srijeda, 3. srpnja 2013.

Sarah Kirkland Snider - Penelope (2010)

Povratak kao konačni oblik razdvajanja. Penelopesko-odisejski teatarski ratovi u elegičnom pjevnom ciklusu.


Penelope is a song cycle by composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, featuring vocalist Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and the chamber orchestra Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman. Inspired by Homer’s epic poem, the OdysseyPenelope is a meditation on memory, identity, and what it means to come home. Suspended somewhere between art song, indie rock, and chamber folk, the music of Penelope moves organically from moments of elegiac strings-and-harp reflection to dusky post-rock textures with drums, guitars and electronics, all directed by a strong sense of melody and a craftsman’s approach to songwriting.
Penelope originated as a music-theater monodrama, co-written by McLaughlin and Snider in 2007-2008 and commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Center. In the work, originally scored for alto/actor and string quartet, a woman’s husband appears at her door after an absence of twenty years, suffering from brain damage. A veteran of an unnamed war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to himself, she reads him the Odyssey, and in the journey of that book, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory and the terror and trauma of war. In 2009 Snider re-conceived Penelope as a song cycle, expanding and tailoring it to the unique talents of vocalist Shara Worden and the chamber orchestra Signal, and collaborating with programmer Michael Hammond on sound design.
The album has met tremendous critical success. Pitchfork rated it at a 8.3, calling it a “gorgeous piece of music, but it is more– it is also a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait, one that explores a dark scenario with a light, almost quizzical touch, finding poetic resonances everywhere.” NPR remarked that Penelope “deftly weaves pop and classical” with a score that is “inventive and subtle, with a mix of watery, undulating strings, guitars, percussion and electronics that submerges you completely within the story.” The album has also been called “achingly stark… easily the most beautiful album of the year” (The Indie Handbook) and “accomplished and remarkable… gorgeous and soul-stirring” (textura). It was also hailed as one of the 5 Best Genre-Defying Albums of the Year (2010) by NPR, and named #3 favorite album of 2010 by Textura.
Sarah Kirkland Snider has been on the classical circuit for years, but her breakthrough came with last year’s arresting Penelope. A collaboration between Snider, playwright Ellen McLaughlin, singer Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), the Signal chamber orchestra, and conductor Brad Lubman, Penelope is a song cycle about a woman whose amnesiac husband returns to her after 20 years. To help the two of them deal with their separation and reunion, she reads him The Odyssey. While these mirrored stories might scream “meta,” there’s nothing inaccessible about Snider haunting and epic work. Writing for The New York Times, Steve Smith observed that Penelope “had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation.” -

Snider has taken a fascinating idea from playwright Ellen McLaughlin and turned it into a song cycle that works on several levels. A woman opens her front door to find her lover/husband back after 20 years in an unnamed war, unable to remember who he is. Her therapy, for both of them, is to read Homer's Odyssey to him as they wait and hope for his mind to heal. Yet another indie-classical song cycle featuring Shara Worden, Penelope deals with big ideas -- memory, identity, "home" -- but it's also an intimate portrait of a woman who, like Homer's Penelope, is confronted with finally getting what she's wished for. The top-shelf new music ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, is equally at home with the electronics and electric guitars of the score as the conventional acoustic instruments. Alternately intimate and dramatic, "This Is What You're Like" is a good example of this lovely and colorful score.
Penelope is such an accomplished and remarkable work, it's hard to believe that it could possibly be the debut album by NYC-based composer (and New Amsterdam Records co-director) Sarah Kirkland Snider. Ambitious too, Penelope is an hour-long song cycle that gives a modern spin to Homer's Odyssey with Snider's music paired with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin. The traditional story that recounts the adventures encountered by the Greek warrior Odysseus as he makes his way home from the Trojan wars is updated in the new work by having the story told from Penelope's point of view; in the updated re-telling, her husband returns, emotionally scarred from years of war, after which Penelope tries to help him rebuild his memory by reading to him from Homer's epic. Originally conceived as a music-theatre piece by McLaughlin and Snider,Penelope was then re-imagined to be a sixty-minute work for voice, chamber orchestra, and electronics that was tailored specifically for the performers featured on the recording.
Snider has composed a ravishing score that bridges modern classical and electronic genres and that proves even more affecting when graced by the vocalizing of Shara Worden (singer for My Brightest Diamond) and supported by the chamber ensemble Signal (conducted by Brad Lubman). In keeping with a project concept that focuses on memory and the reuniting of lovers long parted, Snider's melodies are often yearning and pregnant with emotion. The album's generally elegiac and often mournful tone is established immediately when “The Stranger with the Face of a Man I Loved” opens the album hauntingly, with Worden's delicate vocal melodies navigating intricate pathways through a full-bodied arrangement of strings, glockenspiel, and drums. Throughout the album, electronic touches occasionally make their presence felt though subtly. Instrumentally, the songs' dense arrangements emphasize strings and percussion (drums, vibes, glockenspiels) with electric guitar shadings (contributed by Grey McMurray and Steven Mackey) worked into the mix for extra colour. Some of the album's fourteen pieces are atmospheric and dirge-like, while others are poignant and even emotionally wrenching. This year or any year for that matter, one would be hard pressed to hear melodies that are more gorgeous and soul-stirring than those distinguishing “The Lotus Eaters.” Material so powerful placesPenelope head and shoulders above much else that was released in 2010. -

“The Lotus Eaters” video was directed by Murat Eyuboglu and edited by David Sarno, and was shot at the East Point Lighthouse and an abandoned military base in New Jersey.
Praise for “The Lotus Eaters” Video:
“My Old Kentucky Blog is abnormally proud to premiere the absolutely stunning video for “The Lotus Eaters,” one of several haunting numbers from Penelope that taunts me for merely saying that it defies description.”
My Old Kentucky Blog, November 3, 2010
“Clocking in at over seven minutes, Sarah Kirkland Snider ‘s “The Lotus Eaters” isn’t so much a music video as it is an epic undertaking… magnificent.”
The End of Irony, November 5, 2010
“It’s an excellent visual account of the album itself, recreating the feelings of loss and dysphoria as Worden works her way through wind-whipped fields, ivy-covered ruins, and a makeshift infirmary under a vast expanse of sunless sky.”
“This is just the kind of thing we like to see at Synesthesia: a serious musician–in this case a composer–collaborating with fellow artists to achieve an intriguing interdisciplinary result. In my mind, this is reminiscent of the giant strides The Metropolitan Opera is making with its “Live in HD” series–essentially, making serious music more accessible to the masses by utilizing the modern mediums of video and the internet.”
Synesthesia, December 2, 2010


Press ]
“A potent melding of classical poise and alt-pop punch, this dreamy song cycle was the year’s most affecting creation. Accompanied by new-music dream team Signal, vocalist Shara Worden mesmerized.”
The New York Times, March 10, 2011
Penelope is a gorgeous piece of music, but it is more — it is also a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait, one that explores a dark scenario with a light, almost quizzical touch, finding poetic resonances everywhere…Snider’s music lives in a netherland between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music, an increasingly populous inter-genre space that, as of yet, has produced only a few clear, confident voices. Snider is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all: No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.” (8.2 out of 10; full review)
–Jayson Greene, Pitchfork, January 5, 2011
“[Penelope] had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation… ably [demonstrating] the poised elegance of Ms. Snider’s writing.”
– Steve Smith, The New York Times, “Welcome Home, Says A New Mrs. Odysseus,” May 24, 2009
“Snider has taken a fascinating idea from playwright Ellen McLaughlin and turned it into a song cycle that works on several levels… Penelope deals with big ideas — memory, identity, “home” — but it’s also an intimate portrait of a woman who, like Homer’s Penelope, is confronted with finally getting what she’s wished for. The top-shelf new music ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, is equally at home with the electronics and electric guitars of the score as the conventional acoustic instruments. Alternately intimate and dramatic…lovely and colorful.” (full article)
“With an onslaught of indie bands attempting to combine intellect and musicianship along with a pop sensibility, few have the ability to harness all three in the way Snider has on Penelope.  She courageously tackles a dramatic story arc in the vein of a Puccini opera while never losing track of her audience. Dramatic music may still be popular in many different genres but is rarely done with such care and precision.” (full review)
Death and Taxes Magazine, “Another Reason Why Classical Music Is Not Dead,” October 25, 2010
“To my recollection, the song cycle Penelope is the most vivid, mesmerizing psychological nightmare set to music I’ve heard.” (full article)
–Daniel J. Kushner, The Huffington Post, “The Top 10 Alternative Art Songs of 2001-2010,” December 28, 2010
“Uniting pop and classical music, though, doesn’t have to result in a shadow of both worlds…Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music. [Penelope] is a cycle of haunting art songs… Her music, beautifully sung by Shara Worden and expertly played by Signal, a chamber orchestra, echoes the piercing melancholy of a Chopin nocturne and spacious rhythms of minimalism. Snaking out of the pastoral backdrop are instantly hummable pop melodies.” (full article)
–Kevin Berger, The Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2010
“…one of the most moving indie rock records I’ve heard all year. Penelope is not just essential listening; it is a soul-restoring musical balm.” (full review)
–Daniel Stephen Johnson, The New Haven Advocate, December 14, 2010
“[Penelope] is one upsettingly beautiful song after another strung together in a garland of insanity, desperation, tenderness, remembering and, if not ultimately recovery and redemption, then at least acceptance and release.” (full review)
–Jennifer Hambrick, “Penelope: Songs Song and Unsung,” WOSU, Classical E-Notes, November 18, 2010
“Snider’s musical language includes intricate string writing as well as evocative, post-minimalist shimmers of vibraphone and percussion, and urgent electric guitar and drum kit.  Holding it all together is the distinctive voice of Shara Worden… alternately melancholic, agitated and poignant… the musical offspring of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Eno’s Music for Airports… haunted, glitchy … bewildering and subtle… [serving] to confirm Snider’s deft command of many different musical languages and the ability of the band Signal, an all-star new music group led by conductor Brad Lubman, to play almost anything put in front of them with conviction.” (full review)
–John Schaefer, eMusic, November 5, 2010 (Editor’s Pick)
“…the journey through Penelope—achingly stark, sparse, swaying, and soaring—begs repeated listening with an attentive ear. The way hints of Radiohead and David Lang materialize and mingle with St. Vincent and Chopin only to be reabsorbed into an aural landscape that is uniquely—ineffably—the voice of Sarah Kirkland Snider, results in what is easily the most beautiful album of the year.” (full review)
The Indie Handbook, “Penelope: A Labor of Love,” October 28, 2010
“…there is one album that stands out in my mind as the landmark achievement of 2010: Penelope.”
The Indie Handbook, Best of 2010, December 31, 2010
“[Penelope] deftly weaves pop…and classical. Snider’s dark-hued score is inventive and subtle, with a mix of watery, undulating strings, guitars, percussion and electronics that submerges you completely within the story. Some songs flaunt melodic hooks, others are atmospheric. And all are aided by Worden’s vocals, mournful, urgent and expressive. Brad Lubman conducts the tight little chamber ensemble known as Signal.” (full review)
–Thomas Huizenga, National Public Radio, “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” October 7, 2010
“In the last decade or so, a new breed of conservatory-trained musicians has reinvented crossover in unprecedented ways, fusing classical tradition with hip-hop, indie rock and world music and providing new, exciting audience bridges among these forms at the same time. A good example is New York composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s rock-tinged song cycle “Penelope.” (full article)
–Kyle MacMillan, The Denver Post, December 12, 2010
“This collaboration between composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, the chamber orchestra Signal, and vocal virtuoso Shara Worden is truly epic.”
The Utne Reader, September Music Sampler, September 1, 2010
“[Penelope] features a genre-blending style compelling enough to throw categorizations to the wind and revel in its unique dialect… emotive and heart-wrenching to haunting and ethereal… imaginative and thoughtfully constructed… lovers of pop and rock music will enjoy the numerous catchy tunes…while the classical and contemporary music crowds will be drawn to the strong string writing and orchestration (containing traces of Pärt and Sibelius) and the precise, expressive performances by Signal.” (full review)
–Alexandra Gardner, New Music Box, October 19, 2010
“hauntingly beautiful… a vibrant, revamped storytelling… expressed through meaty masterpieces and told through approachable, heart-wrenching dialect.” (full article; interview with Sarah and Shara.)
Venus Zine, “Sarah Kirkland Snider Sees Homer’s Odyssey in a Female Light,” November 15, 2010
“…a stunning song cycle… Impressive New York chamber ensemble Signal, which also understands how to bridge contemporary classical and pop, performed the music. Penelope isn’t really a pop-rock effort, though there are plenty of rock rhythms and hooky melodies—Snider’s art songs deal in motific development rather than verse-chorus-verse structures. Worden’s singing is hardly bombastic or operatic but rather carefully pitched to the concision of the material.” (full article)
Chicago Reader, February 4, 2011
“This must be what going mad feels like…The heady arrangements open up with closer attention, leading the listener through an aural labyrinth and providing a new experience with every listen… Shara Worden’s voice serves as a guide to the world Sarah Kirkland Snider has created… Even without Worden’s chilling, operatic vocals, the tension that pulls the piece together delivers a compelling narrative… the experience I have just had has a name: Penelope, by Sarah Kirkland Snider.” (full review)
Popshifter, October 26, 2010
Penelope playfully glides between classical and avant pop… [a] weary bewilderment threads through the piece, underscored by chamber orchestra Signal’s melancholic strings that carry a hint of distortion while still exuding a distinct warmth… there are many secrets that can’t be unraveled on a first listen… The catchiness of the music, though, draws us to seek out meaning, and repeated listenings don’t disappoint.” (full review)
–Chris Kompanek, The Avantgardist, Classical TV, November 8, 2o10
“Mesmerizing…lush, evocative, and deeply moving.”
Time Out New York, October 13, 2010
“epic…showcasing a breathtaking vocal performance from My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden set to a haunting string arrangement.”
Filter Magazine, September 28, 2010
“Stylistically, the cycle at once possesses an unabashed pop sensibility and a subtle sophistication… The result is a supremely polished yet genuine and spontaneous-sounding album that bursts with maturity.”  (full review)
–Daniel J. Kushner, Post-Post Rock, October 25, 2010
“Sarah Kirkland Snider has generated a minor critical tsunami this year with Penelope… MOKB is abnormally proud to premiere the absolutely stunning video for The Lotus Eaters, one of several haunting numbers from Penelope that taunts me for merely saying that it defies description.”
My Old Kentucky Blog (Premiere of “The Lotus Eaters” video), November 3, 2010
“remarkable…a beautiful cycle of songs, could just as easily be an opera if fully-staged.” (full article)
–John Schaeffer, WNYC New Sounds: Women’s Tales, September 9, 2010
“subtly explosive…the roar of applause at the end seemed as cathartic as it was genuine.” (full review)
Lucid Culture, “Some Auspicious Debuts at le Poisson Rouge,” October 21, 2010 (re: Penelope live)
“a dreamy song cycle for the indie rock generation.” (full clip)
–Marlon Bishop, WNYC Culture, October 18, 2010
“…the melodies stick in my plasma and everything has the weight of myth and the deep sadness of living.”
Screen of Distance, Top 25 Records of 2010, December 28, 2010
“The phrases and the underlying harmonies would sound completely at home on a Radiohead record.  For Snider too, Kid A was a record that offered a way out of a strict classical/rock divide, and Penelope is clearly the result.  It’s long, narrative arc is dramatic in the manner of Schumann and Schubert, but the understated, ambiguous resolution captures the questioning stance of so much of Radiohead’s material, and the essential irrelevance of the classical idea of musical material that takes a journey and comes to a specific end.” (full article)
Classical TV, “On the Myth of Difficult Music,” George Grella, September 20, 2010
“”This Is What You’re Like” is an adroitly constructed composition… For all its stringed drama, layered presentation, dynamic changes, and uncertain chords, however, this is a song that does not forget that it is in fact a song—an impressive accomplishment for a classically trained composer… The song benefits greatly from Shara Worden’s dusky, charismatic presence; her eclectic background makes the My Brightest Diamond singer a natural for the project.” (full review)
–Jeremy Schlosberg, Fingertips Music, August 24, 2010
“Snider’s score is the very model of smart, contemporary “music savant”—”knowing music” engaged with the “classical” tradition but unafraid to trot out the tools of “popular” music to suit its purposes… Penelope is, for me, the finest, most indispensable and potentially lasting new work I have heard or am likely to hear this year.  You should immediately get yourself a copy and listen to it over and over and over, as you would read and reread a great novel, story, or poem such as, say, the Odyssey.” (full review)
–George Wallace, A Fool in the Forest, November 3, 2010
“A modern composer with a gift for vivid narrative, Snider’s work weaves together a variety of seemingly different styles and genres into creations that transcend the ordinary. I’m still having a difficult time comprehending the emotions [Penelope] evokes… This has fast become one of my favorite albums, and maybe I’m just infatuated, but I’m having trouble finding something about Penelope that isn’t gorgeous.” (full review)
“The overwhelmingly moving concept [of Penelope] is balanced by clear, concentrated and undemonstrative writing…[Snider] reveals it with sympathy and trusts that we will hear and respond, deeply, in our own way. It’s almost dogmatically non-Romantic, but still full of warmth and feeling… The results are powerfully elegiac but not hopeless. Penelope does not settle on a complete, clichéd resolution, but offers the evidence that proves the possibilities of humanity.” (full article)
–George Grella, The Big City, “OK Composer,” October 1, 2010
“…a beguiling piece of musical art…filled to the brim with emotion, feeling, passion, beauty, longing, forgetting, and remembering.” (full review; 4.5. out of 5 “superb”)
Sputnik, January 12, 2011
Penelope is a genre busting musical painting.  Snider is comfortable to embrace any musical style that best progresses her tale.  Haunting, yet beautiful.” (full review)
Innocent Words, November 28, 2010
“Snider can, it turns out, apply her classical chops toward the creation of an amazingly solid pop record.  It’s seamless!  Snider’s hand is incredibly well-hidden here—this could be a singer-songwriter disc that just happens to have especially savvy harmonies and arrangements…So I have greatly enjoyed listening to Penelope, but more than that, I have actually turned to it for when I am feeling down. It is a balm! It is tha bomb.” (full article)
–Daniel Stephen Johnson,, November 29, 2010
“It feels like every day a new [songwriting] talent comes calling to the masses for their praise.  Not many stand out and quite often they seem redundant.  In the coming months composer Sarah Kirkland Snider shouldn’t have to worry about such trivial matters, at least if her new single “This Is What You’re Like” is any indication of what’s to come.”
– Indie Rock Reviews, March 9, 2010
“…But as a music critic who might “Bah!” and “Arrgh!” at some new [style] of work I can with confidence say that “This Is What You’re Like” is awesome. It’s such a well-crafted song with intense emotion and wonderful instrumentation. The vocals are classic My Brightest Diamond and hearing Worden in a slightly different and unique setting is just thrilling.”
– Knox Road, March 11, 2010, “MP3 of the Day”
“There are very few out there that match Shara’s capacity to sing anything from rock, blues, pop and classical in the blink of an eye and sound absolutely perfect doing so… Aside from being the perfect thing to tide over those eagerly anticipating Shara’s next MBD album – whenever that might be – it’s also the debut album for Sarah Kirkland Snider, one that definitely inspires keeping a keen eye out for future work, Shara or no.” (full review)
– Satellite for Entropy, October 28, 2010
“”This Is What You’re Like” is both epic and heartbreaking with broad, orchestral movements that push it along.”
Trend Robot, March 12, 2010, “Track of the Day”
“…one of the underrated masterpieces of 2010.” (full review)
–Dallas Shal-Hune, Reviews, December 20, 2010
“Shara Worden — typically of My Brightest Diamond, although she collaborates frequently — has a woozy, mesmerizing voice that’s exotic and enticing. She’ll put it to good use in “Penelope,” an hourlong song cycle composed for female voice, chamber orchestra and electronics by the composer Sarah Kirkland Snider.”
– Amanda Petrusich, The New York Times, April 1, 2010 (Critic’s Pick in both Classical/Opera and Pop/Rock Listings)


“…a composer with an enviable knack for crafting moody, strikingly beautiful works.” — Time Out New York
“[Penelope] had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation …ably [demonstrating] the poised elegance of Ms. Snider’s writing.” — The New York Times
Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music.” – The Los Angeles Times
“…[a] bright young composer…” — The New York Times
“…the emotional immediacy and sense of narrative were arresting…” — The Yale Daily News
“…[a] gifted young composer…” — Time Out New York
“…indeterminately elegiac, or just plain lovely…” — The New Haven Independent
“…a startling new voice…” — Bruce Hodges, Monotonous Forest
“…the gem among the rest…” — The Manchester Evening News
“graceful, haunting, deft” —
“…Luminous romanticism…tender, lyrical and avuncular.” — The Glasgow Herald
“…as easy on the ears as it is demanding of the mind.” — Hotel St. George Press


“The Maria Malibran of the post-classical set…” – The New York Times
Bring Me The Workhorse is a thing of intricate, mystical beauty, vacillating between dark and uplifting on the cusp of Worden’s expressive vocal acrobatics.” — Time Out New York
“…enigmatic songs from My Brightest Diamond; its leader, Shara Worden, sang with velvety richness as she dispensed stark riffs and elusive memories.” – The New York Times
“Guitarist and acclaimed composer Shara Worden blends striking, quasi-classical sounds with lo-fi rock (PJ Harvey, Breeders).” — Time Out London
“My Brightest Diamond is a gal and her guitar, playing gorgeous but spooky music, accompanied by a string quartet or a band or no one…check her out yourself.” — New York Press
“New York band My Brightest Diamond plays passionate pop with classical leanings, and the key ingredient to its success is singer Shara Worden…here she’ll be joined by the entire band for a set of sometimes fragile, sometimes blazing, always emotive songs that should appeal to fans of Jeff Buckley.” — The Onion
“My Brightest Diamond frontwoman Shara Worden has the classically trained vocal equipment for the opera but chooses to mix ambient indie rock and Cocteau Twins-style goth.” — Isthmus
“There are very few out there that match Shara’s capacity to sing anything from rock, blues, pop and classical in the blink of an eye and sound absolutely perfect doing so.” — Satellite for Entropy


“vibrant, euphoric performances that seemed to electrify.” — The New York Times
“The new ensemble Signal fills a major gap in the contemporary music scene.” — Time Out New York
“Lubman’s performance is ideal… its rainbow of timbres are beautifully polished and balanced.  A triumph.” —BBC Magazine
“All hail Brad Lubman!” — The New York Times
“Gripping vehemence” — The Los Angeles Times
“Deeply committed performances.” — Musical
“They are a force to be reckoned with… powerful and poetic brilliance.” — The Ojai Post

[Daughter of the Waves]

“yMusic, a sextet that adds flutes, clarinets, and trumpet or horn to the string-trio mix, represented a step up in the quality of both performance and music. I particularly liked Sarah Kirkland Snider’s substantial “Daughter of the Waves”…”
–Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, December 2, 2012
“yMusic’s rich timbral colour comes especially to the fore during Sarah Kirkland Snider’s evocative “Daughter of the Waves” when a luscious weave of strings, horns, flute, and clarinet conjures imagery associated with mythology and—shades of her remarkable 2010 album, Penelope—Homer’s Odyssey. Filled with contrasts of mood, Snider’s standout piece exudes a dream-like flow as it moves through its myriad passages, with a late ruminative episode especially powerful.”
textura, November 1, 2011
“point-perfect…thoughtful and compelling.”
Glide Magazine, November 2011
“Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Daughter of the Waves proves to be a compelling exercise in dark liquescence, its initial surface calm disrupted and disturbed by dream-like interjections that border on the hallucinogenic and nightmarish in places. If the rock music element claimed to be integral throughout is at its most elusive here in Snider’s hauntingly wistful and restless fantasy, its absence doesn’t distract from its credentials as an imaginative and rewarding new work for classical chamber ensemble.”
The Classical Review, November 16, 2011
“Sarah Kirkland Snider, the composer of Penelope, revisits its agitated sound world with “Daughter of the Waves”, a nine-minute swirl of muted anxiety.”
Pitchfork, December 2, 2011
“…simultaneously anthemic and hypnotic, and also ebbs and goes out gracefully, almost like a ghost.”
Lucid Culture, September 18, 2011
“[Daughter of the Waves] takes a delicate, almost Impressionist approach, with ebullient cascades of sound along the way.”
Sequenza 21, October 18, 2011
“… cinematic… In the course of almost 9 minutes, [Daughter of the Waves] actually feels like it goes somewhere and stays there. Featuring undulating melodies that gets passed throughout the ensemble to represent waves, there’s also lush instrumentation on top and swells of emotive action.”
Middle Class White Noise, October 17, 2011
“Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Daughter of the Waves”, which takes its title from the translation of the name of Snider’s newborn daughter, also ventured briefly into [extended technique] territory with an episode of crunches and groans in the strings, but was overall gorgeously lyrical…”
I Care If You Listen, December 19, 2100


“…strictly from the evidence presented here, [Sarah Kirkland Snider] is a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape. The idea of the piece is to explore the inner agitation beneath self-imposed composure — a promising prescription for harmonic layering that’s successfully realized in any number of ways. Disquiet is framed by long-held string chords with pregnant two- and three-note motifs that germinate into events that consistently refuse to touch base with the usual emotional colors. Even a four-note trombone motif that might normally sound foreboding instead conveyed apprehension; it was followed by a shower of potentially ecstatic string pizzicato effects that instead conveyed a nuanced dose of anxiety.”
– David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 15, 2012
“Rather than depicting “disquiet” primarily via its pitch or rhythmic language, creating abundant dissonances or angularity, Snider takes another approach: uneasiness is primarily delineated by the work’s formal design. Thus, one may at first be surprised to hear its often lush harmonies and strong melodic thrust. But as Disquiet unfolds, a labyrinth of disparate gestures and contrasting sections, often supplied in quick succession, imparts the title’s requisite restive sensibility… One hopes that…Snider will get the opportunity to create more works for  orchestra.”
– Christian Carey, Sequenza 21, May 15, 2012
“…lush, with many orchestral colors, and despite its title, [it begins] peacefully with almost imperceptible violins…Ms. Snider offered some unusual combinations of instruments in this piece… [which was] very audience-friendly because of its sonorities and the many different colors in the texture. ”
– Town Topics, May 15, 2012
“…Snider’s emotional immediacy and sense of narrative were arresting…”
The Yale Daily News, April 8, 2005


“…winsome melodies and sophisticated harmonies…”
–Steve Smith, The New York Times, March 26, 2012
“With music set to a vivid and vaguely Victorian text by Nathaniel Bellows, Snider knows how to expertly play with nostalgia and memory, layering remembrances with contrasting rhythms and lines that collide and divide with an affable ebb and flow.”
–Olivia Giovetti, WQXR, Operavore, March 26, 2012
“…a sensitive and affective setting of a poem by Nathaniel Bellows—a skillful composition built out of an ostinato and bright diatonic chords.”
The Brooklyn Rail, May 5, 2012

[The Orchard]

“The most striking composition on the bill might have been Sarah Kirkland Snider’s The Orchard, sung with vivid unease by bass Cameron Beauchamp over rhythmic insistence from the women and warily shifting textures from the rest of the crew. In its dark heart, it turned out to be a pensive, folk-tinged art-rock anthem for choir. After a descent into moody ambience, the ensemble let it linger austerely at the end. In its own understated way, it was a showstopper.”
Lucid Culture, October 7, 2012
 ”Sarah Kirkland Snider’s The Orchard is sensuous and beautiful, and possibly a little darker than it seems at first.”
eMusic (John Schaefer), December 4, 2012

[Thread and Fray]

“…Thread and Fray, a tautly constructed and poignant work, interweaves short motives with a sensitive intimacy.”
The Boston Musical Intelligencer, January 17, 2011
“…angular and gracefully expansive…”
–Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, April 1, 2009
“We had a European premiere of Thread And Fray, by the American Sarah Kirkland Snider, and this (for viola, bass clarinet and marimba) was the gem among the rest, with a real melody set against dancing, repetitive accompanying patterns and with a warm, tonal-style harmonic basis. Let’s hope there will be more where that lovely miniature came from.”
The Manchester Evening News November 22, 2007
“A highlight was Thread and Fray, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s lyrical trio for viola, bass clarinet and marimba, good music that could have gone on longer.”
–George Grella, The Big City, April 3, 2009 (MATA Festival 2009)


“Intimacy, in fact, was the hallmark of the concert…to the luminous Romanticism of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Shiner, in which [Colin] Currie’s delectable marimba playing was garlanded by the soft colours of harp, viola and trombone, with John Kenny’s tenor trombone playing showing the instrument at its most tender, lyrical and avuncular.”
The Herald Scotland, April 2008
“[Shiner] was my first encounter with Ms. Snider’s music, and this piece is a little gem – effectively a one movement trombone concerto for marimba, viola, harp and trombone…a continually shifting, shimmering texture that weaves through modal relationships, sometimes quite surprising in their juxtaposition, always full of light and shade, whilst the trombone carries the principal melodic lines, evading any notion of Romantic virtuosity, but singing the line and then commenting upon the material…Very sympathetically written for the instrument, this is a most rewarding addition to the solo & chamber repertoire…The depth of texture is astonishing given the tiny forces involved – [the] viola seemed to encapsulate an entire string section, whilst the harp and marimba interlocked to create all necessary rhythmic & harmonic colours to render the piece completely satisfying.”
–John Kenny, Carnyx & Co., May 2, 2008

[The Reserved, The Reticent]

“…a work of impassioned, old-fashioned eloquence.”
–Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, November 14, 2010
“[Mariel] Roberts handled Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “The Reserved, The Reticent” with hardly a reservation. Her rhythmic swipes dug deep into the strings, and commanded the instrument’s full range all at once. The energy relinquished in volume but never intensity as the piece moved to a conversational middle section, where the melody was glided between pizzicato and bowed statements. The opening double-stop was resounded in the concluding moments and served as the basis for a dramatically executed final statement.”
The Glass, June 10, 2012

[Stanzas in Meditation]

“Over the weekend, the densely populated Look & Listen Festival offered some startling voices new to me, such as…Sarah Kirkland Snider with her graceful Stanzas in Meditation.”
–Bruce Hodges, Monotonous Forest, May 8, 2006
“Sarah Kirkland Snider’s graceful Stanzas in Meditation, with texts by Gertrude Stein, hauntingly sung by Lisa Bielawa and Sadie Rosales with Cloutier on harp…Snider’s deft interweaving of the two voices in close intervals, against a harp part that harked back to Ravel, seemed to complement the slight echo of Stein’s words.”, May 21, 2006


“Snider’s Ballade was a composition inspired by the 4th Chopin Ballade often employing polyrhythms (such as Chopin used in the last set of three etudes) and romantic musical devices while maintaining a contemporary harmonic palette…interesting and compelling throughout.”
Sequenza 21, November 10, 2006


“…masterfully composed.  Flowing and impressionistic, rolling waves of sound inspired poetic musings…a very well-written, virtuosic piece that never seemed uneccessarily so.”
–International New Music Consortium, July 6, 1999


“…a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape.”
Philadephia Inquirer, May 15, 2012
The New Yorker, February 2, 2013
“…among the brightest lights to emerge in recent seasons.”
Time Out New York, April 1, 2011
“…a composer with an enviable knack for crafting moody, strikingly beautiful works.”
Time Out New York, May 18, 2009
“Snider’s music lives in a netherland between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music, an increasingly populous inter-genre space that, as of yet, has produced only a few clear, confident voices. Snider is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all.”
Pitchfork, January 5, 2011
“Uniting pop and classical music, though, doesn’t have to result in a shadow of both worlds… Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music.”
The Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2010
“…a gifted composer…”
The New York Times, January 19, 2011
“Sarah Kirkland Snider belongs to a diminishing margin of composers whose work is as easy on the ears as it is demanding of the mind. ”
Hotel St. George Press, January 1, 2007
“And never mind the thousands of young composers writing fascinating scores at this very moment — no wait, let’s mention a few: Derek Bermel, Jennifer Higdon, Michel van der Aa, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Philippe Bodin. They must be a bit discouraged when listeners unwittingly telegraph that all good music is at least 100 years old — an odd message to send to any explorer, in any medium. Every era has its great artists, for those willing to make the effort to notice them.”
–Bruce Hodges, Monotonous Forest, January 18, 2007
“[The] works of Sarah Snider could be described as indeterminately elegiac, or just plain lovely.”
The New Haven Independent, April 28, 2006



“What drew all these artists together was “Unremembered,” a new song cycle by Ms. Snider based on a sequence of 10 poems by Nathaniel Bellows… Employing a broader temperamental palette than she used for “Penelope” Ms. Snider still showed a predilection for the wistful and melancholy. Again she made striking use of Ms. Worden’s distinctive voice, conveying innocence, ambiguity and insight. The work attested to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting, organically integrating the structural economy and direct impact of pop songs with deft, subtle orchestrations that lent emotional gravity and nuance.” (full article)
–Steve Smith, The New York Times, “Fusions That Defy Categories,” February 11, 2013
“Snider’s “Unremembered,” with text by Nathaniel Bellows, emerged as the night’s highlight. With full orchestra, [Shara] Worden, six backing vocalists and electronics, Snider created intricate, color-saturated landscapes that made one want more than one listen to plumb their layers of detail.” (full article)
–Ronni Reich, The NJ Star-Ledger, “Charmed Collaboration,” February 9, 2013
“Given that Penelope, a large-scale song cycle composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider and sung by Shara Worden and recorded for the New Amsterdam record label, was my top classical [sic] recording for 2010, it should come as no surprise that I’d be interested in hearing its successor, Unremembered, an even larger song cycle featuring Worden, Padma Newsome, DM Stith and five supporting vocalists. Based on wistful poetry by Nathaniel Bellows, and augmented with projections of his art and animations, the piece was an involving and moving success on first brush – not as instantly assimilable as Penelope, but with depths that urge repeated listening.”
–Steve Smith, Night After Night, February 23, 2013

Sarah Kirkland Snider

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, who made the critically-acclaimed Penelope and recorded it with Shara Worden, that Sarah Kirkland Snider, sat down and spoke to The Glass…Wow, this is difficult to let sink in!
Sarah has a piece for solo cello titled “The Reserved, The Reticent” that is among many great works programmed for the West 4th New Music Collective’s event Cellophilia, taking place this Friday, June 8th at 9 PM at 92nd Street Y Tribeca in NY. We talked about that and a few other career-related things!
CM: How did you get started as a composer?
SKS: I had a very musical childhood: I studied piano, cello, and classical guitar, played in orchestras and string quartets, and sang in choirs. And I was always writing music, music that was very melodic and expressive. But I didn’t show that music to anyone until my junior year of high school, when I showed my piano teacher, who recommended I study composition in college. But the college I went to, Wesleyan University, had a very experimental, avant-garde music program (Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton were both there), where students were making music with lightning balls and bottles of Mountain Dew, or doing 30-minute scream pieces, and I was too afraid to show my emotionally direct, Debussy and Chopin-influenced piano music to anyone. In fact, I decided against majoring in music, in part because of the nature of the program, but also because music already felt like my first language and I felt like I should challenge myself to study something I couldn’t as easily study on my own (oh the naivete!) So I moved to New York and took a job as a legal assistant at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, thinking I might go into public sector law. But soon thereafter I began writing music for downtown theater productions on the side, and started taking more and more unpaid days off from my job to do so. Finally I realized I wouldn’t be happy unless I was doing music full-time. So I started on a long, arduous journey to grad school: theory, orchestration, and history coursework in the evenings at Juilliard, Mannes, and NYU, as well as private composition lessons with Justin Dello Joio (a brilliant, Nadia Boulanger-style teacher), and finally wound up at Yale.
CM: Can you talk about the piece “The Reserved, The Reticent” that’s being featured at the upcoming West 4th concert Cellophilia?
SKS: It’s a solo cello piece that I wrote in 2004, while at Yale. It’s a big, Romantic, virtuosic, ambitious piece–that was the kind of music I was writing then. At that point in time I felt it was necessary to put the whole world into every piece–sadness, wonder, fury, delicacy, levity, profundity–so it would take me forever to write anything and afterward I’d feel completely drained. It wasn’t the healthiest or happiest period of my composing. I remember a lesson with David Lang a year after writing this piece, when he said “It’s not every day that you’re meeting the love of your life or your child is born or you hear a symphony that you spent a year writing. Most days are about having a cup of coffee; why can’t a piece of music be about having a cup of coffee?”. That comment made an impression on me. Still, despite the fact that I sweated blood over it and that it’s quite different from what I’m writing now, I love this piece and am proud of it. Listening to it now for me is like reading an old journal entry.
Sarah K. Snider: The Reserved, The Reticent (Hrant Parsamian, cello)
CM: Penelope was your breakthrough–Can you talk about that work and working with Shara Worden?
SKS: I guess you could say Penelope was something of a turning point for me as a composer, in the sense that I finally allowed myself access to the full range of my influences. All through middle and high school I was writing piano music that was somewhere between Debussy and Joni Mitchell, but when I started studying composition formally I completely repressed all popular music influences. I still listened to loads of pop music and went to lots of rock shows, but I tried hard to minimize pop music’s appearance in anything I was writing, which was strange and exhausting and a-room-of-funhouse-mirrors, because I’ve never written anything that wasn’t melodic and direct, so where exactly was I drawing the line? In any case, Penelope finally gave me an excuse to stop worrying about all this nonsense, for two reasons: 1) The Getty Center commissioned me to write it for the playwright Ellen McLaughlin to sing, and she cannot read music, so the music had to be somewhat simple and memorable so she could learn it by ear, and 2) Ellen’s text was extremely direct and plainspoken, almost singer-songwriterly, and frankly wouldn’t have made sense to set in any way that wasn’t direct, honest and heartfelt.
So then I started thinking, “Wait, I have all these ideas for the music that I think will make sense for the project, but I’m afraid to use them because I’m a ‘classical’ composer? Why does the classical portion of my background have more say over what I write than the non-classical portion? I’m going to die one day and I’m wasting time worrying about whether the genre of what I’m writing is more important than the content?”. When Shara came aboard the project, I was all the more creatively liberated: we had a deep sense of eye-to-eye-ness in terms of our sensibility and approach to making music, and I could immediately relax into my ideas, knowing that she could capture something that transcended the whole issue of genre–something that was about character and mood, not style. With her voice in mind, the whole plan for each song became much clearer to me. So working with her was incredible. She’s incredible; she’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Everything she does has a tremendous amount of thought and intention behind it, and she’s very aware of the bigger picture, of the importance of authenticity, which leads her to care as much if not more about making something deeply personal as she does about making it technically beautiful.
Sarah K. Snider: “The Lotus Eaters” from Penelope (Shara Worden, vocals; Signal Ensemble)
CM: Also, yMusic were involved with another arrangement of that piece and “Daughter of The Waves”. These pieces sound so close in identity.
SKS: Yes, I wrote an arrangement of Penelope for yMusic, as well as “Daughter of the Waves”. Working with yMusic is dreamy. They’re all amazing musicians, and like Shara, they get the in-betweenness of genres with music like Penelope. It’s a sub-lingual thing; you get into rehearsal, they look at the page, they know the places I’m coming from musically, and they just play it. There doesn’t need to be a lot of conversation like, “can you play it with more of *this* feel?”. They just get it. Ultimately it comes down to a rhythmic sensibility, I think–with certain pop music gestures, it’s so important to play on the back of the beat, and that’s something that’s very foreign to most classical musicians. But the musicians in yMusic have grown up listening to and performing as much pop music as they have classical, and they also all just have an ear for rhythm–it’s like having an ear for accents, you can be really good at languages but still not have an ear for accents. They’re all good at languages and have an ear for accents.
CM: I’m a sucker for concertos–Has anyone approached you to commission a violin or a piano concerto?
SKS: No, no they haven’t, but I would love to, especially a violin concerto! A piano one would be incredible too, but there’s something particularly exciting to me about the idea of writing a violin concerto, so, who knows, maybe one of these days!
CM: Is there anything new you will be unveiling?
SKS: In addition to some new commissions, I’m working on a song cycle called Unremembered, which will be my next album. The text is by a brilliant poet and writer friend of mine, Nathaniel Bellows. It’s about ghosts in New England. It will feature a small collection of different singers. That’s all I can say at the moment.
Sarah K. Snider: Thread and Fray (Sara Budde, bass clarinet; Beth Meyers, viola; Alex Lipowski, marimba)

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