In recent years, the evocative music of composer Carlos Simon has become a staple in the Minnesota Orchestra’s repertoire. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Orchestra approached the Kennedy Center composer-in-residence to commission a new work that honors the ongoing struggle for racial justice in Minnesota and beyond.
Titled brea(d)th, the tribute will make its world premiere at Orchestra Hall in May 2023. However, its creation was not always a sure thing. “At first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write the piece or take it on,” says Simon, “just because writing in response to such a horrific event was something that I wasn’t prepared to do.” But when Simon reached out to his long-time collaborator and celebrated librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, he realized the two could “have something different to say.”
To help inform the composition, Simon and Bamuthi are making regular visits to Minneapolis to meet with community members and learn about local history and future aspirations. During their visit this summer, they took a moment to explain the inspiration behind the music and speak to why their collaboration clicks (“There isn’t a lot of ego—just a little bit,” joked Simon).