Classical Detours

Woman Of Constant Sorrow: Sarah Kirkland Snider's 'Penelope'

cover art for Penelope i i
New Amsterdam records
cover art for Penelope
New Amsterdam records

Classical Detours, a new series on this blog, meanders through the byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.

Homer's Odyssey has been a very deep well of inspiration for artists from centuries ago right up to today.

Sarah Kirkland Snider's new song cycle, Penelope, makes a modern twist on the ancient saga.

The compelling story of the Greek warrior Odysseus' trip home from the Trojan wars, has sparked movies, like the Coen Brothers' Oh Brother Where Art Thou, operas, such as Monteverdi's moving The Return of Ulysses, and even pop songs like Tim Buckley's haunting "Song to the Siren."

Kirkland Snider's new work, originally a theater piece, deftly weaves pop, jazz, and classical. The texts, by Ellen McLaughlin, are sung by Shara Worden from the band My Brightest Diamond.

Penelope is released Oct. 26, but you can hear a sneak preview of it below.

Kirkland Snider's song cycle is told from the woman's point of view — Penelope, that is, Odysseus' faithful wife, who waits at home, wondering if her husband will ever return, dead or alive.

McLaughlin's poems update the story to modern times. Penelope's long-lost husband turns up unexpectedly, emotionally damaged after years spent at war. In an attempt to rebuild his memory, she reads aloud to him from Homer's Odyssey.

The first of the cycle's 14 songs, "The Stranger with the Face of a Man I loved." Vocalist Shara Worden, with Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman.

Pre-Order: Amazon.com

Kirkland'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.

The Shara Worden and the yMusic ensemble will perform the hour-long cycle in its entirety Oct. 18th at New York's Le Poisson Rouge.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.