Penelope’s Song

Instrumentation: Amplified viola and electronic playback; Amp. violin and electronics; Amp. cello and electronics; Soprano sax and electronics; Amp. clarinet and electronics; Amp. flute and electronics
Duration: 9:00

Laura Wilcox (Viola)
Musica Viva Festival, Coimbra, Portugal

2/15/04 (U.S. premiere)
Rozanna Weinberger
TechnoSonics, University of Virginia

Tim Summers (Violin)
Musikhuset Lille Sal, Aarhus, Denmark

Maxine Neuman (Cello)
Cutting Edge Series, Symphony Space, Thalia Theatre, New York, NY

Susan Fancher (Sop. Sax)
Weatherspoon Museum, Shake it Up Festival, Greensboro, NC

Marianne Gythfeldt (Clarinet)
University of Delaware, Wilmington, DE

Lindsey Goodman (Flute)
Elizabeth Pastor Recital Hall, Ashland University, Ashland, OH

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. I composed the original version of Penelope’s Song for viola and electronics, with thanks to Rozanna Weinberger and Laura Wilcox for their insights and interpretations. It has also been performed by a variety of violists, including Korey Konkol, who performed it on his Primrose Memorial Recital at Brigham Young University.

Since the premiere, I have composed versions for amplified flute, clarinet, soprano sax, violin, and cello. Recordings are available by these outstanding artists:  amplified flute (Lindsey Goodman), clarinet  (Andrea Cheeseman), soprano sax (Susan Fancher) and violin (Hasse Borup). – JS


Press Quote:
“Judith Shatin’s Penelope’s Song is inspired by the story of Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, who, while waiting for her husband’s return, spent two decades weaving at her loom and keeping at bay numerous suitors who wished to supplant him. Musically depicting Penelope’s determination, faith and despair, it was written for and performed by violist Rozanna Weinberger with an electronic accompaniment based on the steady, repetitious sound of wooden looms…The work, receiving its U.S. premiere, was dramatic and effective.”
Charlottesville Weekly

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.



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