Instrumentation: Amplified clarinet + electronics
University of Delaware, Wilmington, DE
Penelope’s Song is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus. It was inspired by Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, which tells of the travails of Odysseus, but comments from Penelope’s point of view. Odysseus was away from home for twenty years, first at war in Troy and then, due to the sea-god Poseidon’s wrath, for ten more years. The story also tells of Penelope, left waiting for him for all that time, and of the many suitors, filled with greed and arrogance, who tried to woo her in order to become king. To stave them off she devised many excuses. In one, she said she would take no suitor until she finished weaving a shroud for her husband’s aged father, Laertes. But, since she unraveled at night what she wove by day, she made no progress. Instead, she actively waited for Odysseus’ return. This piece sings of her adventures.
The electronics were created from a recording I made of Charlottesville weaver Jan Russell working on her wooden looms. I processed and shaped these materials, weaving a new sonic fabric. Penelope’s Song, originally scored for amplified viola and electronics, was premiered at the Musica Viva Festival in Portugal in 2003, and received its American premiere at TechnoSonics IV at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2004. The version for clarinet and electronics was premiered by Marianne Gythfeldt at the University of Delaware. It can be heard in the version for violin and electronics with Hasse Borup on the Innova label on the CD Tower of the Eight Winds.–JS