Reintroducing “Believing Cassandra: The Music Album”

In preparation for the release of my first new studio album in fourteen years, I have been going through my previous catalog of albums, produced on CD and even ancient cassette tapes, and updating what is available to the new digital world. Amazingly (to me), it seems that one of those albums has become a collector’s item.

Currently, if you Google-search on “Believing Cassandra CD”, you will find a link to and the 1999 “audio edition” of my first book, Believing Cassandra. Wrong, wrong, wrong, I say to Amazon!

BelievingCassandra_CD_AmazonWhat you have discovered is the music CD “Believing Cassandra,” which was released simultaneously with the book, as a joint production of Rain City Records, my “Indie” label, and Chelsea Green Publishing, my previous publisher. (The updated new edition of Believing Cassandra, the book, is published by Routledge/Earthscan.)

And that music CD — which features 13 of my songs, including all of the songs referenced in the book, as well as other then-new songs related to the book in thematic terms — has long since gone out of print.

Which makes it a rare commodity. If you try to buy the CD on Amazon, it will cost you at least $50 with shipping. A copy for sale on E-Bay was going for $269.99 (as of today, 4 September 2013)

Here is a tip: the tiny market in “used Alan AtKisson Believing Cassandra music CDs” is about to be disrupted. I will soon re-release the CD online, on iTunes, Spotify and other popular digital music platforms. (You will also be able to buy a physical CD.)

But make no mistake, the first edition will remain the first, irreplaceable edition. For one thing, the cover on the new edition is different: I have never liked that picture of me, draped across the image of Cassandra in my long-haired (early mid-life crisis), sabbatical-year look. That picture was also on the first US edition of Believing Cassandra, the book, and I spent a decade making jokes (at my own expense) to explain it to audiences.

The new edition will also have a revised song order. The order of songs on a CD may not seem like a big thing to you, but to me, it is a huge thing, and I believe we got it wrong on the first edition. The new edition starts, as it should, with the song “Cassandra’s Lyre,” which tells the mythical story of Cassandra. This opening song now echoes the opening of the book, the prologue to which is also a short retelling of the Cassandra myth. (In the original myth and in my book, Cassandra has no “lyre,” or harp. But in my musical version of the story, Cassandra is herself a musician. She sings her prophecies through use of a “magical lyre.” The lyric includes a play on words that underscores the gift and curse settled on her by Apollo: though no one believes her, “Cassandra’s lyre tells only the truth.”)

The former opening song, “I Volunteer,” is now moved toward the end of the sequence, where it belongs. I do love that song, “I Volunteer,” which is something like a march/anthem to volunteerism in the service of promoting sustainable lifestyles. (“I volunteer to be simple / I volunteer to love / every living thing / like a mountain stream / that flows out o’er the land …”) It was even translated into Japanese, and sung by a choir in Osaka! But the song has a religious overtone, because it was originally written for the memorial service (funeral) of an old friend, Joe Dominguez. The “I” in this song is not actually me; it is Joe, who lived very simply, and dedicated decades of life — financed by the small capital he had accrued during a decade of saving his salary — to volunteerism for sustainability causes. The chorus of “I volunteer” ends like this: “I will do my part / I place my heart / in Your gracious hands.” You see, this was how Joe lived his life: he had a strong belief in God — whom he preferred to call “Lola” — and lived the way he lived because he believed God, “Lola,” wanted him to live that way.

But Believing Cassandra is a book based in science, not religion, so it made no sense to have that song come first. The sustainability movement is, of course, wide open to people of all faiths, as well as people of non-faith and not-interested-in-faiths. But the new sequence on the musical CD better reflects the core message of the book. It also shifts the “new” songs (they were new in the 1990s) up in the sequence: three of the songs on the Believing Cassandra music CD had been previously released on my albums Testing the Rope and Whole Lotta Shoppin’ Goin’ On. The three older songs — “Balaton,” “Extinction Blues,” and “Dead Planet Blues” — were included on the CD because they were mentioned in the book, but for anyone who has my older CDs, hearing these songs again early in the sequence can be a bit, well, boring. So now, songs like “Tryin’ to be Happy in a Crazy World” and “Exponential Growth,” specially paired with the book Believing Cassandra, are where they should be: up front.

So, watch for news of the re-release of Believing Cassandra – “The Musical Companion to the Book” – coming soon.


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