Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden, Music Director

Available for performance after June 2023
Unavailable for performance.

  • 2+pic.3(III:ca).3(II:Ebcl.III:bcl).3(III:cbn)/4.3.3.1/timp.2perc/pf(cel).hp/recording/str
  • 14 min

Programme Note

Composer note
Forward Into Light is a meditation on perseverance, bravery, and alliance. The piece was inspired by the American women suffragists — Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, Zitkála-Šá, and Mabel Lee Ping-Hua, to name but a few — who devoted their lives to the belief that women were human beings and therefore entitled to equal rights and protections under the law of the United States of America.

I wrote the music thinking about what it means to believe in something so deeply that one is willing to endure harassment, isolation, assault, incarceration, hunger, force-feedings, death threats, and life endangerment to fight for it. The music reflects what I imagine a suffragist’s internal psychological landscape might have resembled: a struggle along the emotional continuum between hope and doubt, inspiration and exhaustion, faithlessness and resilience.

The piece was also inspired by the idea of synergistic interpersonal partnerships, which lay at the heart of the American women’s suffrage movement. Forward Into Light opens with three motivic ideas: a pair of ascending sixth intervals in the violins, an undulating quintuplet figure in the harp, and a lyrical line in close canon led by the violas. The trio of ideas coax each other forward, tentatively at first, and then more urgently, as tremors of adversity intensify the stakes. New voices join the conversation, challenging and subverting the original ideas to explore new collaborative solutions, united in the search for a strength that only a defined, mutual purpose can yield.

The piece was also inspired by the idea of synergistic interpersonal partnerships, which lay at the heart of the American women’s suffrage movement. Forward Into Light opens with three motivic ideas: a pair of ascending sixth intervals in the violins, an undulating quintuplet figure in the harp, and a lyrical line in close canon led by the violas. The trio of ideas coax each other forward, tentatively at first, and then more urgently, as tremors of adversity intensify the stakes. New voices join the conversation, challenging and subverting the original ideas to explore new collaborative solutions, united in the search for a strength that only a defined, mutual purpose can yield.

Forward Into Light features a musical quote from “March of the Women,” composed in 1910 by British composer and suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth. The anthem of the women’s suffrage movement, “March of the Women” was sung in homes and halls, on streets and farms, and on the steps of the United States Capitol. The title of the piece derives from a suffrage slogan made famous by the banner that suffragist Inez Milholland carried while riding a white horse to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C.:

Forward, out of error
Leave behind the night
Forward through the darkness
Forward into light!

— Sarah Kirkland Snider

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  • Sarah Kirkland Snider's 'Forward Into Light' Premieres
    • Sarah Kirkland Snider's 'Forward Into Light' Premieres
    • 2nd June 2022
    • The New York Philharmonic will give the premiere of Forward Into Light, a work by Sarah Kirkland Snider commissioned for the orchestra’s Project 19 initiative to honor the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote.