These three orchestral art songs for soprano – The Guest, The Swan, The Witch – come from Unremembered, an hour-long, thirteen-movement song cycle inspired by poems and illustrations by writer and visual artist, Nathaniel Bellows. 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. 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.
These arrangements were commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra. The female vocalist should have a wide range (E3-Bb6); otherwise two different vocalists (mezzo and soprano) may be preferred. Vocalist is supported by three pre-recorded vocal parts woven into the electronics, which are live-triggered by laptop. Alternatively these supporting vocal parts can be performed live by three female vocalists. Using the pre-recorded backing tracks necessitates the use of a click track in performance. Please see Unremembered tech rider for more information.
Live performances of Three Songs from Unremembered are further brought to vivid, immersive life through projections of the Unremembered artwork, created by the cycle’s writer/illustrator, Nathaniel Bellows. For image/video licensing information for Unremembered artwork, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Songs from Unremembered:
- The Guest
- The Swan
- The Witch
"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.”
"[Unremembered is] a masterpiece."
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.
The Minnesota Post
“Wrapped in Snider’s lush, expressive music, [Unremembered]'s poems become songs of innocence lost and wisdom gained. It’s like a gothic novel unfolding in the most delicious way.”
"Unremembered is unmistakably music for deep listening and demands all the attention."
"In early December, we asked Q2 Music listeners to vote on their favorite new-music of the last 20 years." (Unremembered, Top 50)
New York Music Daily
"[In 'Unremembered'] Snider takes a lyric cycle by Nathaniel Bellows, chronicling a literally haunted Massachusetts upbringing, and sets it to a luminous, often otherworldly, brilliantly individualistic score."
New York Music Daily
"...chilling, Lynchian...with its blend of shifting sheets of sound and eerily minimalist Satie-esque piano, ["The Swan" is] another vision of dread and death that’s bloodcurdling in its nonchalance."
“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.”
"In a year full of terrific chamber music by up-and-coming composers, 'Unremembered' stands out among its peers. Listeners will still be unpacking its mysteries well into the foreseeable future." (#4, Top Ten Albums of 2015)
Q2 Music's 5th annual new-music countdown has returned! We asked listeners, "What do you consider the greatest works of classical music written in the last 20 years?" (Unremembered, Top 50.)
New York Music Daily
"The most lavishly orchestrated album on this list features vocals from Padma Newsome and Shara Worden throughout a mix of brooding, sweeping art-rock reflections on harrowing childhood experiences and similar trauma." (The 50 Best Albums of 2015)
The Washington Post
"'Unremembered' [is] an ambitious Gothic song cycle with a wide range of techniques instrumental, vocal and electronic." (Top Five Albums of 2015)
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.”
“'Unremembered' is all about exploding genres, bringing Van Dyke Parks into conversation with John Adams, My Brightest Diamond into collision with Edgard Varèse, and art song into contact with concept album.”
"…One of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers."
“[Unremembered is] haunting, orchestral and poetic…cinematic and atmospheric…”
“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.”
“Together, Snider and Bellows have created one of the most significant and harrowing releases of the year, a ravishing fever dream. Hear it once, and Unremembered is unforgettable.”
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.”
"Snider’s lyrical and oft-rapturous music is characterized by immense poise and sophistication…['Unremembered'] reaffirms Snider’s stature as a modern composer of significant note and accomplishment.”
“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…" ['Unremembered']
“…'Unremembered' is as enthralling in its musical flow as its lyrical narrative, and the way Snider guides, teases, and manipulates the listener is masterful. It’s a stunning, immensely rewarding experience…”
The Agit Reader
“…The finest composer for voice of her generation..." ['Unremembered']
The Agit Reader
“With 'Unremembered'…the multiplicity of musical languages spoken so deftly highlights the ambiguity of image and the melancholy of both remembering and not — and can be unpacked again and again, still revealing treasures.”
“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.”
“['Unremembered' is] a glimpse into an entirely new sound world, melding the sneaky bass lines and rhythms of a My Brightest Diamond number with the unsettling orchestral interjections of Thomas Adès and some kind of obliquely driving rock.”
I Care If You Listen
“Based on grisly subject matter, “The Swan” was dark, cinematic, and passionately delivered. “The Witch” was intense, curling, and fierce...If these two selections are any indication, Unremembered is a deeply personal, brave work from Snider.”
Minneapolis City Pages
"Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider is at the forefront of the "post-classical" scene where genre boundaries can't keep her and contemporaries from fertile new artistic ground."
Night After Night
“Based on wistful poetry by Nathaniel Bellows, and augmented with projections of his art and animations, ['Unremembered'] was an involving and moving success on first brush…with depths that urge repeated listening.”
The New York Times
“[Unremembered] attested to Ms. Snider’s thorough command of musical mood setting, organically integrating the structural economy and direct impact of pop songs with deft, subtle orchestrations that lent emotional gravity and nuance.”
The NJ Star-Ledger
“Snider’s “Unremembered,” with text by Nathaniel Bellows, emerged as the night’s highlight...Snider created intricate, color-saturated landscapes that made one want more than one listen to plumb their layers of detail.”
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.”