The ballad of the slave ship and the oracle
Text for vocal performance by Josh Koenig
Originlly Staged 12/01/2000 at ETW Share Day (New York University: Tisch School of the Arts) with Josh Koenig as STORYTELLER, Patric Lovejoy as HERO, Barbara P King and Sarah Bubinas as ORACLE, and Adam Carpenter as SLAVER. Johnathan Hart-Makiwa provided piano music. All other sounds/songs/effects provided by his Upper Level Voice Class.
1 - The Village
village theme: a lighthearted piano riff based on the opening of Orbital's "Halcyon+on+on"
STORYTELLER: Once upon a time, long ago and far away, on a lush green island in a deep blue sea, there was a village. The village was a good place, full of happy workers, lauging children and well respected elders. The people of the village seldom saw much of the outside world. They felt no need, moments of youthful wanderlust aside. Even those that left for a very good reason usually came back in the end, for the village truely was a good place.
slave ship theme: darker rolling piano music
But on one particular day, a bright day with a fresh breeze, there was something bad headed toward the village. To the north, making a beeline for the tiny port, planks creaking a putting off a smell to ruin anyones dinner, a great dark ship cut the sea. A slave ship, its decks soaked with sorrows and its hollow eyed crew licking their thin lips in anticipation. They were headed to take the inhabitants of the village away.
battle: competing vocal themes of pirates and villagers... harmony vs dischord
2 - On the Ship
STORYTELLER: After being taken captive and herded aboard the ship, the people of the village watched their island drift over the horizon, and their hearts were near to breaking.
slave ship sounds: whips, "get to work", drumbeat of oarmaster
But the slave traders paid their pain no heed: they'd seen it before, they'll see it again. They set those that could to work and coralled the rest into the stinking hold belowdecks to wait out the voyage in cramped darkness.
groaning of the oar-pulling slaves
The slave ship is a bitter place, gutteral wailing and the cruel taskmaster's whip. They make their sinful progress under a burning sun through choppy seas, shouting like madmen, driven by tear-powered oars, sailing back north to meet with the buyers of misery.
3 - The Hero Awakens
STORYTELLER: Meanwhile, back on the island, someone has been left behind. A young man who had spent the night off in the woods to be alone and find himself is returning. It is not until he is within sight of the village itself, close enough to witness the terrible stillness, that he realizes something is wrong...
HERO: "Where is everyone? Mother? Father? Where have they gone? There was a battle here... Oh what should I do? How will I find my people again?"
STORYTELLER: Remembering stories told around the fires late at night, stories about heroes and gods and dire consiquences, he decides to seek the oracle of the sea. For only the oricle's god-like powers ccan conjure salvation for an entire village. Setting off in a small fishing craft, he knows not when he will return...
4 - The oracle
hero's boat theme: ligher version of the slave ship theme, same rolling storm
STORYTELLER: As he sailed on to meet the oracle, a mighty storm arose, tossing his boat like a strong wind tosses autumn leaves.
storm noises: lightning and thunder
But he refused to turn back. In the darkest hour of the storm he was wrecked.
oracle island noises: strange and eerie
In the morning, he awakes, having washed up on a strange island. The island of the oracle. He climbs the 99 steps of the temple with weak knees, hoping to save his people and his skin. The oracle is vast and awesome.
HERO: Can you help me?
ORACLE: What is it that you require?
HERO: I need to find my people.
ORACLE: Your people have been taken from you?
HERO: Yes... please, tell me where they are...
ORACLE: They have been taken as slaves.
HERO: No! It must not be! Their dispair will be sold to the highest bidder!
ORACLE: It is so. We say it and it is true.
HERO: How can I save them?
ORACLE: Do you ask for our guidance?
HERO: Yes! Help me!
ORACLE: There is a price for our guidance. There is a price.
HERO: I will pay any price
ORACLE: When your people are free you will return to this temple and serve us for seven years. Every first born son of your blood will do the same. Your future will be bonded to us for ever.
STORYTELLER: And so the hero aggreed to the bargan of the oracle. In return the oracle granted him the use of a swift boat and a strong wind, told him the destination of the slave ship, and gave him the true name of their captain.
5 - Pursuit
dueling boat themes
STORYTELLER: And with that swift boat and that strong wind, the young man set about running down the slave ship. He came upon them in the mist, the towering masts of the black slave ship visible through the haze and the keening wail of his people sharp even in the distance.
slave ship theme, quiet
As he drew even with the black gallion, he called up to the high decks,
HERO: Come out! Where is your captain? Show yourself!
STORYTELLER: And so the captain leaned his grizzled head over the gunwales, his eyes wild and breath stinking of rum, and he shouted down:
SLAVER: What's this? Come to join the rest of your villiage at the cost of your freedom boy? A fools trade, but we'll take your bondage willingly.
HERO: I want you to take them home.
SLAVER: You want what you can't have, boy. Ya all want what'cha can't have, don't'cha? Well boy, life is unfair, and I've got clients to please.
HERO: You will take them back. You will do what I tell you.
SLAVER: And why's that?
low vocal underscoring... possible oraclular overtones
HERO: Because I know the name that commands you, Jeridiem. You and your wicked crew will turn back south and return my people, and then you will take your foul ship far and wide spreading joy and doing charitable deeds to right some fraction of the infinite wrong you bore into the world. You will do this because I tell you with the name that commands you, the name I learned from the oracle of the sea, the name that I paid for with my blood and the blood of my sons. You will do this, Jeridiem, because I will you to, and my will speaks with the name that commands you.
the slave captain wails in defeat
STORYTELLER: And all that was promised was done as was said
The villagers that night slept tight in their beds
The slave taking pirates turned tale and fled
And the hero and his sons toiled and bled
All that was done was as fate had intended
All that was wrong in the end it was mended
Tough work and promise, a hard price to pay
The hero's great bargan, it sure saved the day
So here ends this story, this story of mine
This story, like others, from once upon a time