August 30, 2023 – Today, GRAMMY-nominated musician Carlos Simon announces his new album, brea(d)th, thatreleases this Friday, September 1. Commissioned and premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra and conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush, the landmark work was written following George Floyd’s murder as a direct response to America’s unfulfilled promises and history of systematic oppression against Black Americans. Simon wrote the work alongside activist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who provides a spoken word libretto that considers bread, as in value, breath, as in lifeforce, and breadth, as in the radius of American promise. In preparation for writing brea(d)th, Simon and Joseph made several trips to the Twin Cities, working with the Orchestra to connect with local artists, activists and community members. The pair took a pilgrimage to George Floyd Square where, among others, they met with Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt, which allowed them to learn more about Floyd’s personal life.  

brea(d)th continues Simon’s dedication to telling the rich history and stories of Black Americans, building from his own life experiences and the accounts of others. He sees himself as a conduit, a vessel used by God to deliver a musical message to the people. Simon’s 2022 debut LP Requiem for the Enslaved is amusical tribute to commemorate the stories of 272 enslaved men, women and children sold in 1838 by Georgetown University. The work debuted at the Library of Congress on Nov. 5, 2021, and earned Simon a “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” nomination at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards.  

Simon recently told the New York Times that many of his tales offer “a positive message, the positive response to the struggle,” like “Portrait of a Queen,” which celebrates Black womanhood and “Breathe,” inspired by the theology of Howard Thurman. Through brea(d)th, Simon attempts to provide an antidote and asks listeners to consider an equitable America. The fifth and final movement, “breadth,” is a tension-building reflection led by Joseph’s impassioned libretto — “So much work has been done…Who does the work that’s still left?” 

While the work was composed with Minneapolis in mind, its message transcends far beyond the city. brea(d)th’s five movements include the prologue, sections titled “bread,” “breath,” and “breadth,” and “Elegy,” a piece Simon composed in 2015. Subtitled “A Cry from the Grave,” the lament is dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The predominant essence of “Elegy” is sorrowful and contemplative, yet there are moments of extreme hope represented by bright consonant harmonies. The music’s inclusion in brea(d)th serves as a powerful reminder to maintain hope in the face of adversity.  

As Simon and Joseph wrote in their artist statement, “We come to the resilient and root-rich Twin Cities as outsiders, but we composed this work from within the walls of Black emotion, curiosity and dignity. The piece explores a historical timeline that stretches from the pre-colonial to the present condition, and perhaps further, into a post-pandemic America.” Read their full artist statement at

brea(d)th was recorded live over the course of a three-day world premiere May 18-20, 2023, at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall. The concerts were performed by the Minnesota Orchestra and conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush and featured Marc Bamuthi Joseph as spoken word artist, the Minnesota Chorale, vocal ensemble 29:11 and Twin Cities Choral Partners

Photo credit: Kendall Bessent  

brea(d)th Tracklist: 

1. prologue 

2. breath 

3. elegy 

4. bread 

5. breadth 

Carlos Simon, composer 

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, librettist 


Marc Bamuthi Joseph, spoken word artist 

Minnesota Orchestra 

Jonathan Taylor Rush, conductor 

Minnesota Chorale, choir 

29:11, choir 

Twin Cities Choral Partners, choir 

About Carlos Simon: 

GRAMMY-nominated Carlos Simon is a multi-genre composer and performer who is a passionate advocate for diversity in music. Carlos, whose father wanted him to be a minister, describes music making as a pulpit where he can deliver messages and minister to those listening. As winner of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence 2021 and Composer-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center, he sees himself as a conduit, a vessel used by God to deliver music to the people. Listed in the Kennedy Center’s Next 50’, his recent commissions have been granted by the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Kennedy Center, Minnesota Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, PBS, and the Washington National Opera as well as his work being set to ballets by Washington National Ballet and American Ballet Theater.  

About Marc Bamuthi Joseph: 

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a 2017 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural recipient of the Guggenheim Social Practice initiative and an honoree of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. His opera libretto, We Shall Not Be Moved, was named one of 2017’s “Best Classical Music Performances” by The New York Times. His evening-length work created in collaboration with composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, The Just and The Blind, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered to a sold out house at Carnegie in March 2019. His upcoming opera Watch Night is inspired by the forgiveness exhibited by the congregation of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and will premiere in New York in fall 2023. While engaging in a deeply fulfilling and successful artistic career, he also serves as vice president and artistic director of social impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. His community development philosophy, called “The Creative Ecosystem,” has been implemented in dozens of cities across the U.S. and is the subject of several critical writings, including one of the seminal essays in Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility, published by Harvard Education Press. He is the founding program director of the non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals which activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life. More:

About Jonathan Taylor Rush: 

Hailed as a rising talent in the conducting world, Jonathan Taylor Rush brings passion, unique interpretation and a refreshing energy to the orchestral experience. In fall 2021, he was promoted as associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra after serving as that ensemble’s assistant conductor. In 2018, he was a Project Inclusion Conducting Fellow with the Chicago Sinfonietta and in 2019 was named its assistant conductor. With the Chicago Sinfonietta, Rush worked alongside music professionals and fellow conductors to help redefine classical music by encouraging diversity in orchestras across the United States. At age 22, as winner of the 2018 Respighi Prize in Conducting, Rush made his professional orchestra debut with the Chamber Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall. He continues to conduct both nationally and internationally, with notable debuts including concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Nairobi Philharmonic. More:

About the Minnesota Orchestra: 

Founded in 1903, the Minnesota Orchestra is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble known for its acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning educational programs; and a commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow, all based on the belief that music is for everyone. Recording has been an important part of the organization’s mission since the 1920s and, over the last two decades, it has recorded complete cycles of symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, Jean Sibelius and Gustav Mahler. Each year, Minnesota Orchestra concerts and recordings are seen and heard by more than three million people via television, radio, digital streaming and on-demand platforms. Making its home at Orchestra Hall in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the Orchestra this season welcomes Thomas Søndergård as its new music director. More: