Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job/Interlude 2 from Katrina Ballads
Performed by Ted Hearne with Chris Coletti, trumpet; Nathan Koci, horn; Kelli Kathman, flute; Eileen Mack, clarinet; Batya MacAdam-Somer, violin; David Medine, viola; Jody Redhage, cello; David Hanlon, piano; Taylor Levine, electric guitar; Kris Saebo, electric bass; Ron Wiltrout, drums
Katrina Ballads is an hour-long piece for a band of five singers and 11 musicians. The text is drawn entirely from primary-source material from the week following Hurricane Katrina: the words of survivors and relief workers, as well as politicians and celebrities like Anderson Cooper, Kanye West, George W. Bush and his mother Barbara—all disseminated by national media outlets and immediately archived forever on the internet.
Like many Americans, I watched the horror on the Gulf Coast unfold from afar. I became reliant on constant coverage from a news media filled with Americans who were themselves becoming increasingly angry and distraught. The alarm bell sounded by the aftermath of Katrina was shattering, and it was in many ways made possible by journalists who, long dormant during the run-up to the war in Iraq, felt a sudden call to responsibility. In the sea of commentary that has followed, however, it has proven easy to forget the actual circumstances of this week in September 2005. I felt that using these primary-source texts would not only communicate the deeply personal imprint Katrina left on those of us who weren't there but also keep fresh the actual words that were spoken during that time and the visceral messages those words conveyed.
Each singer and musician in Katrina Ballads hails from a different musical background, be it gospel, jazz or opera. Our cultural divisions are open to dialogue nowhere more than in music, and Katrina Ballads is an honest search for our shared lineages.
Katrina Ballads premiered in May 2007 at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina and is the winner of the 2009 Gaudeamus Prize for composition (to be awarded this September in Amsterdam). The excerpt I have included is a setting of George W. Bush’s infamous sound bite, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," and an instrumental interlude. In this recording, I am singing the vocal part.
Cordavi and Fig
Performed by Kelli Kathman, flute; James Austin Smith, oboe; Mingzhe Wang, clarinet; Danny Erdman, bass clarinet; Alma Liebrecht, horn; Alex Reicher, trombone; Becky Lu, piano; Trevor Gureckis, percussion; Owen Dalby and Caroline Shaw, violins; Jacob Adams, viola; Laura Usiskin, cello; Philip Alejo, double bass; conducted by Julian Pellicano.
This chamber orchestra piece is composed for the same instrumentation as Ligeti's Chamber Concerto, except instead of calling for the second keyboardist to play harmonium and celeste, I asked him to play rhythmically on the inside of the piano. I wrote it during Spring 2007 while I was in one of my favorite cities, Charleston, South Carolina, and the piece represents for me the beginning of a journey (that I'm still on) to authentically express a diversity of musical influences. It's named for two restaurants in Charleston where I not only ate very well, but also heard great music: Cordavi (sadly, no longer open) and Fig.