Recently deemed “among the brightest lights to emerge in recent seasons” (Time Out New York) and “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (Philadelphia Inquirer), composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “haunting” (The Los Angeles Times), and “strikingly beautiful” (Time Out New York). With an ear for the poetic and a careful attention to detail, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to foreground nuanced and immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, Penelope, Pitchfork proclaimed: “Snider’s music lives in…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.”
The 2013 winner of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, Snider has received commissions and performances internationally from the San Francisco Symphony, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Residentie Orkest Den Haag, the North Carolina Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, vocalist Shara Worden, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, yMusic, the Knights, Ensemble Signal, ACME, Now Ensemble, Firebird Ensemble, Psappha, Hebrides Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, Volti, Cantus, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and many others. Conductors who have championed her work include Edwin Outwater, Andre dé Ridder, and Rossen Milanov. Her music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn Academy of Music; the MoMA, Getty Center, and MASS MoCA; venerable rock clubs like The Bell House and Paard van Troje; and theaters such as the Red Bull Theater and Playmakers Repertory. Her works have also been featured in festivals such as Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Sundance, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music, MATA, Carlsbad, Look & Listen, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Apples & Olives. Penelope, her critically-acclaimed song cycle for mezzo and orchestra (or chamber ensemble), has been performed over forty times in the United States and Europe (“Every orchestra should play this piece right now,” proclaims Edwin Outwater.)
September 2015 will see the release of Snider’s second full-length album, Unremembered, on New Amsterdam Records. An hour-long, thirteen-part song cycle for seven voices, chamber orchestra, and electronics, Unremembered was inspired by poems and illustrations by writer and visual artist Nathaniel Bellows (W.W. Norton, HarperCollins) and features vocalists Padma Newsome (Clogs), D.M. Stith, and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), as well as the Unremembered Orchestra (members of ACME, Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Knights, and So Percussion), conducted by Edwin Outwater. A meditation on memory, innocence, and the haunted grandeur of the natural world, Unremembered recalls strange and beautiful happenings experienced during a childhood in rural Massachusetts: a houseguest takes sudden leave in the middle of the night; a boy makes a shocking discovery on a riverbank; a girl disappears in woods behind a ranging farm; ghosts appear with messages for the living. Unremembered was commissioned by Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center for the Ecstatic Music Festival, which premiered a portion of the cycle in February 2013. Of the performance, The New York Times wrote: “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.”
The ’15/’16 season features several significant premieres and performances: In September, the North Carolina Symphony will give the world premiere of Hiraeth, a 25-minute multimedia orchestral collaboration with filmmaker Mark DeChiazza about family history and notions of home. The piece was co-commissioned by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, who will perform it in May 2016. In November, BAM Next Wave Festival will present the world premiere of Ouroboros as part of Epiphany, an immersive multimedia installation collaboration with the Young People’s Chorus of New York, librettist Nathaniel Bellows, composers Paola Prestini and Netsayi, and video artist Ali Hossaini. April 2016 will see the world premiere of a 10-15 minute work for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and August 2015 will see the world premiere of a work for the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. Other season highlights include Penelope with Carla Kihlstedt and Firebird Ensemble at Beth Morrison’s new series, Stir, at Boston’s Gardner Museum, and performances of Three Songs from Unremembered by Shara Worden and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Down the road, Sarah looks forward to work on a Mass for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS, conducted by Julian Wachner; a work for violin and piano commissioned by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers; a song cycle for Fifth House Ensemble; and a collaboration with Opera Cabal.
In 2010, Snider released her first album, Penelope, a J. Paul Getty Center-commissioned song cycle with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, featuring vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman, on New Amsterdam Records. Acclaimed as “ravishingly melancholy” (The New York Times), “the year’s most affecting creation” (Time Out New York), and “a gorgeous piece of music and hauntingly vivid psychological portrait” (Pitchfork), Penelope was named No. 1 Classical Album of 2010 by Time Out New York and one of NPR’s Top Five Genre-Defying Albums of 2010, and received dozens of other year-end best-of citations internationally, including eMusic, textura, WNYC, Der Schallplattenmann sagt (Germany), Indie Rock Magazine (France) and The Huffington Post, who named “The Lotus Eaters” one of the Top Ten Alternative Art Songs of The Decade. Charting on both the CMJ 200 and the top ten of Billboard’s Crossover Classical list, Penelope also drew high praise from The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, The Chicago Reader, The Denver Post, The Oregonian, The New Haven Advocate, The Believer, The Utne Reader, New Music Box, and many others, with Pitchfork‘s Jayson Greene writing: “No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.” Snider’s music can also be found on the 2014 Grammy-Award winning eponymous album by Roomful of Teeth; the critically-acclaimed debut recording by yMusic; and NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall.
In addition to her work as a composer, Snider is a passionate advocate for new music in New York and beyond. From 2001 to 2007, she co-curated the Look & Listen Festival, a new music series set in modern art galleries. Since 2007 she has served as Co-Director, along with William Brittelle and Judd Greenstein, of New Amsterdam Records, a Brooklyn-based independent record label recently called “the focal point of the post-classical scene,” (Time Out New York) and “emblematic of an emerging generation” (The New York Times), and praised for “releasing one quality disc after another” (Newsweek). In 2011, New Amsterdam created a separate, non-profit organization for its presenting work, entitled New Amsterdam Presents.
Born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, Snider has an M.M. and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. In 2006 she was a Schumann Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. Snider has received the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, grants from the Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund and New Music USA; Yale School of Music prizes; numerous young composer honors, and in 2011, was spotlighted in the NPR feature “100 Composers Under 40.” Her teachers included Martin Bresnick, Marc-Andre Dalbavie, Justin Dello Joio, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, David Lang, and Christopher Rouse. She splits her time between New York and Princeton, where she lives with her husband, Steven; son, Jasper; and daughter, Dylan.
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