Sarah Kirkland Snider

About the Piece

Instrumentation: String Orchestra, 2perc, drum-kit, elec guitar, elec bass, electronics (laptop), soprano solo

Duration: 14 movements for a total of 60 min; individual movement ranges around 1-6 minutes

Program Note:

Inspired by Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, Penelope is a meditation on memory, identity, and what it means to come home. The song cycle, written in 2009 for Shara Worden and Ensemble Signal, is based on a music-theater monodrama written by Snider and playwright Ellen McLaughlin for the J. Paul Getty Center in 2008. In the work, 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 to him from 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.

Read more on Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Website

Conductor’s Perspective

The work is wonderful to introduce musicians to a new style of orchestral writing, and to incorporate electronics. Some movements are very doable – and short and sweet! If needed, you can pick movement(s) with no electronics or even no voice, just to add a variety to the performance! Perusal Score can be found below or on the Publisher’s Website

When I conducted this work, we selected 4 movements total – three of them with voice, one as an instrumental interlude with electronics only. However, you can freely mix and match different movements to suite your programming / artistic vision and needs.

The biggest challenge, it turned out, was to find an elec guitarist who can watch a conductor and coordinate with the rest of the orchestra (lol). The percussion parts are not too difficult and serve as a nice add-on to the orchestral color.

Another challenge was electronics part – which include pre-recorded voice and atmospheric sound affects – came as many files saved on a thumb drive and does require a good music technician. The tracks use LOGIC and several movements require that the conductor to conduct to a track in order to synchronize with the pre-recorded musical tracks. View the Electronics Guide (link to the Publisher)

Overall it was a wonderful work to be programmed!!

About the Composer

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). Recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post, Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic; San Francisco Symphony; National Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra; the Birmingham Royal Ballet; Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo; percussionist Colin Currie; vocalist Shara Nova; eighth blackbird; A Far Cry; and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. The winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition, Snider’s recent projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement; Mass for the Endangered, a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned prayer for the environment for choir and ensemble; and an opera on 12th-century polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects.

Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

Visit the composer’s website for more:

Performance Materials

Instrumentation: String Orchestra, 2perc, drum-kit, elec guitar, elec bass, electronics (laptop), soprano solo

Duration: 14 movements for a total of 60 min; individual movement ranges around 1-6 minutes

  1. The Stranger with the Face of a Man I Loved (5:44)
  2. This Is What You’re Like (5:07)
  3. The Honeyed Fruit (:54)
  4. The Lotus Eaters (6′)
  5. Nausicaa     (3′)
  6. Circe and the Hanged Man (4:16)
  7. I Died of Waiting (1:10)
  8. Home     (6:23)
  9. Dead Friend (2:48)
  10. Calypso     (4:46)
  11. And Then You Shall Be Lost Indeed (1:09)
  12. Open Hands (1:06)
  13. Baby Teeth, Bones, and Bullets (6:10)
  14. As He Looks Out to Sea (5:51)

Obtain the Perusal Score / Request Rental Quote through Wise Music (G. Schirmer)

View the Electronics Guide (link to the Publisher)

Perusal Score as shown on the Publisher’s Website:


Listen to the album on Spotify (click for link)

YouTube Playlist with Brad Lubman conducting Ensemble Signal with Shara Worden as the soloist: