Unremembered is an hour-long, thirteen-part song cycle for seven voices, chamber orchestra, and electronics by composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, inspired by poems and illustrations by writer and visual artist Nathaniel Bellows (W.W. Norton, HarperCollins).
A meditation on memory, innocence, and the haunted grandeur of the natural world, Unremembered recalls strange and beautiful happenings experienced during a childhood in rural Massachusetts: a houseguest takes sudden leave in the middle of the night; a boy makes a shocking discovery on a riverbank; a girl disappears in woods behind a ranging farm; ghosts appear with messages for the living. Through Bellows’s moving words and images and Snider’s vivid, fraught, astonishing score, the cycle explores the ways in which beguiling events in early life can resonate in—and prepare us for—the subtler horrors that lie beyond the realm of childhood.
In the live performance of Unremembered, each movement is accompanied by video projections featuring Bellows’s hand-drawn illustrations interleaved with photography and videography of the cycle’s rural New England locations, offering a unique and immersive visual world to complement its varied sonic and emotional landscapes.
Unremembered is an assemblage of vividly intense, imagistic vignettes – some are narrative, some are existential and ruminative. In words that are simple, direct, and lyrical, we see the world through a child’s eyes. These were Nathaniel’s stories and experiences, but they triggered memories from my own childhood – my own recollections of how it felt to develop consciousness, to encounter things I could not understand or explain, to reconcile the fact that some questions had no answers. In creating music for this piece, I strove to immerse myself in my memory of those feelings, in hopes of creating a musical world that reflected the sense of magic, mystery, wonder, fear, and revelation innate to childhood.