Penelope’s Song (Cello)

Instrumentation: Amplified cello and electronic playback
Duration: 9:07
Premiere: 4/9/06
Maxine Neuman, Cutting Edge Series
Symphony Space, Thalia Theatre, New York, NY

Program Note:
Penelope’s Song is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus. It was inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, which tells of the travails of Odysseus, of his ten years at war in Troy, and then, due to the sea-god Poseidon’s wrath, for another ten. Scant attention is paid to Penelope, left waiting for all that time, with many greedy and arrogant suitors attempting to woo her to become king. To stave them off she devised excuses. 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. This piece sings of her, giving voice to her experience and response to her own challenges. I created the electronics from recordings I made of Charlottesville weaver Jan Russell working on her wooden looms. I processed and shaped these, weaving a new sonic fabric, and then treated the acoustic and digital elements as warp and weft of a new tapestry. Penelope’s Song, in the original scoring for amplified viola and electronics, received its world premiere by Laura Wilcox at the Musica Viva Festival in Portugal in 2003 and its American premiere by Rozanna Weinberger in 2004 at the TechnoSonics IV Festival at the University of Virginia. Since then, I have made additional versions for amplified flute, clarinet, soprano sax, violin, and cello. There are recordings available of the versions for amplified flute (Lindsey Goodman), clarinet (Andrea Cheeseman), soprano sax (Susan Fancher), and violin (Hasse Borup). – JS

Read the backstory of Penelope’s Song

Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard