Kathryn Williams: Coming Up For Air

Kathryn Williams: Coming Up For Air

Huddersfield Contemporary Records
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For many composers—Bach, Handel and Mozart among them—the fact that woodwind players need to breathe from time to time appears to be an inconvenience, an unwanted interruption to the long-flowing line, the continuous stream of activity. Breath breaks, becomes a barrier. But what if breathing itself was part of the music, rather than one of many hidden mechanisms that make it happen?

Flautist Kathryn Williams has faced chronic respiratory conditions which caused the connections between her body, breath and musical expression to be severed. A successful sinus operation in 2016 enabled her to resume her performance career and Coming Up For Air began as a response to her recovery. Kathryn was forced to approach her performances one breath at a time, so single-breath pieces were able to demonstrate some of the ways she was able to stitch these relationships back together. The result is an ever-growing body of work that has proven to be therapeutic, both musically and physically.

This album collects 40 different responses to one straightforward question: what can be communicated in a single breath? This limitation has inspired a wide range of approaches—some composers have contributed a melody, some have foregrounded a physiological challenge, others have offered a single sound, and others still have created their own playful exceptions to the prompt. The contributions are from composers of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience. The youngest composer represented is just eight years old, and the album brings together aesthetically diverse artists including Chaya Czernowin, Oliver Coates, Amber Priestley, Andy Ingamells, Larry Goves, Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Newton Armstrong, Mary Bellamy, Stephen Chase, Sarah Hennies, Mauricio Pauly, and Brian Ferneyhough, who is represented here by the brief excerpt from Unity Capsule that provided the original inspiration for the project.

Kathryn Williams flute




"Composers and musicians have taken the shape of our breath as an essential structural and expressive shape. The flautist Kathryn Williams has created the project Coming Up For Air, in which composers write pieces that last as long as a single in-and-out breath. The results are scintillatingly diverse, from the wild distortion of Cee Haines's DOOO to the swannee-whistle-fluidity of Andy Ingamell's Aquafifer." BBC Music Magazine

'strangely fascinating' BBC Music Magazine


All tracks recorded at University of Huddersfield on 8-10 July 2019

Recording Engineer & Mastering: ALEX BONNEY 

(P) 2019 University of Huddersfield
© 2019 University of Huddersfield

Catalogue number: HCR22CD
Release Date: 15 November 2019