Sound from the Bench: political appropriations by Ted Hearne
Sept 11 2016
$15 – $29
“Ted is unrelenting about getting the right moments in his music. I love that.” Donald Nally, conductor of The Crossing
“Some of the most expressive socially engaged music in recent memory—from any genre.” Pitchfork
A single sentence from the Iraq War Logs, wealth distribution and privilege, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the 2013 case of rape by high school students in Steubenville, Ohio: inspirations all for the music of Ted Hearne, among the most compelling and imaginative composers writing for voices today. Ted Hearne’s compositions transform challenging topics into works of art that are musically virtuosic, eclectic, and profoundly moving. With much of the program written specifically for the new music chamber choir The Crossing, the music is deftly rhythmic, harmonically complex, and hauntingly beautiful. The centerpiece of the program is Hearne’s Sound from the Bench, a setting of deft appropriations by Philadelphia poet Jena Osman which repurpose the words of ventriloquism handbooks and Supreme Court justices.
Compositions Ted Hearne Performed by The Crossing with Taylor Levine (guitar), James Moore (guitar), and Ron Wiltrout (percussion) Conductor Donald Nally
$29 general / $20.30 member
$15 student + 25-and-under
Andrew Stone and Gene Bishop
About The Crossing
The Crossing commissions works regularly and has presented over forty world premieres. The Crossing is a professional choir dedicated to expanding the contemporary choral music experience through commissions, collaborations, community, and performances that are characterized by a distinctive unity of sound and spirit.
The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. Consistently recognized in critical reviews, The Crossing has been hailed as “superb” (The New York Times, 7/15), “ardently angelic” (Los Angeles Times, 4/14), and “something of a miracle” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/14). Formed by a group of friends in 2005, the ensemble has since grown exponentially and “has made a name for itself in recent years as a champion of new music” (The New York Times, 2/14). Photo: Becky Oehlers
About Ted Hearne
Composer, singer and bandleader TED HEARNE (b.1982, Chicago) draws on a wide breadth of influences ranging across music’s full terrain, to create intense, personal and multi-dimensional works. The New York Times has praised Mr. Hearne for his “tough edge and wildness of spirit,” and “topical, politically sharp-edged works.” Ted Hearne was awarded the 2014 New Voices Residency from Boosey and Hawkes, and recently joined the composition faculty at the University of Southern California. Recent and upcoming commissions include orchestral works for the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and A Far Cry, chamber works for eighth blackbird, Yarn/Wire and Alarm Will Sound, and vocal works for Volti, The Crossing, and Roomful of Teeth. Photo: Nathan Lee Bush
Interview with Donald Nally
Donald Nally: Ted was a student of David Lang and so through that connection he sent me a letter with several scores. I still have that letter in fact, because it symbolizes something about my own journey and thoughts on the purpose of what we do – and I find it amusing to see how we’ve grown from a composer-conductor relationship (‘will you do my music?’) to a true friendship in which I trust him completely and I trust his compositional voice enormously. He’s the composer in residence this July at our residency in Big Sky, Montana and we’re going to have a ball because Ted is unrelenting about getting the right moments in his music. I love that. I love imagination. Philip Levine said, “let’s bless the imagination. It gives us the myths we live by. Let’s bless the visionary power of the human – the only animal that’s got it.” Ted’s that animal.
FringeArts: How did the programming of this concert/album come about?
Donald Nally: Ted’s work Privilege is what I would call one of my signature works, if there is such a thing. Its social message is directly in line with how I identify as an artist and as a citizen and every choir I’ve done it with is totally engaged by it. So, we asked him to write us a piece two years ago and he wrote “Sound from the Bench,” based on the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision. That 40-minute work is amazing—couldn’t be more perfectly written for The Crossing. It’s also rather complicated and requires killer band musicians—drummer and two guitarists. The whole team was awesome and the premiere was a real benchmark in the history of The Crossing. So, we went away from that and said, we have to do a whole evening of his music—of music that is challenging and totally satisfying to sing and carries messages that all our artists are concerned with, but does so as art—it’s art first, it speaks to our conscious and subconscious and makes some order of the chaos. And this would give us the opportunity to set down the work written for us as a definitive version under the consultation of the composer. That is one of the goals of The Crossing moving forward – to record everything written for us with the composer in the room.
FringeArts: What are some of the challenges of doing Ted’s work?
Donald Nally: It’s rhythmically a bear. It’s also fun for that reason. So, it takes a certain kind of singer to have those chops—to be able to stay with it. It also takes risk—you have to tell a story and you have to be in it, there’s no room for anyone in the room to be passive; it’s the individual and the whole and the necessity for both. He also changes styles a lot – it’s a very eclectic approach to composition with no stylistic biases, so you have to be comfortable switching from hints of gospel to pop to jazzy to more traditional.
FringeArts: What are some of the things you are talking about with members of The Crossing about Ted’s compositions and text?
Donald Nally: We talk about emotional contexts a lot; color is everything to me. So, not just in Ted’s music but in all music we are constantly searching for the ‘what’ (color) that delivers the ‘why’ (meaning). This is particularly interesting in Ted’s music because it can shift so abruptly. The first movement of Privilege for example has this minimalist murmur “motive/mission” that is suddenly broken by a kind of outburst and quickly returns – and this happens several times and the manner of singing changes completely. So, how do we get that technically so that the emotional contrast is clear and clean?
FringeArts: What are the qualities of the music that you been fine tuning the most?
Donald Nally: Just how strong and wild some things in Ted’s music are. Even with The Crossing, that does a lot of crazy, amazing stuff, taking the risk to let anger or grief take hold of the room takes a lot of courage; our artists have that courage, but the space has to be right for it. So, the fine tuning is about who each person is in the ‘we.’ In that way it’s a bit like opera. Give it all, but listen.
Photos: Becky Oehlers
Interview with Donald Nally by Inna Heasley, Lyric Fest
Excerpt: I consistently hear from the audience that we have a very unique sound; this is not something I consciously think about, even though I know that any great choir reflects the color that the conductor is carrying in his/her chest and born on the breath. Read the full interview.
The Curious Case of Ted Hearne by Trevor Hunter, NewMusicBox
Excerpt: When conversing with Ted Hearne, you can almost see each synaptic volley go off. There’s an energy to his thinking, a sign of the powerful curiosity he has fomented. He takes pains to both understand the perspectives of those he disagrees and explicitly put forth his own views. Read the full article.