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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.
1. The Guest
2. The Slaughterhouse
3. The Girl
4. The Swan
5. The Speakers
The Knox Mercury
“Next it was onto the Bijou for composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Unremembered, with My Brightest Diamond’s Sara Nova, DM Stith, and Padma Newsome. The piece was easy to drift into and I felt lighter a few minutes into the performance. The mix of Snider’s haunting score with Nova’s vocals and projected art seamlessly drifted from sweet to spooky to somber. I only meant to stay for a part of the performance, but ended up watching the entire thing.
“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…Snider’s melodies, which are otherworldly and ear-catching. …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...seem perfectly matched to her restless, inquisitive artistic sensibility.”
The Washington Post
“[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…just may contain clues to understanding the darker truths of adulthood.”
“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 Answer Is In The Beat
“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.”
New York Magazine
“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.”
Genre, I'm Only Dancing
“...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.”
“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.”
"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…"
“In 13 warped and eerie songs, Snider [channels] 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...Snider’s forceful orchestra, led by sharp stomps from the cellos, chases Worden, sometimes enveloping her completely.”
The NJ Star Ledger
“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.”