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Ted Hearne: Sounds from the Bench

There is a multiple valence to the "political" aspect of the music of Ted Hearne. Yes, it often sets texts pulled from contemporary politics—WikiLeaks, court testimony, headlines; but it also creates, in the moment of its performance, a polis—a community of performers and witnesses, confronted with texts laid bare by their setting and repetition. At the Philly Fringe Festival this past weekend, The Crossing performed a program of Hearne's music entitled "Sounds from the Bench"—four compositions that use texts drawn from our own contemporary media polis

(pages from Consent

The works performed included Sound from the Bench, which used the words of Supreme Court oral arguments on corporate personhood mixed with language from ventriloquism manuals; Ripple, which sets one line of text from the Iraq War Logs; Privilege, which uses text by David Simon, creator of "The Wire"; and Consent, which combines love letters with text messages cited in the Stuebenville High School rape case of 2012. (Consent will also be performed alongside the World Premiere of Hannah Lash's Reqiuem later this month in New Haven and New York, as well as at the Ear Taxi Festival in Chicago on October 6) Listen to a sample of Consent below.

A few weeks earlier, Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, formerly of the Kronos Quartet, and percussionist Ian Rosenbaum recently performed Hearne's Furtive Movements in Tulsa as a part of a four-day residency, organized through Choregus Productions.

Furtive Movements, a non-texted piece, approaches the political in a different way. Hearne's concern with this piece is to subvert the identities of these two different instruments—one ostensibly melodic, one rhythmic— by moving beyond the concepts of pitch and rhythm, and into the areas of timbre and phrasing. The cello is "prepared" with a wine cork in-between its G and D strings; rhythmic phrases pass between both players, and often they are called to play in unison. 

(pages from Furtive Movements

And why might this music be "furtive"? Hearne writes: "this phrase conveys the assumption of guilt [...] based on appearance or demeanor in a given moment, which is striking to me because it speaks more to the expectations of the observer than to a useful description of the subject." Our expectations of what music is, or can be, are called into question here: Hearne points our assumptions back at ourselves, forcing us to grapple with our own desire of what music should be by showing us what it could be, otherwise. 

Furtive Movements will also be performed later in the month by members of The Knights to accompany new choreography by Pam Tanowitz at The Joyce's NY Quadrille

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