Boston born composer Sid Richardson releases his debut recording, shaping the program around literary influences that have had a strong impact on his work. The centerpiece of the album is a setting of poetry from the African-American experimentalist poet Nathaniel Mackey's collection Blue Fasa, scored for the Deviant Septet with Mackey narrating. Solo works for pianist Conrad Tao and violinist Lilit Hartunian and an ensemble work for the Da Capo Chamber Players round off this excellent introduction to Richardson's work.
|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, double bass, Brad Balliett, conductor|
|01||I. A Night in Jaipur|
I. A Night in Jaipur
|02||II. Head Opening|
II. Head Opening
|03||III. Anabatic Jukebox|
III. Anabatic Jukebox
|04||IV. Anacoluthic Light|
IV. Anacoluthic Light
|06||There is no sleep so deep|
There is no sleep so deep
|Conrad Tao, piano||5:38|
|Lilit Hartunian, violin||11:12|
|Da Capo Chamber Players, Patricia Spencer, flute, Meighan Stoops, clarinet, Curtis Macomber, violin, Jay Campbell, cello, Steven Beck, piano, Michael Lipsey, percussion||10:33|
Composer Sid Richardson’s work explores the intersections between music and literature and demonstrates a deft handling of a wide range of compositional and stylistic tools. The featured work on Borne by a Wind, Richardson’s debut album, is a setting of the evocative poetry of National Book Award winner Nathaniel Mackey, and includes the poet reciting his own texts. Earlier works on the recording weave together extra-musical sources of inspiration with a fine blend of harmonic and timbral intricacy that conjures rich emotional states, charting a continuum from mysticism to wit.
The five-movement Red Wind was written for the Deviant Septet, the ensemble in residence at Duke University while Richardson was pursuing his doctoral degree there. The work sets texts from Mackey’s 2015 volume Blue Fasa, and its title refers specifically to one of the poems in the collection, “Hofriyati Head Opening.” The Hofriyati are villagers living in the north of Sudan, and they have a belief in a “red wind” that afflicts possessed persons, who can only be cured through a series of rituals. Indeed, the work as a whole is a sort of tapestry of style, gesture, and rhapsodic texts, spoken and sung. Mackey’s calm baritone voice is contrasted throughout by Mellissa Hughes’ mellifluous soprano.
The opening movement, “A Night in Jaipur,” is a solemn invitation to a ceremony, as ominous pedal points in the bass support the alternation between Mackey’s texts and fluid phrases in voice and muted trumpet. Percussion intermittently asserts a march-like frame. “Head Opening” begins with overlapping spoken texts in narrator and soprano, before pizzicato bass, slithering lines in the winds, and percolating percussion suggest a loose, improvisatory texture. Raw harmonics on the bass and cymbals open “Anabatic Jukebox” before leading into a slow, rolling blues featuring Tim Leopold’s trumpet. Richardson establishes a dichotomy between the vernacular and the experimental in this movement, toggling between the blues, an easy Bossa Nova groove, and disembodied moments of timbral examination.
Hughes leads the beginning of “Anacoluthic Light” with a poignant solo over environmental sounds in the percussion, before her words “light let us down,” provide a segue into Mackey’s recitation and a simmering, mysterious texture. The final movement of Red Wind, “Rag,” again establishes a stylistic duality, this time between murky ensemble colors and a slow ragtime section in the middle. Richardson uses these stylistic intersections as a playwright might arrange scenes — there is a sense of plot and pacing that is enriched by a diverse cast of musical settings.
The solo piano work, There is no sleep so deep, performed here by Conrad Tao, is a musical eulogy for Richardson’s grandmother. Inspired by Samuel Beckett’s play Footfalls, Richardson cultivates contrasting musical spaces in the work, one insistent and obsessive, and the other reflective and philosophical. The multiple layers of activity produced by the accent patterns in the vigorous sections are reminiscent of some of Ligeti and Carter’s virtuoso piano pieces. Meanwhile, sustained bass notes occasionally ring through the fast sections, establishing long-term melodic and structural connections linking the pensive material together.
LUNE, for violin and fixed media, is performed here by Lilit Hartunian, and is inspired by the wails of loons Richardson heard while attending a festival in Vermont. The haunting bird calls in the electronics provide a dialogue partner for mournful lines in the violin. As the work reaches its climax, the pad of sound that provided the environment for the interplay between violin and loon intensifies and briefly threatens to overtake the texture, before receding back into the hazy night.
The final work on the album, Astrolabe, returns to literature and cultural reference as a jumping off point. Richardson captures the mystical wonder that is inherent to the astrolabe, a classical device meant to be a handheld, astronomical model of the universe. Embedding fragments of texts from Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe and Walt Whitman’s “Kosmos” within musical materials that explore microtonality and spectralism, Richardson creates a ritualistic tone that captures a reverence for the stars.
Sid Richardson’s aesthetic world is expansive and gracious. He embraces components from the avant garde and popular genres alike, and what binds them together is his focus on extra-musical expressive goals. In an era when many artists choose to hyper-specialize as a path towards fine tuning their brand, Richardson chooses instead to take advantage of all the tools at his disposal to articulate a broad, humanistic and outward looking vision through his music.
-- Dan Lippel
Producer and editor: Sid Richardson
Recording Engineer: Rick Nelson
Mixing: Rick Nelson
Mastering: Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio
Artwork and design: Jessica Slaven
Recording Dates: Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, NC
Tracks 1-5: 4.24.2017
Track 6: 3.24.2016
Track 7: 4.10.2016
Track 8: 11.10.2014
Excerpts from “A Night in Jaipur,” “Hofriyati Head Opening,” “Anabatic Jukebox,” “Anacoluthic Light,” and “Song of the Andoumboulou: 1041⁄2” 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
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 preexisting texts, which are used 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 PhD 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.
Deviant Septet has been hailed as “exciting” (New York Times), a “stylish new ensemble” (New York Magazine), “superb” (Washington Post), “exceedingly fun,” “led by new music veterans” (Time Out New York), “lively and accomplished” (Classical TV: The Drift), and “boisterously entertaining” (Lucid Culture). WNYC called it “a brand new ensemble with a high concept... made up of top classical and avant-garde musicians,” and ran a feature on its premiere concert in May 2011. Deviant Septet’s commission of David Liptak’s Focusing received a 2013 Serge Koussevitzky Foundation commissioning grant.
Deviant Septet’s members are Bill Kalinkos (clarinet, Executive Director), Mike Gurfield (trumpet, Artistic Director), Karen Kim (violin), Brad Balliett (bassoon), Doug Balliett (double bass), Mike Lormand (trombone), and Jared Soldiviero (percussion). In addition to the Septet, players perform with various contemporary groups like Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble ACJW, Wordless Music Orchestra, and Talea Ensemble, and they collaborate with artists such as The National, David Byrne, The Dirty Projectors, Tyondai Braxton, St. Vincent, and John Zorn in addition to many others.
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.
Hailed by The New York Times as “a versatile, charismatic soprano endowed with brilliant technique and superlative stage instincts... indispensable to New York’s new-music ecosystem,” Mellissa Hughes enjoys a busy international career in both contemporary and early music. Recent and upcoming highlights include Chicago Symphony’s Beyond the Score performances celebrating Pierre Boulez; Ted Hearne’s Wikileaks oratorio The Source at BAM, LA Opera, and San Francisco Opera; international performances with John Zorn, Alarm Will Sound, Bang on a Can All-Stars, a solo recital for American Songbook at Lincoln Center; and an acclaimed release from Nonesuch Records of Jacob Cooper’s Silver Threads. Hughes’s additional discography includes multiple albums from New Amsterdam records, and Shelter, a video opera by Bang on a Can composers Michael Gordon, and Pulitzer Prize winners David Lang and Julia Wolfe, released by Cantaloupe Music. She has recorded tracks for the WNYC program Radiolab, and is featured on the soundtrack of the Oscar winning film Moonlight.
American trumpeter Tim Leopold is a creative musician based in New York City. He is known to be highly adept in a wide variety of styles from written to improvisational. Propelled by the demands of a varied career, Tim often explores sound manipulation and the physical approach to stretch his facilities. Tim is a frequent collaborator with living composers, internationally premiering and documenting solo and chamber works. Many such works can be heard on the dozens of labels he has recorded for including Innova, TZADIK, Nonesuch, 8bells, and New World Records. A prominent chamber musician, Tim is a member of Alarm Will Sound, Atlantic Brass, Nu Deco, and Tilt Brass. Performing with these ensembles and others have led him to numerous stages worldwide including Carnegie, Tanglewood, the Royal Concertgebouw, Radio City, and Ravinia. Equally adept in a commercial setting, he can be heard playing many styles on recordings, in the Broadway pits, in New York clubs, and on radio and television.
Samuel Budish is a New York City-based percussionist who actively performs in a wide variety of musical traditions. He regularly performs with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He has also performed with Orpheus, the Knights, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New York City Opera and the Boston Pops. Samuel was a member of the onstage early music band for the Broadway productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III and has also performed with Les Arts Florissants and the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra. Dedicated to the music of today, he has premiered works by David Fulmer, John Aylward, Jessie Montgomery, David Hertzberg and Andy Akiho, among many others. He is a founding member of Ensemble Échappé. Samuel is also an avid gardener and vegetable grower; he has volunteered extensively at Helia Native Nursery and has worked at Windy Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer, and has been dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, who also cited him “one of five classical music faces to watch” in the 2018-19 season. Tao is a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and was named a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. At the 2019 New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessies”), Tao was the recipient of the award for Outstanding Sound Design / Music Composition, for his work on More Forever, his collaboration with Caleb Teicher.
A Warner Classics recording artist, Tao’s debut disc Voyages was declared a “spiky debut” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross. Of the album, NPR wrote: “Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means – as the thoughtful programming on this album...proclaims.” His next album, Pictures, with works by David Lang, Toru Takemitsu, Elliott Carter, Mussorgsky, and Tao himself, was hailed by The New York Times as “a fascinating album [by] a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer...played with enormous imagination, color and command.” His latest album, American Rage, was released to acclaim in Fall 2019 and features works by Julia Wolfe, Frederic Rzewski and Aaron Copland. Conrad’s creative process behind the album was highlighted as part of a November 2019 profile in The New York Times.
Tao was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1994. He has studied piano with Emilio del Rosario in Chicago and Yoheved Kaplinsky in New York, and composition with Christopher Theofanidis.
Praised for her “Paganiniesque virtuosity” and “captivating and luxurious tone” by the Boston Musical Intelligencer, violinist Lilit Hartunian can be heard on Mode Records, BMOP Sound, Innova Recording, Ravello Records, SEAMUS records, New Focus Recordings, and on self-released albums by Ludovico Ensemble and Kirsten Volness. Ms. Hartunian has appeared as soloist in the SEAMUS, SCI, NYCEMF, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Open Sound, Third Practice, and SICPP festivals. Described as “brilliantly rhapsodic” by the Harvard Crimson, Ms. Hartunian performs at the forefront of contemporary music innovation, and is regularly heard on stage premiering works written for her by leading composers, including a recent world premiere commission from Guggenheim Fellow Marti Epstein and the release of a duo album with pianist John McDonald of music by Ryan Vigil for Mode Records. Lilit Hartunian performs frequently as recitalist championing new music, including at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, where she was artistic director of Vellumsound, her year- long chamber music residency, in which she curated and performed a season of chamber music paired with visual art in the museum’s collection. Other collaborations of note have ranged from the Boston Symphony Orchestra Insights Series—in which she performed contemporary works on Symphony Hall stage—to frequent performances with contemporary ensembles including Boston Modern Orchestra Project (with which she appears in a Grammy- nominated album), Sound Icon, Callithumpian Consort, Guerilla Opera, and Ludovico Ensemble, as well as guest appearances with A Far Cry.
Winners of the 1973 Naumburg Award, the internationally acclaimed Da Capo Chamber Players has worked closely with countless distinguished composers—bringing the group exciting insights from composers representing an enormous spectrum of compositional styles. Da Capo’s virtuoso artists bring years of creative involvement and artistic leadership to performances of today’s repertoire, including over 150 works written especially for the group from composers such as Joan Tower, John Harbison, Shulamit Ran, Valerie Coleman, Philip Glass, George Perle, Stephen Jaffe, Shirish Korde, Tania León, and Milton Babbitt, among many others. Leadership in diversity programming over the years has included major works by Wendell Logan, David Sanford, George Walker and many others.
In tour concerts and mini-residencies across the country, Da Capo works with young composers everywhere, giving them opportunities to try out things with highly experienced virtuoso performers as well as recordings (often award-winning!) of their works. The ensemble has been in residence at Bard College for almost four decades, and since 2006 has been Ensemble in Residence with the Composition Program of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. In May 2012, the Naumburg Foundation invited Da Capo to premiere works by their first ever composition winners. National Public Radio named Da Capo’s CD, Chamber Music of Chinary Ung on Bridge Records, as one of the 5 Best Contemporary Classical CDs of the year in 2010.
Da Capo currently plans a 50th Anniversary season! With an all-encompassing theme of DA CAPO BRIDGES, the series will feature new music bridging Eras, bridging Cultures, and bridging Styles. Each “bridge” represents a long- standing programming theme during our half-century!
Armed with a diverse spectrum of repertoire and eclectic musical interests, cellist Jay Campbell has been recognized for approaching both old and new works with the same probing curiosity and emotional commitment. His performances have been called “electrifying” by The New York Times; “gentle, poignant, and deeply moving” by The Washington Post; and on WQXR by Krzysztof Penderecki for “the greatest performance yet of Capriccio per Sigfried Palm”. A 2016 recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, Jay made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2013 and worked with Alan Gilbert in 2016 as the artistic-director for Ligeti Forward, a series featured on the New York Philharmonic Biennale at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2017, he was be Artist-in-Residence at the Lucerne Festival with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, where he gave the Swiss premiere of Michael Van der Aa's multimedia cello concerto Up-Close, and the world premiere of a new concerto by Luca Francesconi, conducted by Matthias Pintscher in Lucerne's KKL Auditorium and the Cologne Philharmonie.
Dedicated to introducing audiences to the music of our time, Mr. Campbell has worked closely with some of the most creative musicians of our time including Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, and countless others from his own generation. His close association with John Zorn resulted in the 2015 release of Hen to Pan (Tzadik) featuring all works written for Campbell, and was listed in The New York Times year-end Best Recordings of 2015. Forthcoming discs include George Perle's Cello Concerto with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot (Bridge), a disc of Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky and Pintscher (Victor Elmaleh Collection), and a collection of works commissioned for Campbell by David Fulmer (Tzadik). Equally enthusiastic as a chamber musician and teacher, Mr. Campbell is a member of the JACK Quartet, a piano trio with violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Conrad Tao, has served on faculty at Vassar College and has been a guest at the Marlboro, Chamber Music Northwest, Moab, Heidelberger-Fruhling, DITTO, and Lincoln Center festivals.
Pianist Steven Beck continues to gather wide acclaim for his performances and recordings. Recent career highlights include performances of Beethoven’s variations and bagatelles at Bargemusic, a venue where he first performed a complete Beethoven sonata cycle. In addition, this season he performs with the Westchester Philharmonic and the Alabama Symphony.
An esteemed performer of new music, he has worked with Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Charles Wuorinen, George Crumb, George Perle, and Fred Lerdahl, and performed with ensembles such as Speculum Musicae and the New York New Music Ensemble. He is a core member of the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Knights, and the Talea Ensemble. He is also a member of Quattro Mani, a piano duo specializing in contemporary music.
Mr. Beck’s discography includes Peter Lieberson's third piano concerto (for Bridge Records) and a recording of Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto on Albany Records. He is on the faculty of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.https://nyphil.org/about-us/artists/steven-beck
Percussionist Michael Lipsey has performed at festivals in Bali, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin, Mexico City, Taipei, Macao, Tokyo, La Jolla, New York, Moscow, Bogota and France. Michael is the founding member of Talujon Percussion and has also performed with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Steve Reich, Bang on a Can, Tan Dun, New York New Music Ensemble and Riverside Symphony. He has recorded for Sony Records, Red Poppy Records, Nonesuch, Albany, Capstone and Mode. Michael has performed throughout the world and given master classes at numerous schools including the Juilliard School of Music and California School of the Arts.
Michael has also worked with many musicians from around the world, most recently including Gamelan Dharma Swara, a Balinese gamelan located in New York City. He performed with DS at the first American gamelan at the PKB in Denpasar, Bali. He has worked with musicians Subash Chandran, Ganesh Kumar, Glen Velez, Carlos Gomez, Antonio Hart, Roland Vasquez, and River Guerguerian. His book and solo CD contains recently commissioned works for solo hand drums by Jason Eckardt, River Guerguerian, Mathew Rosenblum, Arthur Kreiger, Eric Moe, Dominic Donato, David Cossin and David Rakowski.
Michael is a full-time Professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at CUNY, Queens College and Director of the Percussion Program and the New Music Ensemble. As of 2019, he is the Chair of the Music Department.
In his poetry Nathaniel Mackey explores the improvised continuum of history, its plurality of memories, and crucial roles performed by myth and ritual. That's quite an agenda to take on when setting his words to music. The poet's own voice is placed at the heart of the five movements of Richardson's Red Wind, and the supple soprano singing of Mellissa Hughes weaves around his readings from the collection Blue Fasa. These contrasting, yet complementary, modes of delivering Mackey's words are set within tactfully spaced and stylistically flexible music, written specifically for The Deviant Septet, an ensemble combining brass, woodwinds, violin, double bass and percussion. Boston based Richardson's resourceful debut release also features a solo piano work, an exchange between violin and plaintive cries of a great Northern diver, and a lively episode for chamber group, incorporating text drawn from Whitman and Chaucer.
— Julian Cowley, 4.13.2021
A thought-provoking selection of recent works by this Boston based composer. Red Wind is the dramatic centrepiece, fusing poetry with an unusual and evocative musical soundscape.
Sid Richardson has an eloquent answer to the question: “How do you make art?” He comes together with poet Nathaniel Mackey and others to create this music. The black dots leap off the page entwined with Mackey’s lyrical recitations and the sound of horns, percussion and bass performed by the Deviant Septet. The searing heat of an artful sirocco, titled Red Wind, begins a memorable disc of Richardson’s music.
The repertoire of Borne by a Wind features three other works by Richardson. There is no sleep so deep is a gentle, reassuring work that gets a suitably sensitive performance from pianist Conrad Tao, whose fingers seem to caress the notes of the melody. LUNE follows with the mystical high and lonesome wail of Lilit Hartunian’s violin. It is a brilliantly conceived tone poem that soars skyward, evocative of a crepuscular musical event under a cloudless celestial canopy.
Richardson’s music is highly imaginative and reflects his singularly eclectic taste. The curved lenses and mirrors of a myriad of contemporary styles and movements in the arts have been telescoped into these works. The glue is, of course, Richardson’s spectral voice, somewhat reminiscent of Gérard Grisey and Kaija Saariaho. These uncanny parallels are, perhaps, most discernable in Astrolabe where the Da Capo Chamber Players’ performance is interwoven with Walt Whitman’s and Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry, the whispered climax of which brings this remarkable disc to a dramatic end.
— Raul de Gama, 5.06.2021
This captivating debut portrait album from Richardson also features a piece inspired by literature. In this case it's the poetry of Nathaniel Mackey, whose radio-ready narration enlivens the five-movements of Red Wind. The words are as evocative as the music, which moves in cinematic fashion through different scenes and moods. The performance by Deviant Septet could not be improved and Richardson's writing for jazz in a classical setting is the equal of Shostakovich's, except it swings a little harder. The album also includes There is no sleep so deep, and elegiac piece for solo piano, played here by Conrad Tao, and LUNE, for violin and fixed media, including field recordings of loon cries, which are perfectly integrated into the sounds of the violin. Lilit Hartunian's performance is deeply engaging. Finally, we have Astrolabe, a sparkling piece for six instruments given a dazzling run by the Da Capo Chamber Players, who gamely shout and whisper the excerpts from Chaucer and Whitman sprinkled throughout. I note that the most recent recording here is from 2017 so all gratitude to New Focus for bringing this remarkable music to light.
— Jeremy Shatan, 3.14.2021
Borne by a Wind, the debut recording by Sid Richardson (b. 1987), provides an engaging account of the Boston-born composer's interests. Dominating the release is a five-movement collaboration with poet Nathaniel Mackey, but the three others, chamber works respectively performed by pianist Conrad Tao, violinist Lilit Hartunian, and the Da Capo Chamber Players, are no less deserving of attention. Like many a contemporary composer, Richardson isn't averse to letting elements of popular and non-classical genres seep into his writing. Eschewing membership in any one prescriptive ‘school,' he's instead someone more inclined to use whatever's needed to bring expression to a particular idea.
Though Richardson is a faculty member with the New England Conservatory of Music in North Carolina, the fifty-five-minute release was recorded at Baldwin Auditorium at Duke University, where he completed his doctoral degree. A strong literary dimension permeates his writing, with inspiration drawn from figures such as Beckett, Chaucer, Longfellow, Keats, and Rimbaud. That interest literally arises in Red Wind, which incorporates the sound of Mackey reciting excerpts from his poetry collection Blue Fasa. The work's title, incidentally, derives from one of the poems in the collection, “Hofriyati Head Opening,” the Hofriyati being villagers in the north of Sudan who harbour a belief in a red wind that afflicts possessed persons and that can be alleviated through a series of rituals.
The narrator's accompanied by seven others for the 2017 work, with soprano Mellissa Hughes and five instrumentalists conducted by Brad Balliett. It's a stylistically sprawling creation that's never less than stimulating, especially when Hughes' at times rhapsodic delivery forms a dramatic contrast to Mackey's measured elocution. While the instrumental resources—percussion, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and bass—are modest, the musical tapestry is abundant in texture and timbre. Hughes' singing ensures the work retains a classical tie, but the material otherwise leans in the direction of explorative jazz, its tone reminiscent of a small group backing a spoken word poet in a dimly lit nightclub.
The opening “A Night in Jaipur” is compelling for a number of reasons, among them Hughes' whooping and the dazed, incantatory tone. Mackey's wordplay captivates during the spoken word passages, which gain force from the instrumental backdrop. Whereas a strong jazz influence pervades “Head Opening” when the musicians adopt a loose style far removed from classical writing per se, things take a noticeably bluesier turn for “Anabatic Jukebox” with trumpeter Tim Leopold blowing against a slow shuffle and bass clarinetist Bill Kalinkos and trombonist Mike Lormand joining him for a sensual Bossa Nova episode.
Vastly unlike Red Wind in presentation are the three pieces that follow, the first, 2016's There is no sleep so deep, performed by pianist Tao. Written as a musical eulogy for Richardson's grandmother and inspired by Samuel Beckett's play Footfalls, the five-minute setting alternates between episodes of near-stasis and rapid tumult—a work both peaceful and turbulent. The Astrolabe (2014), recorded by the Da Capo Chamber Players and incorporating shouted fragments taken from Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe and Walt Whitman's “Kosmos” (from Leaves of Grass), concludes the recording on a chamber music note, the character of Richardson's ritualistic writing as starry-eyed and mystical as the astrolabe itself, an ancient astronomical device intended as a handheld model of the universe.
As dominant as Red Wind is, it's rivaled by 2015's LUNE, which is realized magnificently by violinist Hartunian in an eleven-minute rendering. Richardson, who drew for inspiration from the wails of loons he heard when attending a Vermont festival, combines the creature's haunting call with Hartunian's mournful supplications, the effect suggesting yearning exchanges between two distantly separated creatures. Admittedly, each of the four works is so different, it proves difficult to get a clear handle on Richardson's ‘voice'; that said, Borne by a Wind definitely succeeds in documenting the broad stylistic range he's interested in exploring, and at the very least, as an introduction to this composer's world, the release offers much to appreciate.
— Ron Schepper, 3.29.2021
The works on this release by composer Sid Richardson all involve external stimuli: literary texts, a natural scene, or an ancient scientific device, the astrolabe, that serves as a symbol of the universe. All are immediately attractive, even for listeners not particularly oriented toward contemporary music, for their musical imagery is vivid and even visceral. Consider Lune, for violin and electronics, which represents not only the moon but some loons that the composer heard on a lake in Vermont; it's very hard to resist. However, the most distinctive work is the opening Red Wind (2017), which sets five poems by experimental poet Nathaniel Mackey. The texts are spoken by Mackey, ranging in inspiration from the titular phenomenon of the Nile river shore to the city of Jaipur, India, and the music is played by the Deviant Septet chamber group. The big news here is that what used to be called Third Stream music makes a major new appearance. Richardson's piece is apparently all notated rather than improvised, but it draws on an extraordinarily wide range of influences from bass-driven 1960s modern jazz to contemporary French tonalities to modernist vocal lines of the George Crumb sort (the texts are both spoken and manipulated in melodic vocal settings of various kinds). It all coheres rather uncannily in its relationship to the distinctively African American yet ethnically ecumenical qualities of the texts, and at this point, it's pretty much unlike anything else out there. Richardson is also notable in the way he numbers electronics among his resources, yet is not an "electronic composer," and in the variety of sounds of which he is capable. An excellent chance to sample the music of this rising composer.
— James Manheim, 3.24.2021
The Boston native and esteemed composer Sid Richardson brings us his debut portrait album, where music and literature meet at a very creative and fascinating intersection as many talented artists accompany him on the journey.
“Red Wind: I. A Night In Jaipur” starts the listen with poetic storytelling by Nathaniel Mackey, as plenty of atmosphere adds mystery, and it’s not long until soaring, highly skilled singing from Melissa Hughes enters alongside strategic percussion and well timed horns, and “Red Wind: II. Head Opening” follows with a busier landscape of chamber and jazz ideas as plenty of spoken word is backed by firm drumming from Sam Budish
Later on, “Red Wind: V. Rag” benefits much from playful woodwind as plenty of lively brass and marching band style drumming enters the very agile climate, while “There Is No Sleep So Deep” recruits piano acrobatics from Conrad Tao in a busy versus bare display that amazes us with its unpredictable execution.
“LUNE” and “Astrolabe” bookend the listen, where the former is full of ambience as sounds of wildlife give it a haunting tone that’s glowing with Lilit Hartunia’s violin, and the latter finishes the listen with a controlled chaos approach between flute, clarinet, cello and others that embraces forceful singing and meticulous instrumentation thanks to the Da Capo Chamber Players.
Richardson’s impressive resume includes working with Branford Marsalis, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Deviant Septet (who are included here), among others, and Borne By A Wind is another exciting chapter in his body of work that displays a chamber, orchestral and classical vision that few, if anyone, could replicate.
— Tom Haugen, 2.13.2021
Some composers create music as they might breathe. The music follows upon itself in a natural flow, like conversation idealized into a musical transform. That's the feeling I get listening to Sid Richardson on his recent Borne by a Wind (New Focus Recordings FCR285).
It in part centers around the poetry of Nathaniel Mackey, a kind of Post-Beat brilliance well suited to getting articulated around a musical incubation, so to speak. The five movement "Red Wind" defines that, in recitation of Mackey fleshed out further by soprano Melissa Hughes and the Deviant Septet (with wind, contrabass and percussion to take on Jazz or New Music inflections alternately) giving shape and form to the poetic imagery. It all proceeds in ways that channel Jazz and New Music, to further everything and make it make a kind of perfect aural sense, poetic, meaningful Jazz-Classical Modern elements and a touch of World, all wrapped into one.
I've heard "Red Wind" a bunch of times so far and it keeps making more and more of an impression on me, so that is a happy thing. Rounding out the program are three additional chamber gems--"There is no sleep so deep" for solo piano, "LUNE" for solo violin, and "Astrolabe" for the six instrumentalists of the Da Capo Chamber Players. All three pieces further deepen our appreciation of the advanced, eloquent and limber contemporary inventiveness of Richardson.
The piano piece is in the Ultra-Modern performative mode, beautifully done by Conrad Tao. "LUNE" gets concentrated soundings by Lilit Hartunian. It is meditative, open, empty and full at the same time, redolent with motivic insistence without taking on the mesmeric periodicity that old-school Minimalism typically worked towards.
"Astrolabe" does for sextet what "LUNE" did for solo violin--it unwraps a kind of unified musical idea only in more complex and multivoiced ways that unveil variational endlessnesses.
As is usually the case these blog words are not meant to provide a definitive analog to the sounds so much as pique curiosity and suggest the directionality of an album. So that. On the basis of this Borne by a Wind program Sid Richardson is an important voice on the New Music scene today. The entire program combines sound color and eloquent linings ever. Highly recommended.
— Grego Applegate Edwards, 3.22.2021
Sid Richardson’s music on a (+++) New Focus Recordings CD is quite different and much more in line with what listeners are likely to mean when they talk about “modern classical music.” The solo pieces here for piano and violin – the latter also including electronic media – sound the way people who do not regularly listen to contemporary music will expect this music to sound. And the two works for chamber ensemble, one of which includes two vocal parts, will also match expectations in their handling of the instruments (voices included) and the way the material is organized and presented. The most-substantial work here is the five-movement Red Wind (2017) for soprano, narrator, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, percussion, and contrabass. The instrumental lineup itself shows one way in which some of today’s composers try to set their music apart from earlier works, by utilizing familiar instruments in new combinations. The sounds of Red Wind involve narrator and soprano intertwined (so the differing, superimposed words from both are largely inaudible), plus sections in which the soprano sings with the wide leaps and substantial dissonance characteristic of much modern music. Words are repeated and move into and out of coherence – their selection and meaning typical for music and poetry of a certain type (“I stood on stilts,” “there though I wasn’t there,” “ad hoc epiphany,” “to see it so, saw it so”). The instrumental music is disconnected from the vocals, the percussion often explosive and the potential melody instruments being used as sound generators rather than tune or harmony producers. Even the movements’ titles reflect a certain approach to contemporary music – for instance, two are called “Anabatic Jukebox” and “Anacoluthic Light.” The other chamber piece here, the single-movement Astrolabe (2014), is for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, and is less wide-ranging and ambitious than Red Wind. But Astrolabe is cut from much the same auditory cloth: athematic, setting instruments against each other rather than in any sort of cooperation, it revels in sound generation rather than any sort of communicative desire (and it does include some voices shouting exclamations, although it lacks the specific vocal writing of Red Wind). Listeners who enjoy the type of contemporary music that is a sound collection rather than a thematic/harmonic/rhythmic progression are likely the intended audience for Astrolabe, which has some attractive interplay of higher instruments from time to time but, as a whole, could be played backwards and have the same effect as playing it forwards. The solo-violin work here – actually “for violin and fixed media” – is called LUNE and actually lasts longer than Astrolabe. Despite the omnipresent electronic material, LUNE (2015) does not have the aural variability of either chamber work on this disc and does not sustain very well at its considerable length. It is mostly an atmospheric piece, giving a sense of distance and greyness and isolation in the violin, enhanced by the electronics into a soundscape of emptiness. The solo-piano work here, There is no sleep so deep (2016), is only half as long and, partly for that reason, is more effective. It also has more variability than the work for solo violin: there are contrasts of soft and loud, of slow and speedy. Like all the other music here, the piece is athematic and more about sound generation than anything else – but the inherent ability of a modern piano to produce variegated tonal material in many registers, at many tempos, gives the work a level of interest that the other pieces on the CD do not possess. Richardson’s handling of the piano is nevertheless as strongly contrasted to Piana’s approach to the instrument as it is possible to be – an object lesson in the extremes to which today’s composers can choose to go in seeking to create works that reach out to very different potential audiences from very different communicative perspectives.