Sara Kirkland Snider ~ Composer of Music

Voice with Chamber Ensemble

Penelope (mezzo + string quintet + perc + laptop)

(2008, arr. 2019) Duration: 60′. 11-song cycle (with three instrumental interludes.) Words by Ellen McLaughlin. Songs can be performed separately.

for mezzo-soprano — one drums/perc (vibr., glock., egg shaker, BD, gro, tri, 2 crot.) — two violins, viola, cello, double bass — laptop.

Arr. commissioned by Kansas City Lyric Opera
World Premiere: March 30, 2019, Kansas City Lyric Opera, Kaufman Center, KS, MO.

To stream the album Penelope, go here.

  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 (string quartet and electronics) (:54)
  4. The Lotus Eaters (6′)
  5. Nausicaa (3′)
  6. Circe and the Hanged Man (4:16)
  7. I Died of Waiting (string quartet and electronics) (1:10)
  8. Home (6:23)
  9. Dead Friend (2:48)
  10. Calypso (4:46)
  11. And Then You Shall Be Lost Indeed (string quartet and electronics) (1:09)
  12. Open Hands (1:06)
  13. Baby Teeth, Bones, and Bullets (6:10)
  14. As He Looks Out to Sea (5:51)



No. 1, Time Out New York Top 10 Classical Albums of 2010
National Public Radio Top 5 Genre-Defying Albums of 2010
No. 3, textura Magazine Top 10 Albums of 2010
Huffington Post, Top 10 Alternative-Art Songs of 2001-2010 (“The Lotus Eaters”)
WNYC New Sounds (John Schaefer) Top 10 Albums of 2010
No. 16, eMusic Top 80 Albums of 2010
No. 1, Der Schallplattenmann sagt (Germany), Top 10 Albums of 2010
Seth Colter Walls (Newsweek and The Awl), Top 50 Albums of 2010
The Indie Handbook, Top 13 Albums of 2010 (“the landmark achievement of 2010?)
The Indie Handbook, Top 10 Songs of 2010 (“Circe and the Hanged Man”)
No. 7, Indie Rock Magazine (France), Top 10 Albums of 2010
No. 11, 17 dots, Top 30 Albums of 2010
Chicago Independent Radio Project, Best Songs of 2010 (“Nausicaa”)
No. 1, Fool in the Forest Top 25 Albums of 2010
No. 3, Mainly Music Meanderings, Top 20 Vocal Albums of 2010
Wears the Trousers, Best Albums of 2010
Screen of Distance, Top 25 Albums of 2010
No. 10, Crystalline Moment Top 20 Albums of 2010
Modern Worship, Top 20 Albums of 2010
Trinity Stardust and the Blog from Mars, Top 15 Albums of 2010
“Newcomer Musician of the Year” (Sarah Kirkland Snider), All About Jazz


The New York Times, March 10, 2011

“…a ravishingly melancholy 2010 song cycle.”

The New York Times, February 11, 2013

“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.”

Time Out New York, Best of 2010 Classical and Opera, December 17, 2010

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… 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 is such an accomplished and remarkable work, it’s hard to believe that it could possibly be [Snider’s] debut album… This year or any year for that matter, one would be hard pressed to hear melodies that are more gorgeous and soul-stirring… Material so powerful places Penelope head and shoulders above much else that was released in 2010.” (Album of the Month and textura Top Ten; full article)

textura Magazine, October 27, 2010

“[Penelope] embraces the sort of slow, aching beauty that pours out of Iceland these days: Sigur Rós, Múm, the composers on Valgeir Sigurðsson’s label Bedroom Community. Snider’s songwriting floats though its melody, cycling notes, leading the ear forward without adhering to the relentless A-B-A forms that can clobber similarly gorgeous pop songs.”

The Believer, Music Issue, July/August 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.” (full article)

–Steve Smith, The New York Times, May 24, 2009


New York Magazine Approval Matrix, April 19, 2010

“[Penelope] is a cycle of haunting art songs…[echoing] 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

“[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.” (full article)

–Thomas Huizenga, National Public Radio, “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” October 7, 2010

“arresting…haunting and epic.”

Flavorwire, April 20, 2011

“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 article)

Death and Taxes Magazine, “Another Reason Why Classical Music Is Not Dead,” October 25, 2010

Penelope is not just essential listening; it is a soul-restoring musical balm.” (full article)

–Daniel Stephen Johnson, The New Haven Advocate, December 14, 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… alternately melancholic, agitated and poignant… the musical offspring of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Eno’s Music for Airports…[serving] to confirm Snider’s deft command of many different musical languages.” (full article)

–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 article)

The Indie Handbook, “Penelope: A Labor of Love,” October 28, 2010

“[Penelope] features a genre-blending style compelling enough to throw categorizations to the wind and revel in its unique dialect.” (full article)

–Alexandra Gardner, New Music Box, October 19, 2010

“Mesmerizing…lush, evocative, and deeply moving.”

Time Out New York, October 13, 2010

“To my recollection, Penelope is the most vivid, mesmerizing psychological nightmare set to music I’ve heard… [possessing] 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 article)

–Daniel J. Kushner, Post-Post Rock, October 25, 2010

“…truly epic.”

The Utne Reader, September 1, 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”, with a score that combines strings and harp with drums, guitars and electronics.”

–Kyle MacMillan, The Denver Post, December 12, 2010

“Snider’s music was at once plainly expressive and rich in nuance, with alluring harmonies, arresting chromatic twists and an abundance of instrumental color. Call “Penelope” what you will (indie post-classical chamber pop drama?), it’s an amazing, beguiling work.” (full article)

The Oregonian, February 3, 2013

“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.” (full article)

–George Wallace, A Fool in the Forest, November 3, 2010

“Remarkable… a beautiful cycle of songs… limns the boundaries between art song, chamber folk and post-rock.”

WNYC, John Schaeffer, September 9, 2010

“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…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

“This must be what going mad feels like.” (full article)

Popshifter, October 26, 2010

“Sarah Kirkland Snider has generated a minor critical tsunami this year with Penelope… [we’re] abnormally proud to premiere the absolutely stunning video for “The Lotus Eaters”, one of several haunting numbers from Penelopethat taunts me for merely saying that it defies description.”

My Old Kentucky Blog, November 3, 2010

“[A] weary bewilderment threads through [Penelope]… 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 article)

–Chris Kompanek, The Avantgardist, Classical TV, November 8, 2010

“subtly explosive…the roar of applause at the end seemed as cathartic as it was genuine.” (full article)

Lucid Culture, “Some Auspicious Debuts at le Poisson Rouge,” October 21, 2010

“a dreamy song cycle for the indie rock generation.” (full clip)

–Marlon Bishop, WNYC Culture, October 18, 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…” (full article)

–George Grella, Classical TV, “On the Myth of Difficult Music,” 9/20/10

“‘This Is What You’re Like’ is an adroitly constructed composition… however, this is a song that does not forget that it is in fact a song—an impressive accomplishment for a classically trained composer… Snider anchors the intermittently dense proceedings with a recurring, bittersweet melodic refrain that I’d call a chorus except that she plays with it each time so it’s never quite the same twice. It’s a lovely and affecting melody… ” (full article)

–Jeremy Schlosberg, Fingertips Music, August 24, 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”

“[An] epic debut album…showcasing a breathtaking vocal performance from My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden set to a haunting string arrangement.”

Filter Magazine, September 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”


Germany: Der Schallplattenmann sagt: (5/5 stars, No. 1 Album of 2010)
France: Indie Rock Magazine (No. 7 Album of 2010)
Italy: JAM Magazine Profile
France: Little Reviews (8.5 out of 10)
France: Inactuelles Musiques Singulieres
Germany: Popkontext
Turkey: Eksisozluk

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