It doesn't hurt to have read the myths beforehand, to know Voluspa--at least a translation of the material. But, even without knowing what is going on, the beauty of this music invites one to wander into a different mindspace. The computer can fade away. The CD player--gone.
Now, sitting around the fire, listen to the Edda (grandmother) tell the stories. Tonight the wind doesn't howl so loudly, the snow isn't so cold, bards have joined Edda to remind us of the tales of our heritage.
Is this what our distant Viking kin used to listen to back in their great halls? Absent sound recordings, we'll never know for sure. I do miss the percussion I've heard on other recordings of ancient music.
The stark simplicity of this music compels. "Listen to me!" Hear the words of the Witch, of Voluspa. Hear the tale of Thrym, who steals Thor's hammer and gets taken in by a ruse. "Balder's Dreams" haunts the listener, who knows Balder's fate.
It's interesting to spend 76 minutes listening to this music, then to drop Wagner onto the CD player. The contrast, from the spartan Icelandic music to the richness of the 19th century compositions, can cause a brainquake!