Briseis: That was Yesterday – Video (Reprise)

You may have noticed that with my new start/emphasis in music, I have been digging through old things I have written and recorded. Here is one I just listened to and want to bring up again. Yes, “again”:  I have posted this twice before!  I am going to combine those two posts into one here.

Real quick (I’ll go into depth later ;)), this is part of a song cycle about Acilleus that I planned on writing when I was doing “classical” music.  It never happened, but I later did a “light-prog-rock” version. The song, “Brisies: That was Yesterday”, takes place just after Agamemnon, in the ultimate political slap down, takes the woman Brisies away from Achilleus by force.  Achilleus knows he can’t fight the whole Greek army who he has sworn allegiance to, so he stands by and lets the Trojans kick some Greek butt.  In this song he realizes that he is in love with the woman who started out as a spoil of war. 

Here it is:

(Click here if you don’t see video below)

For those who want to know, this was all done, except my awful voice, on a computer with virtual instruments – I did play them with a real physical keyboard!

Now to the very long version of the description and some of my thoughts on the Iliad (written in 2014, unedited)…

Several years back, during the darkest hours of the US’s involvement in two wars, I revisited an ancient war. I reread The Iliad. I don’t know if it was because of the political atmosphere or a more mature outlook, but my interpretation of the poem was completely different from any I had had or seen before.

I can’t go into all of the details, but I bring up a few points about my different interpretation of this old classic.

A silly question: How long had the Greeks actually been in front of Ilium when the poem starts? I would say not very long. The boats are just pulled up on shore. There are a few temporary tents set up, but there isn’t the type of village that would have sprung up if they’d been there 10 months let alone 10 years. There were no fortifications. When they talked about past battles, they were always at other cities. Priam needed to ask Helen to identify the main Greek players, which means they had just got there. Most of the people are young. There may have been a 10 year war between the two sides, but the current war with 1000 ships had only been going on a short time and the ships had only just arrived after having knocked over all of Troy’s allies.

More important, at least to me, is that the story can be read as antiwar. Characters from both sides are treated sympathetically with respect and compassion. Think of poor Hector. He didn’t want to fight. He only did it out of duty to his father. The typical death sequence is telling. Until the end, when a person is killed Homer gives what at first seems like just a formula description. But think about it: the soldier is given a name and a home city. Then he is given an occupation away from the war and a family. After he is turned from just a nameless casualty into a real person he dies a gruesome and painful death. It doesn’t matter the side, the poet is saying real people were ripped away from their homes to die on a distant battle field for no real good reason, because a handful of jerks are quarreling. And Homer makes Agamemnon, Menelaus and Paris out to be real jerks, the only people he singled out to be treated this way.

From the beginning the common people really don’t want to be fighting this war. Not just the common people, but Achilles himself.

There are Greek stories about Achilles dressing as a woman to avoid the draft. Odysseus catches on and tricks Achilles into reveling himself, but in truth, he didn’t want to fight in the war.

Most of our ideas about the players come from the Roman sources. If you remember, Rome decided to write themselves into the history by saying Romulus and Remus were descended from Aeneas. Nowhere is this Romanization of the story more pointed than with Achilles. Odyssus doesn’t count in their eyes because to them he is a false person who relies on tricks and ruses to win. As I said, Agamemnon and Menelaus are already jerks. Achilles, though, he is different. He can beat the best of the Trojans, i.e. he can beat the Romans in a fair fight. So they had to make his strength a trickery. The Achilles Heel is 100% a Roman invention. There are no Greek myths or legends about his mother making him invincible. To the Greeks he was a just a man, but a very strong man and the best soldier the world had ever seen.

Of course, the whole Iliad is started because he is a good soldier and a good leader of men, just a bit too headstrong. He was the most successful of all of the Greek leaders on the lead up to the final battle at the gates of Ilium. Agamemnon had to knock him down a few pegs or risk losing his leadership position. The whole Briseis thing was just a huge political smack down to assert control.

Which brings us to this song.

As I said, after rereading the book I came up with some new interpretations. This inspired me to write a cycle of poems. This song cycle is all written from Achilles’ point of view. It adds some of the other Greek legends and ignores all of the Roman additions. I spent weeks researching it before writing a word. I was then going to set it to music.

Well, the music never happened. I stopped writing “classical” music and the song cycle really didn’t fit in anywhere else.

Or so I thought.

One day I sat down and took the first poem, “Brisies (That Was Yesterday)”, and turned it into a song. It’s not rock, it’s not classical; it’s just “Trent”.

Note: this is a demo. I would need a real drummer to put in the percussion parts – don’t tell me the drum part is bad, I know. I would also like to have a real lead vocalist sing. I hate the way my voice sounds. Most of the music, though, is what it will eventually sound like. “Eventually” meaning if I ever do anything with it.

Back then I was into classic sources – my huge work of the time was The Hamlet Symphony…

Hope you enjoy.


Image of Briseis being taken from Achilles from Naples Museum on Pompeii  (image found on Wikimedia Commons)

Oh, BTW, my parrot makes a cameo.  See if you can hear her in a silent section (I did use some effects on her cries).

15 thoughts on “Briseis: That was Yesterday – Video (Reprise)

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks, Yvette. The most unique effect was my parrot screaming as I was recording. I isolated and put an echo on it, so it really stands out as some strange, distressed sound…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Prior...

        I do think I heard some of the parrot sounds (and was looking out for it because you mentioned it at the end of the post) but a six minute song was a little long for me last night (I know, I know – ) and so I did skim the song a bit – :)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks, Leslie. I did write lyrics for a few more songs, but the last time I revisited them nothing jumped out that would be easy to make into a song.

      Hmm, I’ll have to see if WP dropped you from my “Follow” list. I know I used to see a lot of art and music by you, but I haven’t seen anything in ages.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. trentpmcd Post author

          It shows me following your site, but I haven’t seen a post in a while – I’m now going through my Feed to see if I somehow missed your latest post (which is playing in the background as i write)

          Liked by 1 person


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