Ted Hearne

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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.

More in:

Comments [20]


Hearne's music *will* be heard at Carnegie Hall, performed by the Yale Glee Club:


Apr. 03 2011 08:28 PM
ATS from NYC

Ted is not only a smart and unique composer, but also a complete professional. He would be an excellent choice!

Jul. 01 2010 10:09 AM
Aaron from NYC

There is a lot going on in both excerpts. It's easy to be carried away by the groove, then Ted hits you with something that takes your breath away. Definitely has a distinct voice.

Jun. 30 2010 10:46 PM
Polina from Togliatti, Russia

It`s a great piece of music.
1) sounds like nothing else
2) fun
3) daring

Ted should win it.

Jun. 26 2010 03:59 PM
Andrew R from NYC

Ted Hearne is awesome! His writes interesting (and fun) music with confidence and style, and it would be great to hear one of his pieces performed in Carnegie Hall.

Jun. 25 2010 03:02 PM

Ted's music sounds grate when I heer it from behind teh couch. But he is allergic to kittehs. What to do??

Jun. 25 2010 11:33 AM

Ted's music has guts and craft. It's both accessible and complex, a tough combination to achieve. His tunes always stick in my head for days and weeks and years after I hear them. I'd love to hear what he'd make for Orpheus!

Jun. 24 2010 03:11 PM
David from New York/Chicago

Ted is a total bad-ass of a composer. He should totally win this thing.

Jun. 22 2010 11:04 AM
socrates from Oakland, CA

I agree with drgiles -- seems meaningless but not in a good way.

Jun. 22 2010 01:45 AM
Tony from Brooklyn

Hey, WQXR.

You've admitted/self identity/advertise yourself as the Classical Music Station of NYC?

Prove it. If I hear this at Carnegie Hall, I'll believe you.


Eitherway, we're still friends.


Jun. 21 2010 10:59 PM

It sounds like a joke. If it is, it is not a very clever one.

If it isn't...

Jun. 21 2010 07:27 PM
EEW from Brooklyn

Ted consistently writes music that somehow feels natural to play while simultaneously bending and stretching the capabilities of the performers. The aural result is something always fresh, fascinating, though-provoking, and often very moving. I love playing and experiencing Ted's pieces. Orpheus-and their audience-would be very lucky to collaborate with Ted.

Jun. 20 2010 03:50 PM
mark from ny

Great stuff- meaningless words repurposed as meaningful notes.

Jun. 20 2010 03:44 PM
JPOP from New York

Ted Hearne is one of the most interesting and original young composers writing today. A collaboration between Ted and Orpheus would be amazing! He would most certainly write a piece of true artistic creativity and technical mastery. He is the shizz.

Jun. 20 2010 03:25 PM
edward from LA

clever, fun. aside from the timeliness of the text, the music feels oddly "current" and representative of a more direct synthesis of numerous types of music into a single music. catchy, but i wanted to be pulled in further.

Jun. 20 2010 12:50 PM
A. Lanzilotti from Berlin

Katrina Ballads is a raw, fresh, compelling work that reflects Hearne's versatility and excellence as a composer. His ability to juxtapose strong rhythmic grove with fragility of color and sound makes this work both moving and socially powerful. I have shared this work with both friends in the music community, and people who have no musical training, and it has been met with strong positive reactions from both communities. He is a bold voice in the new music scene that should be heard.

Jun. 20 2010 12:44 PM
Jordan Kuspa from New Haven

Ted's music is bold, inclusive, daring, and above all, powerfully moving. He should absolutely be writing for Orpheus.

Jun. 19 2010 11:48 PM
Da from Manhattan

At Manhattan School of Music everybody dreaded being assigned to Composers Orchestra - and some of the pieces we had to play were dreadful. But Ted's graduation piece was just amazing and fun to perform; I still think about it from time to time...especially when I'm in San Francisco, driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. His music resonates with people - just listen to Katrina Ballads - it's so graphic, evocative and haunting.

Jun. 19 2010 11:20 PM
TIMO from Brooklyn.

Ted should win it.

Jun. 18 2010 10:28 PM
Chris Cerrone from Brooklyn

Love Ted and his music.

Jun. 18 2010 01:48 PM

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