skin /Skinn.

a taut flexible continuous outer covering or layering of the body or thing;

a film like a skin on the surface of a liquid or solid;

the skin of a flayed animal with or without the hair.


n. the delicate membrane separating the body and its environment — implies the phenomenon of touch, one of the five external senses, and through which the subsidiary sensory modalities of temperature, pain and vibration are partly perceived.



somatosensory, tactition or mechanoreception: a neural perception generally in the skin, but also in the tongue, throat, and mucosa. Receptors respond to variations in speed and pressure (firm, brushing, sustained, etc.). adj. somatic, tactile.


skin /Skin/ v.

to skin, to peel back the surface of; to shed an animal of its skin.


Under one's skin: so deeply penetrative as to irritate, stimulate, provoke thought, or otherwise excite. 

Under the skin: beneath apparent of surface differences: at heart. 


Skin as a metaphor for transience — the continuous process of shedding dead skin and the growing of new. 


Struck by a recording of an early production of Samuel Beckett's television play The Ghost Trio (written 1975 and first broadcast in 1977), this text, spoken by the narrator in Act 1, was the absolute catalyst for this piece:


...this is the room's essence

not being

now look closer

mere dust

dust is the skin of a room

history is a skin

the older it gets the more impressions are left on its surface

look again...


The main text is Skin is my own which gradually materialised during the long compositional process, and was partly inspired by collaborative sessions with Juliet Fraser. A section from James Joyce's Ulysses, from the final passage of Molly Bloom's Monologue, is quoted towards the end of Skin


Rebecca Saunders

Berlin, 1 June 2016



Skin, for soprano and 13 instruments, was written for me and Klangforum Wien and commissioned by SDR, Casa da Música Porto and hcmf//.



15 October 2016: Donaueschinger Musiktage (wp) with Klangforum Wien

20 November 2016: Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UKp) with Klangforum Wien

21 January 2017: Casa da Música, Porto with Remix Ensemble

21 March 2017: Vienna Konzerthaus with Klangforum Wien

17 May 2018: Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ with Asko|Schönberg Ensemble

11 June 2018: Manifeste with Klangforum Wien

25 August 2018: Ruhrtriennale with Ensemble Modern

14 September 2018: Klangspuren Festival with Ensemble Modern

9 November 2018: November Music with Klangforum Wien

19 January 2019: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London with Ensemble Modern

21 January 2019: Alte Oper, Frankfurt with Ensemble Modern

7 June 2019: Siemens Prize ceremony concert, Munich with Musikfabrik

9 September 2020: Musikfest Berlin with Musikfabrik

29 October 2021: Alte Oper Frankfurt with Ensemble Modern

12 November 2021: November Music with Ensemble Modern
23 January 2022: Casa da Musica, Porto with Ensemble Remix
26 January 2022: Cité de la Musique, Paris with Ensemble Remix
19 February 2022: Tel Aviv with Israel Contemporary Players
19 March 2022: Aspekte, Salzburg with PHACE Ensemble
27 August 2022: TIME:SPANS Festival, NYC with Talea Ensemble (that's #20!!)


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