Penelope’s Song (Violin)

Instrumentation: Amplified violin + electronics
Duration: 9:07
Premiere: 3/28/06
Violinist Tim Summers
Musikhuset Lille Sal, Aarhus, Denmark

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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, 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. 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. Since then, I have composed additional versions for amplified flute, clarinet, soprano sax, violin, and cello. The version for amplified violin and electronics was premiered by Tim Summers at the Musikhuset Lille Sal in Aarhus, Denmark on 3/28/06. Recordings are available for the following: amplified flute (Lindsey Goodman), clarinet (Andrea Cheeseman), soprano sax (Susan Fancher), and violin (Hasse Borup). – JS

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