Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music

Voice with Chamber Ensemble

Unremembered (3 voices + chamber octet + laptop)

To purchase the Unremembered studio album, click here.
To visit the Unremembered website, click here.

(2012-2013, arr. 2016)  Duration: 60′. 13-song cycle. Songs can be performed separately. Words by Nathaniel Bellows.

for ob., E.H., perc, acoustic/electric gtr, hrp, pno, vln, cello — Wide-Ranged Soprano (E3 to B5), Tenor/Countertenor, Tenor/Baritone — laptop (electronics).

Commissioned by: Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center for the Ecstatic Music Festival
Preview Performance (Early, 10-song version): February 6, 2013 by Elliot Cole, Majel Connery, Avery Griffin, Padma Newsome, Caroline Shaw, D.M. Stith, Shara Worden and the Orchestra for the Next Century, conducted by Gary Schneider at the Ecstatic Music Festival, Merkin Hall, NY, NY.
U.S. Premiere: March 12, 2017 by Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, D.M. Stith and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, in Minneapolis, MN.

Program Notes:

Unremembered is an hour-long, thirteen-part song cycle for seven voices, octet, and electronics by composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, inspired by poems and illustrations by writer and visual artist Nathaniel Bellows (W.W. Norton, HarperCollins).

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. Through Bellows’s moving words and images and Snider’s vivid, fraught, astonishing score, the cycle explores the ways in which beguiling events in early life can resonate in—and prepare us for—the subtler horrors that lie beyond the realm of childhood.



Q2 Music 50 Best Classical Works of 1996-2016
The Washington Post
 (Anne Midgette) Top 5 Classical Albums of 2015
The Nation (David Hajdu) Top 10 Albums of 2015
Steve Smith (The Boston GlobeThe New York Times) Top 20 Albums of 2015
WNYC New Sounds (John Schaefer) Top 10 Albums of 2015
Textura Top Ten Albums of 2015 
Seth Colter Walls (The Guardian, Pitchfork) Top 30 Albums of 2015
New Music Box Staff Picks 2015
The Agit Reader Staff Picks Top 5 2015
New York Music Daily Top 50 Albums of 2015 
Paperblog Top 10 Albums of 2015
I Care If You Listen Gift Guide
Ted Gioia (The Daily Beast) Top 100 Tracks of 2015
KMUW Strange Currency Top 10 Albums of 2015
A Fool in the Forest Top 10 Albums of 2015
Auftoren.De Staff Picks Top 10 Albums of 2015
A Good Day for Airplay Top 10 Albums of 2015
Curve Ball Top 10 Albums of 2015
Worlds of Echo Top 20 Albums of 2015
Vallejo Nocturno Top Albums of 2015
Knight of Leo Best Albums of 2015

“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

“The composer Sarah Kirkland Snider is a refreshingly slow worker: She spent four years weaving the richly textured polychrome tapestry of this [Unremembered] recording. Silver threads of medievalish counterpoint twist together with twinkling electronics, faux folk tunes, vintage pop melodies, and avant-garde choral techniques to create an intricately magical landscape.”

–Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, “Arts To Do,” September 8, 2015

“[Unremembered] is Snider’s own brand of New England gothic that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud. It is also a study in the beguiling power of memory… Snider’s music, like the images, is multilayered, often angular, and deftly blends ideas from rock and post-minimalist composers…strings slither and drums detonate like bombs, propelling a nightmarish chaos. Quieter songs are meticulously orchestrated, too. “The Swan” sways with misty strings, an undulating harp and the painterly touch of an oboe, while “The Speakers” displays an intricate weave of soft piano chords, acoustic guitar, celeste and gently rumbling electronics. Snider’s score, both terrifying and tender, gets a penetrating performance…

But it is Snider’s fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers…groups of voices are stretched and layered with extended techniques. They pulsate in a shimmering bed of sound in “The River,” take flight with interlocking patterns in “The Girl” and unfold in fanfares of Renaissance-like polyphony to open “The Song.”…Snider’s and Bellows’s mysterious and unsettling creations may strike some as child’s play, embellished with gloom, but they just may contain clues to understanding the darker truths of adulthood.”

–Tom Huizenga, The Washington Post, “Indie Classical Meets American Gothic,” December 16, 2015

In 13 warped and eerie songs, Snider dives into the world of a New England childhood, channel[ing] the ghostly simplicity of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. [Unremembered] refracts reality just as memory does. From the first stabs of strings and militant drums, “The Witch” throws you in the middle of a hunt — a frightened child flees an ominous specter… Even though Bellows’ words speak of a moment long ago, the music tugs them into the present. Snider’s forceful orchestra, led by sharp stomps from the cellos, chases Worden, sometimes enveloping her completely.”

NPR Songs We Love, Deceptive Cadence, July 28, 2015

“In her cycle of thirteen songs for multiple voices and chamber orchestra, Sarah Kirkland Snider uses poems by Nathaniel Bellows to address various topics—memory, natural beauty and the intermingling of mystery, pain and pleasure that often accompanies recollections from childhood. She calls on an array of styles to conjure her evocative, strangely beautiful soundscapes…Snider excels at capturing the hazy swirl of memories that can haunt an entire lifetime. Her tonal language is often quite sophisticated and harmonically probing, with impressively layered textures of voices and instruments… the three alluring, flexible vocalists—Padma Newsome, DM Stith, and Shara Worden—provide affecting, lyrical renderings of Snider’s melodies, which are otherworldly and ear-catching. …Edwin Outwater conducts a good-sized, impressive-sounding chamber orchestra, and “sound design” is credited to Michael Hammond, Lawson White, and Snider, referring presumably to the skillful way electric and acoustic sounds have been interwoven. Snider clearly has a lot to say that’s worth listening to, and Bellows’ poems (which are accompanied in the booklet by attractive stained glass-style artwork), seem perfectly matched to her restless, inquisitive artistic sensibility.”

–Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News, February 2016

“Snider’s lyrical and oft-rapturous music is characterized by immense poise and sophistication…[her] artful handling of vocal counterpoint and orchestral writing impresses mightily, and one comes away from the piece struck by her ability to create a miniature vocal symphony within the parameters of a four-minute time-frame…Examples of Snider’s invention abound…Unremembered presents a world rooted in childhood experiences that on the surface appears innocent enough yet discloses upon closer inspection a murkier realm beneath its skin. As fully realized a work as Penelope, this hour-long follow-up reaffirms Snider’s stature as a modern composer of significant note and accomplishment.”

textura, September 2015 (Album of the Month)

“Together, Snider and Bellows have created one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year, a ravishing fever dream. Hear it once, and Unremembered is unforgettable.”

–Porter Anderson, Thought Catalog, Music for Writers: “A Ravishing Fever Dream from Sarah Kirkland Snider and Nathaniel Bellows,” September 5, 2015

“With Unremembered…Sarah Kirkland Snider cements her reputation—begun with 2010’s Penelope—as the finest composer for voice of her generation… Everything here is in its place, but there’s still an appealing grit; you’d never accuse this ornate chamber music of looseness, but neither does it feel hermetic. Even at its most abstruse, everything is fed by a beating, glowing heart… [It’s] clear this is a record made for this time and a record this time needs. The multiplicity of musical languages spoken so deftly highlights the ambiguity of image and the melancholy of both remembering and not — and can be unpacked again and again, still revealing treasures.”

–Richard Sanford, The Agit Reader, August 4, 2015

“[Unremembered is] haunting, orchestral and poetic…cinematic and atmospheric…”

Interview Magazine, September 23, 2015

“Unremembered aches with the strange nostalgia of rediscovery: the rocking sing-song quality of Bellows’s texts reads like the clothbound verses of some poet long gone out of vogue, and the yards of romantic orchestral texture Snider swaddles them in recall nothing so much as those brilliant and inexplicably forgotten Laurel Canyon sessions from the ’70s. Once in a while, Snider exposes the mechanisms that drive the music—as if the listener needed reminding that what she gets up to here is as cerebral as the more emotionally remote music of her concert-hall contemporaries—but she seems less interested in austerity than in generous displays of affect, and deftly tucks the clockwork back in between the score’s orchestral exuberances…And what an orchestra!…But even apart from these star performers, this recording, simply as a recording, is—thanks to keen production from Snider and percussionist/studio wiz Lawson White—a work of art in its own right.”

–Daniel Stephen Johnson, Q2 Music/WQXR, August 31, 2015

“…Unremembered is as enthralling in its musical flow as its lyrical narrative, and the way Snider guides, teases, and manipulates the listener is masterful. It’s a stunning, immensely rewarding experience…”

–Adrien Begrand, PopMatters, August 27, 2015

Unremembered is all about exploding genres, bringing Van Dyke Parks into conversation with John Adams, My Brightest Diamond into collision with Edgard Varèse, and art song into contact with concept album. A recording is out now on New Amsterdam Records, and it’s great.”

–Dan Ruccia, Indy Week, October 5, 2015

“Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider braves these mystical terrors and takes on the full beauty and vast musical scope of childhood imagination in her latest release, Unremembered…Each song is its own vividly colored vignette, a mesmerizing narrative brought to life through Snider’s rich textural and temperamental palette… In a way, Snider also embellishes memories of the classical genre—musically she recalls the strict rules and structures of the classical tradition, but she does so in a way that is blurred, broken, and beautifully contorted….unforgettable.”

–Maggie Molloy, Second Inversion, September 14, 2015

“Five years after Snider’s heartbreaking song cycle Penelope, she returns with another one, Unremembered. Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) appeared on that album, and she returns here, delivering operatic vocals which possibly sound even better…This album is another dense, layered epic, with poetic, dramatic lyrics intertwined with vibrant, complex arrangements performed by The Unremembered Orchestra.”

The Answer Is In The Beat, September 11, 2015

“Snider’s settings were as wonderfully varied as [Bellows’ poetry], with a musical vocabulary rooted in Björk, Steve Reich and David Lang. While I very much enjoyed the neo-medieval polyphony of “The Guest” and Vespertine-like glassiness of “The Swan,” it was the third song, “The Witch,” that stole the show. The song feels like a glimpse into an entirely new sound world, melding the sneaky bass lines and rhythms of a My Brightest Diamond number with the unsettling orchestral interjections of Thomas Adès and some kind of obliquely driving rock. It was the perfect showcase for Worden, who acted the words as much as she sang them, contorting her body to match the ebbs and flows of the music. The song ended far too soon, and I wanted to spend more time exploring its possibilities. All the more reason, I suppose, to look forward to the new work of hers the NCS will premiere in September.”

–Dan Ruccia, Indy Week, “The North Carolina Symphony Mixes the Old with the New,” April 29, 2015

“In selections from Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Unremembered, Worden set aside the pep for something more subdued.  Based on grisly subject matter, “The Swan” was dark, cinematic, and passionately delivered. “The Witch” was intense, curling, and fierce, with groundwork laid by a jazzy guitar shuffle. If these two selections are any indication, Unremembered is a deeply personal, brave work from Snider. Her music provided a somber, if not unwelcome, lull to the evening.”

–Elias Blumm, I Care If You Listen, “Sins & Songs at Carnegie Hall,” March 12, 2015

“[Unremembered is] music of thoughtful inquiry and humane emotion, willing to embrace a modicum (or more) of overt beauty but suspicious toward too-easy sentiment or the merely pretty and ornamental…a heady blend of thoughtful intricacy with forthright emotional appeal…the setting composed for each [song] is rhythmically and tonally distinct, a sequence of craftily detailed tableaux, rich with surprise and nuance.”

–George Wallace, Genre, I’m Only Dancing, “A Boy’s Own Gothic,” September 4, 2015

“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…with depths that urge repeated listening.”

–Steve Smith, Night After Night, February 23, 2013 (live performance review)

“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 (live review)

FOREIGN PRESS for Unremembered
France: France Musique: Autour de Sarah Kirkland Snider (podcast) 
Germany: Feuilletone: Eine Kleine Frau, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (podcast)
Sweden: SverigeRadio: Kalejdoskop
Switzerland: Clandestini Per Scelta
Germany: Auftoren (Review; Album of the Quarter)
Turkey: Kiyi Muzik

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