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Composer Sid Richardson Releases BORNE BY A WIND

Earlier works on Borne by a Wind include a eulogy for Richardson’s grandmother, There is no sleep so deep, a piano piece inspired by Beckett's Footfalls.

Composer Sid Richardson Releases BORNE BY A WIND

Today, Boston-born composer Sid Richardson has released Borne by a Wind on New Focus Recordings. In this debut portrait album, Richardson explores the convergence of 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 2015 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. The liner notes were written by music and literary critic Luke Harley.

Richardson met Mackey in February 2015 at Duke University, where Mackey was discussing Anthony Braxton's music at a roundtable. Richardson spoke with the poet after the lecture and then began delving into his poetry, jazz-inspired fiction, and essays. Out of this immersion 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 alludes 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 chants. Mackey, in his preface to Blue Fasa, interprets these rituals as signs of yearning for "redress for disconsolate identity, a too tightly bound or tied up identity." Richardson's music in Red Wind 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 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, a 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 in 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 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. 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

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