Instrumentation: Soprano sax & electronic playback
Commission: Susan Fancher
Weatherspoon Museum, Shake it Up Festival, Greensboro, NC
Penelope’s Song was inspired by Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, which tells of the travails of Odysseus, who was away from home for twenty years, first at war in Troy and then, due to the sea-god Poseidon’s wrath, for ten more difficult years. It also tells of his wife, Penelope, Queen of Ithaca, waiting for him, and of the many suitors, filled with greed and arrogance, who tried to woo her so they could become king. To stave them off she devised excuses. In one, 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. Instead, she actively waited for Odysseus’ return. This piece is a tribute to her, and sings of her own adventures. The electronics were created from a recording I made of local weaver Jan Russell working on wooden looms. I processed and shaped these materials, weaving a new sonic fabric, using RTcmix. The original version of Penelope’s Song was composed for violist Rozanna Weinberger, who performed the American premiere at the University of Virginia in March, 2004. This version, for soprano sax and electronics, was commissioned by Susan Fancher, and she recorded it on her CD In 2 Worlds on Innova.
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.