Social Buttons

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Context: The Source

The Source runs at BAM from October 22—25. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes

The Source (PDF)


Interview with Daniel Fish (BAM Blog)
The director of The Source discusses the process of making the piece.

The Source source material (BAM Blog)
Mark Doten provides context for excerpts from his libretto

Ted Hearne
Audio clips abound on the homepage of the Source composer.

When Political Music is Good: Ted Hearne’s Katrina Ballads (
Ted Hearne has tread into political territory before.

Composition Today: Ted Hearne
Hearne opines on political music, Bjork, and the pitfalls of combining different musical traditions.

Bradley Manning's Army of One (New York Magazine)
New York Magazine tells the story of an unlikely American revolutionary.

The Fog Machine of War (The New York Times)
Chelsea Manning: “Current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance”

Chelsea Manning’s Confession of Guilt (
Read Manning’s detailed accounts of the classified videos and cables she leaked.



Excerpt from Ted Hearne's Katrina Ballads (YouTube)
Kanye West is the centerpiece of this excerpt from Hearne's recent work.

Cooking with Ted (YouTube)
The composer is better with notes than he is with onions.

Frontline: WikiSecrets (PBS)
The PBS series explores the ins and outs of the Manning trial.

Worthwhile Words

I think that all music is inherently political, in the sense that it is a product of the time in which it was created. Whoever made the music was existing in some kind of relationship to everything happening around her or him, and because of this the music necessarily reflects the place and time from which it came. […] I think there's an idea in classical music that the greatest music is actually timeless - like, so universal that its value exists completely outside of any historical conditions, and it will resonate with people forever. (A lot of classical musicians feel this way about J.S. Bach maybe.) This idea is really dangerous, because it isolates composers and pits them against their audience. And it promotes the idea that your music can be so good and so smart that the people who will really understand it aren't even alive yet. I think this line of thinking is super contemptuous of contemporary audiences, and unfortunately is pervasive in a lot of music circles today. […] If you avoid writing music that addresses current topics because its meaning will change as time goes on, then you are trying to stop the passage of time itself (and good luck with that).  —Ted Hearne 

Now your turn...

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. I attended 21c Liederabend last year and was intrigued by the arias presented from The Source. When I saw the entire opera was being staged at the Fisher Theater, I knew it was going to be a memorable experience, and I was right. The use of the black box space was really innovative. I loved that one half of the audience was facing the other half of the audience, and we were surrounded by huge videos of fellow humans watching what we assumed to be classified war videos, but all we could see was their facial expressions — plus the facial expressions of our fellow audience members. The vocalists were embedded in the audience, which was clever as well. The resulting impact was all of us watching others watching videos, and all the while the music and vocals were firing their uncomfortable truths at us — and uncomfortable it was. By the end of the production, we all sat in stunned silence. I caught the eye of the man sitting next to me and mouthed "Wow". Unbeknownst to me, I am now pretty sure it was the composer and I am glad that I didn't know, because that made my response absolutely genuine. I left needing to cry to release the tension. I was very powerfully moved. I would not want to see this again. And I think everyone should see it.

  2. Curly V must have smoked quite a lot of marijuana before attending the performance. Sadly, I didn't have a chance to, as I came straight from work.

    I attended last nights performance of this show and it was dismal. The visuals were horribly boring -- four faces on the four walls... nothing else, for 75 horrid minutes. Ultimately, this wasn't a show about Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, freedom, justice, or injustice -- it was a show about nothing.

    It was near-impossible to hear any of the lyrics. And when I read them in the program notes, they appeared like gibberish -- they were.

    Also, as a journalist, I was dismayed by the heavily edited footage used at the end of the film, depicting the infamous "Collateral Murder" video. This presented a completely false description of the sequence of events to the audience.

    Note: I saw a girl wearing a BAM badge drinking openly from a flask in the lobby prior to the show. I should have realized that was a sign of the horrid waste of time to come. (My biggest loss? 75 minutes of my time.)

    Of course pretentious Brooklynites may disagree with me and find some obscure meaning in this show where there most certainly was none, but if this is the track down which BAM is headed, I fear all of their donors will flea in a heartbeat.

    PS - The audience was 100% white, which should say something.

  3. Excellent show. Smart, well-constructed, and moving.

  4. Brilliant show, great music. Very much hope it is the bold direction opera is moving in. Also, REALLY enjoyed the diversity of singing away from the bel canto style.

  5. Not my thing. I didn't understand what the artist was trying to say, and I didn't understand any more about Chelsea Manning's story.

  6. It took awhile to sink in to the performance, but by the end I was very moved by having watching so many filmed reactions to the Collateral Murder video, as well as our own live reaction to it at the end. I felt like it succeeded in bringing the abuses that Manning exposed back to our collective responsibility. I do wish however that the sung texts had been easier to understand. But all in all a powerful piece. Kudos to Beth Morrison Productions for achieving what BAM and NYC opera should have been doing all these years - creating new and innovative opera!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.