Composer, singer, bandleader, and recording artist 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 his “topical, politically sharp-edged works”. Pitchfork called Hearne’s work “some of the most expressive socially engaged music in recent memory — from any genre”, and Alex Ross wrote in the New Yorker that Hearne’s music “holds up as a complex mirror image of an information-saturated, mass-surveillance world, and remains staggering in its impact.”
Hearne’s Sound From the Bench, a cantata for choir, electric guitars, and drums setting texts from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments and inspired by the idea of corporate personhood, was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize.
Hearne most recently collaborated with poet Saul Williams and director Patricia McGregor to create Place, a fiery meditation on the topic of gentrification and displacement, through music. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Barbican Centre, and Beth Morrison Projects, and scored for 18 instrumentalists and 6 vocalists, Place was premiered to critical acclaim in October 2018 at the BAM Next Wave Festival. “Place takes shape in songs that emerge like a graffiti mural as repetitive gestures gradually bloom into vibrant, brash statements in high-volume color. The six singers bring with them deep familiarity with diverse vocal styles…but it was impossible to ignore the presence of the real Mr Hearne at his command post conducting the musicians, manipulating the sound, and driving the auto-da-fé of his own orchestration…It always felt as if Hearne was questioning his own comfort and — in the final moment — his own power” (New York Times).
Hearne’s oratorio The Source sets text from the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs, along with words by Chelsea Manning (the U.S. Army private who leaked those classified documents to WikiLeaks), and was premiered to rave reviews at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival. The New York Times called The Source “a 21st century masterpiece”, and included it on its list of the best classical vocal performances of 2014 and best albums of 2015, noting that the work “offers a fresh model of how opera and musical theater can tackle contemporary issues: not with documentary realism, but with ambiguity, obliquity, and even sheer confusion.” During the 2016–17 season, the original production of The Source (directed by Daniel Fish) was presented by both the LA Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Hearne’s piece Katrina Ballads, another modern-day oratorio with a primary source libretto, was awarded the 2009 Gaudeamus Prize in composition and was named one of the best classical albums of 2010 by Time Out Chicago and the Washington Post. A recent collaboration paired him with legendary musician Erykah Badu, for whom he wrote an evening-length work combining new music with arrangements of songs from her 2008 album New Amerykah Part One.
Law of Mosaics, Hearne’s 30-minute piece for string orchestra, has been performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His album of the same name, with Andrew Norman and A Far Cry, was named one of the New Yorker’s notable albums of 2014 by Alex Ross.
A charismatic vocalist, Hearne performs with Philip White as the vocal-electronics duo R WE WHO R WE, whose debut album (New Focus Recordings, 2013) was called “eminently, if weirdly, danceable and utterly gripping” (Time Out Chicago). R WE’s sophomore release I Love You was named one of the Best Albums of 2017 by The Nation. Other recent albums of vocal music of various stripes include The Source and Outlanders (New Amsterdam Records) and The Crossing’s acclaimed recording of Sound From the Bench (Cantaloupe Music).
Ted Hearne was awarded the 2014 New Voices Residency from Boosey & Hawkes, and is a member of the composition faculty at the University of Southern California. Ted’s many collaborators include poets Dorothea Lasky and Jena Osman, visual artists Sanford Biggers and Rachel Perry, directors Daniel Fish and Patricia McGregor, and filmmakers Bill Morrison and Jonathan David Kane, and his works have been conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, John Adams, and Gustavo Dudamel. Recent and upcoming commissions include orchestral works for the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and A Far Cry, chamber works for Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble dal Niente, and Alarm Will Sound, and vocal works for Conspirare, The Crossing, and Roomful of Teeth.