Flower woodcut Penelope. ~A Song Cycle~ by Sarah Kirkland Snider

NPR Names Penelope Among the Five Best Genre-Defying Albums of 2010!

NPR Music logoPenelope has made NPR’s list of the Five Best Genre-Defying Albums of 2010! It’s quite an honor to find ourselves on this list, especially given the company — Laurie Anderson (Laurie Anderson!), Clogs (one of my very favorites), the Young Scamels (whose members used to be in the The Rachel’s, a chamber-rock group that provided me much early inspiration/consolation as a young, confused composer), and David Karsten Daniels & Fight the Big Bull (a group I wasn’t aware of previously but whose clip here sounds amazing.)

The inimitable John Schaefer of WNYC’s Soundcheck wrote the list. He writes: “Some of the most compelling music being made today comes from the increasingly blurry boundary between indie-rock and contemporary classical music…what’s happening today is a rise of interest in instrumental rock that’s more about texture and sonic exploration than three minutes of disposable pogo-ing fun, as well as a new look at the song form — especially at the song cycle. In the old days, we would’ve called these “concept albums.” Now, we’re throwing around terms like post-rock or indie-classical. Basically, we’re talking about musically literate (i.e., able to read and write classical music notation) singers and players who grew up with and still play some form of rock music. The result is a convincing blend of styles. Actually, no — it’s no longer a blend of styles at all. It’s something new, something distinct and original. And it’s some of the most provocative and exciting work of the year.”

Of Penelope, he writes: “Snider has taken a fascinating idea from playwright Ellen McLaughlin and turned it into a song cycle that works on several levels. A woman opens her front door to find her lover/husband back after 20 years in an unnamed war, unable to remember who he is. Her therapy, for both of them, is to read Homer’s Odyssey to him as they wait and hope for his mind to heal. Yet another indie-classical song cycle featuring Shara Worden, Penelope deals with big ideas — memory, identity, “home” — but it’s also an intimate portrait of a woman who, like Homer’s Penelope, is confronted with finally getting what she’s wished for. The top-shelf new music ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, is equally at home with the electronics and electric guitars of the score as the conventional acoustic instruments. Alternately intimate and dramatic, “This Is What You’re Like” is a good example of this lovely and colorful score.”

Hurrah!  And congrats to Shara, who made the list twice (she also sings on the Clogs album!), and actually, is thanked in Laurie Anderson’s liner notes, so perhaps that’s three times?

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