Bolli is clearly sorry and angry at Guđrun.
27 Back Again. Olaf, mourning his son, is tasked with meteing justice. He banishes Guđrun’s brothers from Iceland -- the harshest possible verdict -- but leaves Bolli relatively unpunished.
28 Stay Your Hand. Olaf counsels his other sons to forego avenging Kjartan’s death.
29 Peace and Justice. Olaf dies and Þorgerđ, his wife, now pushes her sons to avenge Kjartan’s death by killing Bolli.
30 Guđrun Smiled. Bolli is killed, with Guđrun watching. She seems oddly unaffected, but one of the murders foretells that the child she is carrying will carry out her revenge.
31 Listen Child. Guđrun’s child, also named Bolli, grows up, being told about his duty to avenge his father.
32 Which One. Having fulfilled his duty as avenger, young Bolli returns to ask his mother a final question before he leaves: Which of the men in her life had she loved the most.