Forward Into Light is a meditation on perseverance, bravery, and alliance. The piece was inspired by the American women suffragists -- Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, Zitkála-Šá, and Mabel Lee Ping-Hua, to name but a few – who devoted their lives to the belief that women were human beings and therefore entitled to equal rights and protections under the law of the United States of America.
I wrote the music thinking about what it means to believe in something so deeply that one is willing to endure harassment, isolation, assault, incarceration, force-feedings, and life endangerment to fight for it. Forward Into Light does not attempt to tell the story of the American women’s suffrage movement, but rather to distill the emotional and psychological contours of faith, doubt, and what it means to persevere.
Forward Into Light features a musical quote from “March of the Women,” composed in 1910 by British composer and suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth. The anthem of the women’s suffrage movement, “March of the Women” was sung in homes and halls, on streets and farms, and on the steps of the United States Capitol.
The title of the piece derives from a suffrage slogan made famous by the banner that suffragist Inez Milholland carried while riding a whitehorse to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C.:
“Forward, out of error
Leave behind the night
Forward through the darkness
Forward into light!”
The New York Times
“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 first audition, ['Forward Into Light'] seemed a series of intersections between various sonic waves, several of them harp induced, at times more forcefully coloured, otherwise nuances just gently suggested. The idiom in this piece for a large orchestra was definitely “modern,” but far from being aggressively so, proving the composer’s gift for meaningful orchestration."
"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."
Film Festival Traveler
"The program began promisingly with the remarkable, marvelously performed world premiere of a new commission, the beautifully orchestrated 'Forward Into Light' by the American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider."