"Snider is a contemporary American composer widely performed in the United States and abroad. The title of her quartet is a modified quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quartet’s namesake — “Drink the wild air’s salubrity.” The music nods overtly to nature with its twitters and echoes, though its progress is asymmetrical and often agitated. The Emerson String Quartet gave this new composition an elegant and committed performance."
"New works of classical music come and go. But Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Forward into Light” is here to stay, a timeless and deeply felt anthem inspired by American women suffragists. The Princeton-based composer — who has a unique, personal style — is reshaping the literature of American music with transformative works that seamlessly combine emotionally impactful storytelling with well-knit, contrapuntal textures. “Forward Into Light” opens with three motivic ideas narrated through violins, harp and violas, and builds to a collaborative orchestral voice of melodic, layered textures. The storytelling is vivid, immersive and direct, and arranged through a wide-angled musical lens. Snider’s craftsmanship is developed with stylistic assurance and musical intelligence.”
"The key was Sarah Kirkland Snider’s 2014 Something for the Dark, a mysterious and moody ten-minute opener that combined some modern, modal minimalism relatable to Adams with cinematic gestures and harmonies that threw back to Sibelius. The piece started with warmth, but there was mystery too. Snider quickly established her long game, harmonically spinning out passages, forcing a sense of longing before any phrase resolves. As the piece went on, it grew darker, the handsome surfaces becoming more crinkled and troubled, building up tension that erupted at its climax in sonorous cracks of timpani and snare drum. True to its harmonic style, it did not so much resolve as dissolve at the end, but the sense of a turning point had been made... Not only was Snider, who was in attendance, received warmly by the audience, she was given a second ovation by the portion of the crowd that spotted her heading back to her seat afterwards, an auspicious welcome to a composer making her Cleveland Orchestra debut."
"The [Cleveland Orchestra] concert began with a captivating performance of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Something for the Dark” — which is also something of a concerto for orchestra. Built up from ever-changing layers of color, the piece starts out with bright hues, then becomes somber. Interesting pairings of percussion instruments, especially the coupling of harp and celeste, take on an ethereal sound world that accentuates the colors of the piece. David Robertson and the Orchestra gave the 12-minute work a persuasive reading, and Robertson brought Snider onstage to receive a warm round of applause."
"Sarah Kirkland Snider’s 'Forward Into Light' (2020)...began with the faintest of flute flurries giving way to lyrical modules making their glittery points in a tonal language. Though this is not a minimalist work, the winds and brass frequently simulate digital delay effects, with notes and phrases echoing away into silence."
“…the Emerson's program was beautifully structured and satisfyingly complete, with Ravel’s lovely quartet to start with, Webern’s Bagatelles as a palate cleanser, Bartok’s No. 2 to end the first act, and a New York premiere [of 'Drink the Wild Ayre'] by Sarah Kirkland Snider just before the performance of Shostakovich’s Twelfth… Snider is a worthy inheritor of the Shostakovich tradition.”
"These five gifted composers speak to a circle of stories – shared influences, revelatory experiences- all riffing off of and taking inspiration from one another, as they respond collectively to a flood of memories from a woman traveling the space between life and death as laid out in the poem." — New Sounds Top Ten Albums of 2022
"This architecture lends to The Blue Hour’s compulsive relistenability, new lines emerging as significant with each turn. I want to revisit this album like I revisit certain books every few years or so, using it as a sort of psychological yardstick or Rorschach test to see what stands out. It’s both a means and manifestation of contemplation." -- Van Magazine
“Snider’s 'Mass for the Endangered' warrants all of the success that it has had…It’s frankly beautiful. Snider consistently delivers music you want to hear…the music has a keen sense of collage – with thoughtfully chosen musical objects co-existing in the same sound canvass…Particularly magical and virtuosic is the convergence of disparate elements in the Agnus Dei…”
“A gem…With music that was by turns fragile and ferocious — and that also boasted touches of mordant wit — “Light” ably communicated its story about new ideas struggling for space…[conductor Jaap van Zweden] relished hairpin turns during which the music throttled into tutti writing, [managing] Snider’s quick dynamic shifts with a Hollywood sound-mixer’s feel for drama… Sometimes Snider’s Sturm und Drang suggested early feminist boldness, or corresponding public sphere controversy… But even in the densest moments, you could discern Snider’s feel for wry commentary... And so, just as in her ecologically oriented “Mass for the Endangered,” the composer’s intellectual concerns dovetailed smoothly with the lush, inviting score…the audience greeted the new piece with enthusiasm….a reminder enough of Snider’s emergent career.”
"['Forward Into Light'] possessed a sheer musical attractiveness which, from the start, was entrancing. The motives were rarely played alone. Instead, they rose up out of each other, each ascending theme and each undulating under-theme pressing each other forward, sometimes forming new constructions, but always going back to the original phrases. Not once did Ms. Snider’s music lag or show academic development per se. Rather the instruments goaded each other onward, forward to a series of crescendos into an emotional climax. If pictures were the goal...one might conceive it as waves engendering waves, or creation begetting creations, or even a Darwinesque image of evolution."
"At the start of ['Forward Into Light'], soft rising violin figures and a canon initiated by lower strings combine with the glistening harp, setting the table for development throughout the fourteen-minute piece. Jaap van Zweden ably steered the Philharmonic through fascinating twists and turns, quirky rhythms and dynamic contrasts. The colorful orchestration includes regal touches from the trumpets, a brief but lovely clarinet tune, sonorous cello melodies and a wide range of sounds from percussion. The most unifying element was Nancy Allen’s outstanding playing as her harp returned time after time to lead, connect and punctuate the music. Toward the end, the oboes offer a quote from Dame Ethel Smyth’s March of the Women...[and the] original ideas return, bringing the work full-circle."
“Expressive, evocative, and personal, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s music explores emotional landscapes through vivid, compelling narratives…[her] distinctive blend of classical, rock, ambient, and minimalist elements [is] a unique sound world that she has made identifiably her own – familiar, yet at the same time strange and unsettling.”
“One of the most powerful expressions of the indie classical style is Snider’s breakthrough work, 'Penelope'… [It] maintains a high level of emotional and expressive intensity while demonstrating the composer’s innate ability to present powerful and evocative stories through music.”
"Snider's gripping settings of Bellows' gothic fables [in 'Unremembered']...capture the sense of awe, wonderment, fear, panic, and loss of innocence as experienced through a child's eyes...[evoking] the Gothic horror of an Edgar Allen Poe story. The music sounds more complex and multilayered than 'Penelope' but is nevertheless full of bold gestures, sharp contrasts and polarized emotions.”
"Always a bit otherworldly and ethereal, Snider’s music gives in to each of the four elements, both at different points throughout [Mass for the Endangered]...It creates familiar ground and deep twilight; the ideal vantage point to find a moment of stillness, or perhaps a beginning."
'Enargeia,' the debut recording by the young Canadian mezzo Emily D’Angelo, is a mesmerizing and eclectic group of mainly newly composed songs…truly remarkable… on it, I particularly enjoy 'Caritas' by the American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, which features text based on Hildegard von Bingen's poetry."
The third track 'Thread and Fray', a tonal trio for viola, bass clarinet and marimba by Sarah Kirkland Snider, offers a slower pace than the previous works. This piece opens with a unison melody that is then traded, fragmented and passed around the ensemble using a variety of canonical compositional techniques...[showcasing] the strong lyrical and melodic playing styles in the middle-register instruments."
"It's a relatively short and simple song, but "Nausicaa," in this breathtaking rendition, packs an outsized emotional punch. An aqueous synth intro yields to gently undulating strings, unfurling a subtle red carpet walkway onto which the Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo makes her majestic, yet intimate, appearance. And with one long, ravishingly phrased line ("Don't be afraid, stranger"), we fall under the spell of the beauty of the human voice."
"...when you pair a knockout voice, like that of mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo, with some ravishingly beautiful music by Sarah Kirkland Snider – one of today's most attentive vocal composers – you have a recipe for sublime listening. Listen to how ["Nausicaa"] unfolds in voluptuous, long lines with incandescent orchestration..."
"A brooding album, heavy on drones, mellow chants and sorrowful outpourings, “Enargeia” has its chronological foundation in the solemn music of Hildegard von Bingen, who provides a model for (much) more recent works by Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider... [including] “The Lotus Eaters,” a lushly wailing song from Snider’s 2009 cycle 'Penelope.'" -- Five Classical Albums to Hear Right Now
"I'm especially struck by the way [Emily] D'Angelo handles selections from Snider's devastatingly lovely, emotionally gripping song cycle 'Penelope'...D'Angelo's performance is her own and distinctive, yet it's not a world away from the original; the new performance honors its forebear without slavish mimickry, the sign of a shrewd interpreter and a durable composition."
“Snider’s arrangement of Bingen’s hymn to divine wisdom 'O Virtus Sapientiae,' in which D’Angelo weaves in and out of the glassy, ethereal textures created by the Kuss Quartet, follows on so organically that it’s hard to believe that the music predates the previous track by a thousand years...Three extracts from Snider’s Homer-inspired song-cycle 'Penelope' also impress, particularly the other-worldly beauty of ‘Nausicaa’ (which finds D’Angelo at her most tonally seductive) and the folkish, appropriately hypnotic ‘The Lotus Eaters’ which brings this bold, imaginative debut album to an unsettling but beguiling close.”
"This ravishing album came to my attention during some of the most disconcerting times of lockdown last year. A sumptuous, but gloriously judged new setting of the Mass, [Mass for the Endangered] caresses, haunts, and illuminates the listener with its tender melodies, and a harmonic language that grasps you smoothly yet firmly." -- Six Things I've Heard I Couldn't Live Without
Third on the record is the lovely "Thread and Fray:,,,which shows off the individual musical sensibilities of this group. A simple melody snakes along in juxtaposition with an increasingly disjointed and intentionally unstable accompaniment shared across the ensemble, showcasing the stunning control and thoughtful phrasing of each performer.
Snider’s lucid score [for ‘Mass for the Endangered’] is at once powerful and delicate…[with] striking harmonies, imaginative use of texture [and] counterpoint that is as intricate and exquisite as a spider’s web. This a luminous and arresting disc that conveys its urgent ecological message with power and beauty.”
"'Mass for the Endangered’ is musically penetrating and textually provocative…On one level, [it] is a requiem for the natural world…But Snider’s colorful music, while not shying away from the pain of this realization, is, at heart, optimistic, offering a sliver of hope that we may yet save what’s left.” (Critic's Choice)
"American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider adapts the ancient contemplative template of the Catholic Mass to honor and mourn for a burning planet and its wildlife...This premiere recording [of 'Mass for the Endangered] hands the piece to the luminous British choir Gallicantus." ("10 Reasons to Keep Falling for Classical Music")
"Arresting…shines with multi-layered singing of uncommon beauty…Snider asserts her own musical personality as a composer who knows instinctively how to write for the human voice. Through her smart and resplendent exploration of age-old musical formulas, Snider's eco-inspired 'Mass for the Endangered' is a blast from the past that resonates profoundly in the present.”
“Sarah Kirkland Snider, a rising star on the American compositional scene … describes ['Mass for the Endangered'] as a prayer for endangered wildlife and their imperiled environments. More plea than polemic, the first recording of this riveting work … [is] elegiac and affecting.”
[In Mass for the Endangered], Snider summons from her forces a lustrous wonder... By turns diaphanous and urgent, exultant and wary, the music both immerses us in this perilous era and stirs us to examine our collective conscience… Snider and Bellows’s collaboration is a meeting of questing, unsettled minds.”
"As with Snider’s past works, the surface details of 'Mass for the Endangered'] can be quickly identified as mellifluous and engaging. But there are additional levels to enjoy...This emphatic articulation of purpose, sung by and for other humans, seems to be reaching beyond environmentalism and toward morality at large."
"Snider re-works the mass into a requiem for the environment to spectacular effect...This most accessible and very contemporary work (which just might be the first vegan mass) is deeply grounded in earlier traditions and will be of certain interest to lovers of high-quality choral writing." ('Mass for the Endangered' 4.5 Stars, Editor's Choice)
"Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Pale As Centuries is the album’s most striking piece. Its wary guitar theme recedes for Terry Riley-ish upper-register circles, clarinet floating amid piano turbulence and eerie concentric circles just below: it wouldn’t be out of place in the Darcy James Argue catalog."
"I came away with a newly discovered composer to get all enthusiastic about–Sarah Kirkland Snider, whose 'Scenes from Unremembered'...were the most musically compelling songs of the whole show. Angular melodies, chromatic mediant harmonies, overlapping ascending scales, rich rhythmic density arising from Monkishly interlocking ostinati...A Renaissancey minimalism, and quite honestly some of the coolest stuff I’ve heard in a long time.”
“...Sarah Kirkland Snider’s colorful 'Something for the Dark' [is] a sort of concerto for orchestra. Each section enjoyed its moment to shine as the piece cycled through a series of themes and rhythmic variations. It begins with an ethereal high note played by a single violin, and expands into a Mahlerian world of sound and textures.”
“Nicholas Phan took the stage in the second half of the intermission-less program with a pair of songs by Sarah Kirkland Snider. The tenor captured the room with a haunting a cappella setting of William Blake’s “Mad Song.” Violinist Yuan-Qing Yu and cellist Kenneth Olsen traced gauzy lines around [Nicholas] Phan’s plaintive, austere vocalism in “Chrysalis,” in which the speaker—in a dream—encounters an unwritten poem in the form of a woman. The results were mesmerizing.”
"With her ability to paint words...in music and convey ideas in sound, Snider creates music ['You Must Feel With Certainty'] that is not only beautiful but intriguing, capturing the spirit of the Swedish mystic [Hilma af Klint] whose paintings could be glimpsed in the adjoining galleries."
“'Something for the Dark'...approaches sound as a vast, malleable substance. In this sophisticated piece, repetition transforms the emotional charge of musical motifs. A turn of phrase may appear pretty at first, then take on shades of nostalgia before registering as a creepy obsession haunting the ear. Ms. Snider skillfully draws a wide arc, with throbbing brass accents and slashing chords driving up tension. The work ends quietly, as if on a question.”
"The gorgeous, haunting song cycle ['Penelope'] updates Homer's Odyssey from the perspective of its female characters. Snider has been taken to task for writing music that is too vulnerable and too expressive. In "The Lotus Eaters," she answers her critics powerfully with restless music that overflows from an intoxicating desire to forget." (from "The 200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women")
“…as a showcase for [Williamson and Snider’s] emerging talents, 'Embrace' makes an exciting impression…Snider’s score is perfectly suited to Williamson’s theme, rooted in classicism but attuned to the modern ear, with its lushly filmic, melodic quality...I hope she will be commissioned for more dance works henceforth.” (Best Ballet Premieres of 2018)
“Sarah Kirkland Snider’s new and undoubtedly American score ['Embrace'] with its echoes of Bernstein, Copland, and Barber supports the action well. At a time when it seems de rigueur that new music has to be difficult, Snider manages to be challenging without being hard on the ear.”
“'Embrace' is a new work by up-and-coming dance-maker, George Williamson, to a tremendous commission from the notable American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. Snider creates a thrilling sound world, using the many sonorities of a full orchestra and building her music into truly impressive climaxes. It is rich and satisfying, an impressive first dance score from her, making one wish to hear more of her work very soon….superb.”
“The experimental possibilities for holiday tunes are endless…The recursive structure of “Twelve Days of Christmas,” for instance, is a standing invitation to a modern composer’s reappraisal, like a Sarah Kirkland Snider song cycle or a pointillist symphony that echoes the ideas of Steve Reich.”
“Working together, composers Rachel Grimes, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova and Caroline Shaw, the Grammy Award-winning singer Luciana Souza and the 18 string players of A Far Cry have come up with a gorgeous and remarkably unified work ['The Blue Hour']."
“['The Currents'] effectively avoids indulging emotion, favoring subtle atmospheric suggestion, true to 19th century impressionism...The piece, however, is not without its surprises... At times tempestuous, at others placid, The Currents is a force of nature—both monsoon and mild breeze.”
"...[Something for the Dark] represents the best of what a commission can yield. It is an imposing achievement marked by Snider’s unique musical language and decisive artistic vision…The charms of Something for the Dark serve a grand structural purpose. Snider persuasively develops a complex music form...a veritable master class in the craft of contemporary music composition."
“In entrancing the listener with the slow dazzle of its intertwining patterns, ['The Currents'] sets the mark high at the outset. There’s a lilting, Debussy-like flow to the material that does, in fact, suggest water movements, especially when the music fluctuates between the rapid motion visible at one stage in a river and the peaceful calm evident elsewhere…"
"[The Currents] carries the same flowing lyricism and sensitivity as Snider’s vocal music—but without any of the words. Mizrahi’s fingers swim gracefully through the ebb and flow of the piece, beautifully capturing the depth and breadth of colors that make the currents come to life.”
“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...otherworldly and ear-catching...Snider clearly has a lot to say that’s worth listening to…” [Unremembered]
"[Ouroboros, from Epiphany: A Cycle of Life] reflects upon luminosity, music, time, space, life and death, with members of the audience becoming a part of the work and, in the process, connecting with themselves and with the present — the elusive moment of the here and now…Marked by a clear sense of ease and cohesion…energizing yet also soothing and meditative, poetic.
“groundbreaking...one of the most acclaimed song cycles of the last decade…What makes “Penelope” so gently devastating is the way Snider precisely captures the mood of McLaughlin’s text: alternately desolate, agitated, or coldly detached. Musical syntax matters less than the complex web of loss, recrimination, and self-understanding evoked.”
"[Unremembered] is Snider’s own brand of New England gothic that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud...multilayered, often angular, and deftly blends ideas from rock and post-minimalist composers…meticulously orchestrated...painterly, intimate...But it is Snider’s fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers.”
“…[Hiraeth] is quite dark, though never grim. She achieves this effect in ways both obvious and subtle: large swaths of minor-key harmonies; well-placed bursts of dissonance or eerie drones that cut against the cheerier melodies; dense orchestral writing that feels heavy, like the humid summer air of her memories; and the overall architecture, which never quite functions how you expect...Overall, Snider’s command of the orchestra is fantastic...engrossing.”
“['Hiraeth' is] glorious, even luxuriant, with its rich palette of dark and light hues. One could well be reminded of the wonderful tone poems of Richard Strauss. The honored composer was present, appearing on stage to make her well-deserved bows to the exuberant audience.”
“Each song [of 'Unremembered'] is its own vividly colored vignette, a mesmerizing narrative brought to life through Snider’s rich textural and temperamental palette…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.”
“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.”
“...Music of thoughtful inquiry and humane emotion…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.”