about the music

The Source is a modern-day oratorio.
The music, like the text, draws from diverse sources. Auto-tuned recitatives, neo-soul ballads, icy string trios and moments of cracked-out musical theater are peppered with (and sometimes structured around) samples that bridge sonic worlds. 

“And as the texts felt cut up, a la Naked Lunch, and reassembled, so did Hearne’s music sound like myriad influences exploded and roughly pasted back together, the work of a true twenty-first century polyglot.”
— Henry Stewart, Opera News

composer's note

Ted Hearne

About the sampling: One common trait of the Manning-Lamo Chat Logs and the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs is that every event is marked with a timestamp. An audio sample, too, is a kind of timestamp: one specific collection of sounds, singular and unique, and reproducible in a way that could never be possible with live musicians in real time. Every time we hear a sample, we know it originates from a separate context, and in this way, its "pastness" is emphasized. So when samples are used in this music, I consider it an interaction and engagement with history. 

And how to we engage with the source of a sample? A pre-recorded sound may bring up a rich world of cultural and historical associations for one listener while being heard as an unencumbered sonic object to another. The many layers of meaning that exist in a sample make it impossible for one listener (or composer) to grasp all of them. This reminds me of the complexity we face when processing multiple sources of information.

Why 'oratorio' ? The Source is a hybrid work that mixes and matches from several different genres, so it's hard to come up with a single word to describe the type of piece it is, but I like "oratorio" for a couple reasons. One reason is that an oratorio (unlike an opera) never asks the audience to pretend the musicians are fictional characters; a singer may perform or interpret the words of a character, but there are no costumes or sets, and they aren't acting a role.

Another reason is that like most oratorios, The Source approaches its subject matter through discrete movements with tangentially related texts, rather than through traditional narrative storytelling. Ideas are juxtaposed and placed adjacent (or on top of) one another, but not wrapped into a digestible plot.

About the auto-tune: I developed this interactive use of vocal processing with composer Philip White, in our work as the vocal/electronics duo R WE WHO R WE. I think of the auto-tune in The Source as a reflection of the self. It may be an image filtered through endless data on a computer screen, or one neutralized by the distance between Brooklyn and Iraq, or an image of the person we (or Manning) could if we could play the roles that are expected of us.


"The Source" was commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Judy and Allen Freedman, with additional commissioning support from Justus and Helen Schlichting. 

Listen to an excerpt:
[A young boy released several pigeons]
feat. Mellissa Hughes, soprano
recorded live at BAM (Oct 2014)