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Feb. 12: Composer Sid Richardson Releases Borne by a Wind, Feat. Poetry and Narration by Nathaniel Mackey, on New Focus Recordings

January 5, 2021 | By Katy Salomon
Account Director, Morahan Arts and Media

PR Contact: 
Katy Salomon | Morahan Arts and Media
katy@morahanartsandmedia.com | 863.660.2214

Composer Sid Richardson Releases
Borne by a Wind

Featuring Poet and Narrator Nathaniel Mackey and
Performances by the Deviant Septet, Pianist Conrad Tao,
Violinist Lilit Hartunian, and the Da Capo Chamber Players

Out February 12, 2021 on New Focus Recordings

Pre-Order Borne By a Wind



New York, NY (January 5, 2021) — On Friday, February 12, 2021, Boston-born composer Sid Richardson releases Borne by a Wind on New Focus Recordings. In this debut portrait album, Richardson explores the point of intersection between music and literature in gritty and original ways, opening with Red Wind (2017), a collaboration with African-American experimentalist poet and National Book Award-winner Nathaniel Mackey that features Mackey as narrator in excerpts from his poetry collection Blue Fasa alongside the Deviant Septet. Earlier works on the album include There is no sleep so deep (2016), written for and performed by pianist Conrad Tao; LUNE (2015), written for and performed by violinist Lilit Hartunian; and Astrolabe (2014), recorded by the Da Capo Chamber Players.

Richardson first met Mackey in February 2015, after hearing the latter discuss Anthony Braxton’s music during a roundtable at Duke University, from which Richardson holds his PhD. After striking up a conversation post-talk, Richardson began reading Mackey’s oeuvre closely: his poetry, including the 2015 volume Blue Fasa; his jazz-inspired epistolary fiction, such as Bedouin Hornbook and Bass Cathedral; and his music-focused essays, notably “Cante Moro,” “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol,” and “Breath and Precarity.” 

Out of this immersion in Mackey’s work came Richardson’s Red Wind, a five-movement piece written specifically for Deviant Septet, Duke’s ensemble-in-residence between 2015 and 2017. The title is an allusion to “Hofriyati Head Opening,” a poem from Blue Fasa featured in the second movement. Ethnographer Janice Boddy describes the “red wind” as a breeze that the Hofriyati – villagers living on the Nile in the north of Sudan – believe afflicts possessed persons. Those afflicted must be purged of this “red wind” through rituals that may include dances, animal sacrifices, feasts, and trance-inducing chants. Mackey, in his preface to Blue Fasa, interprets these Hofriyati possession rituals as signs of yearning for “redress for disconsolate identity, a too tightly bound or tied up identity.” Following Guyanese novelist Wilson Harris, Mackey sees a role for art in loosening these cords of identity and ushering forth a cross-cultural ethos that eschews essentialist thought. 

Richardson’s music in Red Wind is faithful to this ethos, and provides a metaphor for the kind of culturally syncretic world long dreamed of by Glissant, Harris, Mackey, and others. In the first, fourth, and fifth movements, one hears a combination-tone harmonic system derivative of Claude Vivier’s les Couleurs being employed to depict the Hofriyati spirit world. Mackey can be heard on Red Wind, reciting excerpts from Blue Fasa in his baritone voice.

Earlier works on Borne by a Wind include a eulogy for Richardson’s grandmother, There is no sleep so deep, an emotionally-charged piano piece inspired by Samuel Beckett’s play Footfalls. It was written for pianist Conrad Tao’s residency at Duke in March 2016, and performed by Tao on this album. Richardson compares the obsessive pacing of Beckett’s protagonist, depicted musically via sixteenth notes, to the restless wanderings of the “philosophic posse” encountered in Mackey’s long poems. 

LUNE, for violin and fixed media, was composed in June 2014 while Richardson was ensconced by Lake Dunmore, Vermont for the New Music on the Point Festival. Captivated by loons from a nearby island reserve, Richardson recorded their nocturnal sounds while a full moon (lune) hovered above. These loon “wails” provide the harmonic fabric of Richardson’s piece: the violin and electronics slowly converge into a mass sound that depicts a flock of loons overhead. Richardson wrote LUNE for violinist Lilit Hartunian who performs it on this album; it is dedicated to her and to the memory of their childhood friend Simon Chernack, who passed away during the composition of the piece.

Richardson’s fascination with the liminal space between music and language continues with Astrolabe, a 2014 chamber work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion inspired by the ancient instrument of the same name. The astrolabe is a symbol of the universe associated with mysticism and divination, and in that sense it is comparable to the mandala that adorns this album. Written at a time when Richardson was exploring microtonal and spectral techniques in works by Claude Vivier, Kaija Saariaho, and Chinary Ung, its climax features whispered excerpts from Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe and Walt Whitman’s “Kosmos.” Richardson paid particular attention to the percussion and flute when crafting Astrolabe: the percussionist uses a wide array of instruments, often vocalizing while moving between different instruments of the setup; the flute is almost an obbligato soloist, channeling an “Eastern” sound reminiscent of the “Eastern turn” adopted by Mackey in Blue Fasa. 

About Sid Richardson
Composer Sid Richardson writes concert music that imbues modern idioms with emotional grit and cerebral wit. His work explores the intersections of music and literature, drawing inspiration from the works of such writers as Beckett, Catullus, Chaucer, Garréta, Longfellow, Keats, Proust, Rimbaud, and Mackey, to create a style that focuses on harmony and timbre. Richardson leverages pre-existing texts to create a metaphorical resonance with the source material in pieces that weave literary elements into their formal, rhythmic, and harmonic structures. 

Richardson has collaborated on projects with world renowned artists and ensembles such as Alsarah & the Nubatones, Amarcord, Branford Marsalis, Bill Seaman, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Conrad Tao, The Da Capo Chamber Players, Del Sol Quartet, Deviant Septet, Sinfonia Salt Lake, and yMusic. He has a special predilection for violin music, and has been fortunate to work with a variety of violinists including Lilit Hartunian, Sarah Griffin, Sarah Plum, Charlotte Munn-Wood, and Misha Vayman. Recent commissions include works for the Aspen Music Festival and School, Tanglewood Music Center, and Utah Arts Festival. 

Born and currently based in Boston, Sid Richardson completed his Ph.D. in composition in the Department of Music at Duke University. He holds degrees from Boston Conservatory, Duke University, and Tufts University. Richardson has participated in artist residencies at Crosstown Arts, The Hermitage Artist Retreat, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In 2017, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Richardson a Charles Ives Scholarship. He was the recipient of the 2018 Hermitage Prize from the Aspen Music Festival and School. In the summer of 2019, Richardson was the Elliott Carter Memorial Composition Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center. Active as a music educator, he has taught at Wellesley College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is currently on the composition faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music. Learn more at www.sidrichardsonmusic.com

About Nathaniel Mackey
Nathaniel Mackey is the author of six books of poetry, the most recent of which is Blue Fasa (New Directions, 2015); an ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, whose fifth and most recent volume is Late Arcade (New Directions, 2017) and whose first three volumes have been published together as From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Volumes 1-3 (New Directions, 2010); and two books of criticism, the most recent of which is Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005; second edition: University of Iowa Press, 2018).  He is the editor of the literary magazine Hambone; coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (Coffee House Press, 1993); and coeditor, with Michael Bough, Kent Johnson and others, of the anthology Resist Much / Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance (Dispatches Editions/Spuyten Duyvil, 2017).  His awards and honors include the National Book Award for poetry, the Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Bollingen Prize for American Poetry from the Beinecke Library at Yale University, the William B. Hart Residency in Poetry at the American Academy in Rome, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Poetry Prize from the Library of Congress.  He is the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University. Double Trio, a boxed set of three books of poetry (Tej Bet, So’s Notice, and Nerve Church), is forthcoming from New Directions in 2021.

Borne by a Wind Track List
Sid Richardson – Red Wind for Soprano, Narrator, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion, and Contrabass (2017)
     1. I. A Night in Jaipur [8:15]
     2. II. Head Opening [3:11]
     3. III. Anabatic Jukebox [5:00]
     4. IV. Anacoluthic Light [5:30]
     5. V. Rag [6:02]
          Nathaniel Mackey, poet and narrator
          Deviant Septet:
          Nathaniel Mackey, poet and narrator*
          Mellissa Hughes, soprano*
          Bill Kalinkos, bass clarinet
          Tim Leopold, trumpet*
          Mike Lormand, trombone
          Sam Budish, percussion*
          Doug Balliett, bass
          Brad Balliett, conductor
               *Guest Artist

6. Sid Richardson – There is no sleep so deep for Piano (2016) [5:38]
     Conrad Tao
, piano

7. Sid Richardson – LUNE for Violin and Fixed Media (2015) [11:12]
     Lilit Hartunian, 

8. Sid Richardson – Astrolabe for Flute, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Violin, Violoncello, Piano, Percussion (2014) [10:34]
     Da Capo Chamber Players:
Patricia Spencer, flute
     Meighan Stoops, clarinet/bass clarinet
     Curtis Macomber, violin
     Jay Campbell, violoncello
     Steven Beck, piano
     Michael Lipsey, guest percussion

Total Time: 55:21

Producer and Editor: Sid Richardson
Recording Engineer: Rick Nelson
Mixing: Rick Nelson
Mastering: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio 
Design and CD Layout: Jessica Slaven
?&© 2021 Sid Richardson / New Focus Recordings FCR285

Recording Locations and Dates: Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, NC (#1-5--4. 24. 2017; #6--3.24.2016; #7--4.10.2016; #8--11.10.2014)

Excerpts from “A Night in Jaipur,” “Hofriyati Head Opening,” “Anabatic Jukebox,” “Anacoluthic Light,” and “Song of the Andoumboulou: 104½” by Nathaniel Mackey. From Blue Fasa (New York: New Directions) Copyright © 2015 by Nathaniel Mackey. Set to music by permission of the author.

Excerpts from “Kosmos” from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

Excerpts from A Treatise on the Astrolabe by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Made possible with support from the Department of Music and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts at Duke University, and Duke Performances.

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