Instrumentation: Soprano sax & electronic playback
Commission: Susan Fancher
Weatherspoon Museum, Shake it Up Festival, Greensboro, NC
is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus. It was inspired by Homer’s
, 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. I composed the original version of Penelope’s Songfor viola and electronics, with thanks to Rozanna Weinberger and Laura Wilcox for their insights and interpretations. This version, for soprano sax and electronics, was commissioned by Susan Fancher, and involved a delightful exploration of soprano sax. She recorded it on her CD In 2 Worlds on Innova.Additional recordings are available for the following: amplified flute (Lindsey Goodman), clarinet (Andrea Cheeseman), and violin (Hasse Borup). – JS
Judith Shatin’s Penelope’s Song is a compelling piece of musique concrète using the sound and rhythm of a weaver’s loom to tell the story of Odysseus through his wife’s view.