Portrait of Nardi Simpson leaning against a wall with street art on it
Nardi Simpson, Yuwaalaraay author / composer (Image: Lucy Simpson)

Nardi is heavily involved in the teaching and sharing of culture in both her Sydney and Yuwaalaraay communities.

Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay storyteller from New South Wales’ northwest freshwater plains.

As a member of Indigenous duo Stiff Gins, Nardi has travelled nationally and internationally for the past 22 years. She is also a founding member of ‘Freshwater,’ an all-female vocal ensemble formed to revive the language and singing traditions of New South Wales river communities.

Nardi is a graduate of Ngarra Burria First Peoples Composers and is currently undertaking a PhD through the ANU School of Music in composition. She is the current musical director of Barayagal, a cross cultural choir based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 2021, Nardi was the Conservatorium’s and Ensemble Offspring’s First Nations Artist in Residence. 

Nardi’s debut novel, Song of the Crocodile, was winner of the 2017 Black&Write! Fellowship and the ALS Gold Medal and was longlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize and Miles Franklin Awards. Nardi currently lives in Sydney and continues to be heavily involved in the teaching and sharing of culture in both her Sydney and Yuwaalaraay communities.

PROGRAM NOTE
NARDI SIMPSON (B. 1975)
OF STARS AND BIRDS

Of Stars and Birds was written after an invitation to contribute to Ensemble Offspring’s birdsong collection. As a new composer in the earliest development stages of my craft, I worried how my work would stand alongside the pieces of experienced, accomplished composers who had already contributed to this series. As an Aboriginal musician with limited music theory, I also worried if I could create something of a standard suitable for the ensemble and its project partners.

In times like this I look to Yuwaalaraay to provide guidance and strength. I quickly realised our knowledge, connection and relationship to birds equalled the complexity and detail of advanced musical theory, compositional practice and creative conception. So, I worked hard to imbue this piece with the things I know well, cultural concepts and knowledge, enabling a transformation away from a commissioned composition and into an extension of my own lived and practised cultural experience.

Birds weave this story into our dreaming cosmos, the conventional limitations of earth, sky, death, day, life and night dissolving and creating its own universe of existence.

Of Stars and Birds developed then from a significant Yuwaalaraay story ending in the creation of the southern cross but traversing the enormity of land, lore, death and rebirth. Birds weave this story into our dreaming cosmos, the conventional limitations of earth, sky, death, day, life and night dissolving and creating its own universe of existence – a bit like my compositional craft, a mixture of tradition and innovation – teachings that extend between the storytelling and songmaking of Australia’s First Peoples and the explorations and expressions of a new music composer at the beginning of exciting, musical journeys.

© Nardi Simpson, 2020

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