ecently deemed “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork) and “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (David Patrick Stearns, 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 both the structural and the poetic, Snider’s music draws upon a variety of influences to render a nuanced command of immersive storytelling. Of her orchestral song cycle, Penelope, Pitchfork‘s Jayson Greene 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.”
Snider’s works have been commissioned and performed by some of the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles, and soloists throughout the world, including the San Francisco, Detroit, Indianapolis, and North Carolina Symphonies; the Residentie Orkest Den Haag, American Composers Orchestra, and National Arts Centre Orchestra; violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, percussionist Colin Currie, and vocalist Shara Nova (formerly Worden); Ensemble Signal, The Knights, yMusic; Roomful of Teeth, Cantus, and 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 concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and at festivals such as BAM Next Wave, Aspen, Ecstatic, Colorado, Sundance, BAM’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang On a Can Summer, Liquid Music, 21C Liederabend, SONiC, New York Festival of Song, and Zurich’s Apples & Olives. Penelope, her song cycle for mezzo and orchestra (or chamber ensemble), has been performed over forty times in the United States and Europe.
Recent premieres include Something for the Dark, commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (“an imposing achievement…a veritable master class in the craft of contemporary music composition”—Classical Voice of America); Hiraeth, a large work for full orchestra with film by Mark DeChiazza, co-commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony and Princeton Symphony Orchestra (“Snider’s command of the orchestra is fantastic…an engrossing composition”—Indy Week); and the BAM Next Wave Festival presentation of Ouroboros, part of an immersive multimedia installation collaboration for the Young People’s Chorus of New York and ACME. Current projects include a work for violin and piano commissioned by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers; Requiem for the Endangered, a mass for Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS, conducted by Julian Wachner; a new collaborative commission for female vocalist and string orchestra; and The Living Light, an opera co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Cabal.
The 16/17 season will feature some exciting premieres and performances of Snider’s work. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will give the U.S. premiere of Unremembered with Padma Newsome, Shara Nova, and D.M. Stith at its acclaimed Liquid Music series. Nova, Newsome, and Stith will also tour Unremembered in the U.S. and in Holland, with the Doelen Ensemble as part of the Cross-Linx Festival. The North Carolina Symphony will perform both Unremembered and Hiraeth, Snider’s large work for orchestra and film, at the Kennedy Center as part of its invitation to the SHIFT Festival. Other season highlights include the world premieres of a new work for violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and a collaborative commission for female vocalist and string orchestra.
September 2015 saw the critically-acclaimed 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/visual artist Nathaniel Bellows and features vocalists Padma Newsome (Clogs), Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), and D.M. Stith, as well as the Unremembered Orchestra (members of 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. An “intricately magical landscape” (Justin Davidson, New York Magazine) and “a deeply personal, brave work” (I Care If You Listen), Unremembered “attests to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting” (The New York Times), and was declared “one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year” (Thought Catalog); “mysterious and unsettling, [with a] fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers” (The Washington Post); “masterful…a stunning, immensely rewarding experience” (PopMatters); “evocative and strangely beautiful” (Opera News); “warped and eerie” (NPR Songs We Love); and “a glimpse into an entirely new sound world” (Indy Week). Unremembered was named to dozens of Best-Of-2015 lists internationally including The Washington Post (Top Five), The Nation (Top Five), The Boston Globe’s Steve Smith, The Guardian’s Seth Colter Walls, WNYC, and New Music Box. It was also named one of the 50 Best Classical Works of the Past Twenty Years by Q2 Radio listeners.
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, 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 Believer, New Music Box, and many others, with Pitchfork 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 vocal octet Roomful of Teeth; yMusic’s debut record, Beautiful Mechanical; NOW Ensemble‘s third album, Dreamfall; and pianist Michael Mizrahi’s sophomore release, Currents. Forthcoming recordings of Snider’s music will include “Psalm of the Soil,” written for and recorded by Cantus, and “The Currents,” recorded by pianist Nicholas Phillips.
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. The 2013 winner of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award, Snider has also received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Jerome Composers Commissioning Fund, New Music USA, and Opera America; 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.
Nathaniel Bellows is a writer and artist living in New York City. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The Paris Review, The New York Times Book Review, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, the Everyman Anthology, Poems of New York, and many other periodicals. His first collection of poems, Why Speak? (W.W. Norton), was called “gripping...the book’s power depends on the slow accumulation of an inner world” by The New York Times Book Review and “a smart and powerful debut” by Library Journal. He is also the author of two novels: On This Day (HarperCollins) (“A triumph”—The Los Angeles Times) and Nan: A Novel in Stories (Harmon Blunt Publishers) (“beautiful... heart-piercing...necessary reading,” The Millions). His short fiction has been published in The Paris Review, Narrative, Guernica, Redivider, The Best American Short Stories (selected by Michael Chabon), and many other journals and magazines. A recent Fellow in Poetry at Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland, he has earned a BA in English and Studio Arts from Middlebury College, and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University.
Not many people can front a rock band, sing Górecki’s Third Symphony, lead a marching band processional down the streets of the Sundance film festival, and perform in a baroque opera of their own composing – all in a month’s time. But Shara Worden can. Her multi-faceted career as My Brightest Diamond, which began with an acclaimed independent rock record, has reflected her journey into the world of performing arts. This Is My Hand, her fourth album, marks a confident return to rock music, one informed by her mastery of composition and a new exploration into the electronic.
Born in diamond-rich Arkansas and then raised all around the country, Worden came from a musical family of traveling evangelists. She went on to study operatic voice and then classical composition after a move to New York City. Shara began issuing recordings as My Brightest Diamond in 2006, following a protean period in the band AwRY, and joining Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers live ensemble. Asthmatic Kitty Records released her debut album, Bring Me The Workhorse in 2006, A Thousand Sharks’ Teeth in 2008, 2011’s All Things Will Unwind, which featured songs written for the chamber ensemble yMusic, and This Is My Hand in 2014.
In between MBD, well-known fans became collaborators, and collaborative projects amassed. Among a legion of extra-curricular stage performances and recordings, highlights of her work have included singing in Laurie Anderson’s 2008 show Homeland; delivering guest vocals on The Decemberists’ 2009 Hazards of Love album, then touring with them; performing in Bryce and Aaron Dessner’s multi-media presentation The Long Count; singing and recording for Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang; singing in Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope and Unremembered; and work with David Byrne (on his concept musical Here Lies Love), Fat Boy Slim, Bon Iver, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Matthew Barney’s six-hour long cine-opera, River of Fundament.
David Stith comes from a musical family: his father is a college wind ensemble director and former church choir director; his grandfather is professor emeritus in the music department at Cornell University; his mother is a pianist; his sisters sing opera, play piano, tap dance, play timpani and are excellent softball players. David Stith grew up dreading the family ensemble’s appearances in church, preferring instead to draw mazes on the blank sides of church bulletins during services. In fifth grade, a harrowing performance of Phantom of the Opera at a school assembly (accompanied by his mother on piano) nearly turned him off to music for good. He started a noise band in high school, called Starchild (or Starchildren, or The Pool –they never did quite decide); but they preferred painting their guitars over playing them. David wrote a lot of bad poetry during this time.
In college, David attempted writing a novel and a children’s book, illustrating his work with original woodcut prints. His pursuit of writing and illustration brought him from Rochester to Brooklyn, where he took up work as a graphic designer. While in Brooklyn, David befriended Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), and soon after began facilitating, in small technical ways, the recording of her album Bring Me The Workhorse. This, in turn, spurred David to begin writing and recording songs of his own. It was a casual, private affair. He spent countless days stored away in his bedroom, sketching folk songs with epic electronic gestures, a rekindling of passions for his,first familial love: music. David completed his first catalog of songs for an album called Ichabod and Apple, written and recorded in the first month of his song-writing experiments. His first full length album is Heavy Ghost, on Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Padma Newsome was born in Alice Springs, Australia in 1961. He trained as a concert violist in Sydney, touring throughout Australia, China and the Pacific. In the mid 1980’s, he left classical performance to spend six years on an ashram in New South Wales where he taught yoga, studied Indian classical music and participated in the centre’s musical activities. Newsome began formal studies in composition in the 1990’s at the University of Adelaide and continued at Yale University on a Fulbright scholarship. His musical palette expresses colors of the modernist avant-garde, folk music from India and chamber music remnants along with energy of the pop/rock world. He composes for traditional large and small ensemble, the electro-acoustic medium, improvised chamber ensemble and music for dance, theatre and film. Padma resides in Mallacoota, Australia, where he mentors, teaches, conducts the Mallacoota Choir and is a leading light for regional community music projects.
Padma Newsome is the musical director and composer for Clogs, a new and improvising ensemble that has toured throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, and Canada. His repertoire for Clogs infuses contemporary classical music with the traditional rhythms and harmonies of folk music, driving energy of rock and ample room for improvisation. The ensemble was awarded the prestigious CMA/NEA Special Commissioning Award in 2003 in recognition of its achievements in the field of new and improvised chamber music, and has also received several residency grants from Chamber Music America. Clogs has released 5 albums and two EPs featuring Newsome’s compositions: Thom’s Night Out (2001), Lullaby for Sue (2003), Stick Music (2004), Lantern (2006), Veil Waltz (2009) on the Brassland/USA and Southern Records/Europe labels. Their 5th album, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton was released in 2009. The record features Newsome’s new songs for Clogs with guest vocalists Matt Berninger of the National, Sufjan Stevens, and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. The music was composed during his residency in Ischia, Italy, made possible by a Commissioning and Residency award from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University in 2004/5. In 2012, Clogs in collaboration with the Mallacoota Community Choir, released a 3 song EP, “The Sundown Song."