Treading Water


Indie-folk singer Sarah Goldfeather brings her music and voice to a new work

Treading Water is a new song cycle by composer and singer Sarah Goldfeather, commissioned by Contemporaneous. Using original texts by Martha Sprackland, Goldfeather's songs explore the obsessive, irrational, despairing and desperate inner world of cognitive distortions and closed-circuit logic that feed our ugliest insecurities.

Goldfeather comes from a unique musical background — as a violinist, she is steeped in contemporary music, but as a singer, she performs most often in the indie-folk world. The piece will therefore be folk-influenced, not unlike some of the later music she has written for her band, Goldfeather, but with an evident new music influence in both structure and orchestration.

The song-cycle will be 25-35 minutes in length, featuring Goldfeather singing with an ensemble of roughly 16 players. It will be broken up into five movements that can be performed separately or all as one unified work. The piece could be paired with a performance by Sarah's band Goldfeather and/or music from the Contemporaneous repertoire (such as Dan Trueman and Caomhín Ó Raghallaigh's new work).

Sarah Goldfeather is a project of Contemporaneous IMAGINATION, the ensemble's commissioning initiative which seeks to give voice to the wildest and most meaningful dreams of composers of all backgrounds from around the world.

In short:

  • Music by Sarah Goldfeather; text by Martha Sprackland

  • Duration: 25-35 minutes

  • Instrumentation: solo voice (Sarah Goldfeather) and medium ensemble (ca. 16 instrumentalists)

  • 5 movements

  • Performance history:

    • Movements 1 and 2 were performed by Present Music on March 24, 2018 at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee

    • Movements 1, 2, and 3 were performed by Contemporaneous on June 24, 2018 at National Sawdust, Brooklyn, NY

  • Available for booking beginning in 2019



Sarah Goldfeather, composer and singer

"Sarah Goldfeather’s voice captures your attention. The astonishing musicianship holds your attention."
Impose Magazine

"poignant...striking and laudable...”
The Deli Magazine


Martha Sprackland, poet

"[With] formal acuity Martha Sprackland characterizes a broken relationship as helplessly frozen syntax […] Numbness of spent emotion, wonderfully anatomized."
— Glyn Maxwell

"Sprackland refreshes the domestic and mundane in poems which are outwardly calm, but lit from within to reveal unusual visionary angles."
— Eric Gregory Award


For booking inquiries, contact Contemporaneous Executive and Co-Artistic Director Dylan Mattingly

Email: | Phone (510) 333.2543