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Oracle Hysterical

New York, NY      

Oracle Hysterical is a collective of 4 composer-performers: twin brothers Doug Balliett (double bass, viola da gamba) and Brad Balliett (bassoon), Majel Connery (vocals, autoharp), and Elliot Cole (guitars, vocals). Half band, half book club, the group combines eclectic musical influences with literary breadth, adapting great works of literature through the medium of song. OH has created hip-hoperas, art-rock song cycles, rap cantatas, and other genre-bending works all over America and Europe, collaborating with a variety of ensembles to cultivate a unique sound palette for each project.  

Most recently, Oracle Hysterical was commissioned by Grammy-nominated ensemble, A Far Cry, to create the orchestral song cycle, The Sea: Tales of Lapham, which debuts at the Isabella Gardner museum (Boston, October 6, 2016). In the past year, Oracle Hysterical premiered several new works including a “Cleopatra” cantata with Metropolis Ensemble (le poisson rouge, NYC) and Hecuba with Chicago Composers Orchestra (Constellation, Chicago). It is releasing two concept albums, “Passionate Pilgrim,” commissioned by New Vintage Baroque and recorded at Bunker Studios (mixed by Ryan Streber), and Hecuba, commissioned by Opera Cabal, and recorded at Staplechest Audio (mixed by Alexander Overington and Chris Botta). Next year it will be an ensemble in residence at National Sawdust with New Vintage Baroque.

In its early years, 2009-11, Oracle Hysterical appeared at the MATA Festival (The Rake, with Metropolis Ensemble), the Berkshire Fringe Festival (Grimms’ Fairy Tales), and at the Lucerne Festival Academy (Billy Budd), where they were Spotlight Artists in 2011. In 2013, the group struck out in a new direction. With vocalist and composer Majel Connery Oracle Hysterical created chamber pop cycles for groups like the Marcel Trio (Afghani folktale “Babinigar”) and Washington Square Winds (Grimms’ “The Fisherman and his Wife”). Oracle Hysterical has also performed at The Stone, Spectrum, and National Sawdust in NYC, and at Constellation and High Concept Laboratories in Chicago, where they will be ensemble in residence July 2016.


Brad is an artistic director for Decoda (Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall), and as bassoonist performs regularly with Signal, Metropolis Ensemble, Deviant Septet, and at the Marlboro Festival. With his twin brother, Doug, he hosts “The Brothers Balliett,” a weekly radio show on WQXR’s Q2 Music. Brad graduated from Harvard University in 2005, and holds an MM from Rice.

Doug‘s compositions have been performed at major New York venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Juilliard. He recently completed a cantata for members of Les Arts Florissants and Le Jardin des Voix. As a double bassist, Doug has performed with Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Modern, and Metropolis. He graduated with high honors from Harvard and has an MM from Juilliard.

Majel is Artistic Director of Opera Cabal, a think tank for the intersection of arts and inquiry. She is in residence at Wellesley College as Mellon Visiting Artist (spring ’17 with Ken Ueno), and at Starline Social Club (Oakland, CA). As a musicologist, she recently served as Assistant Professor of Music at Berkeley. Majel earned an AB from Princeton, and an MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. 

Elliot‘s Postludes for bowed vibraphone quartets is a staple of modern percussion repertoire, having been performed by over 140 ensembles around the world including So Percussion. His Hanuman’s Leap was performed by Grammy-winning choir Roomful of Teeth at the Five Boroughs Music Festival and the Park Avenue Armory (NYC). Elliot holds a BA and BM from Rice, and an MFA from Princeton. 

“Fair Is My Love”

“Fair Is My Love” is a track on the forthcoming album, “The Passionate Pilgrim,” co-created by Elliot Cole, Majel Connery, and Doug & Brad Balliett and performed with New Vintage Baroque. “Fair Is My Love” was written by Elliot Cole. Lyrics once thought to be by Shakespeare, and now unknown.
Video by Kevin Eikenberg and Nick Hughes, studio mix by Ryan Streber, recorded at The Bunker Studios, Brooklyn. Co-produced by Opera Cabal and New Vintage Baroque.

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The music video”Where Did You Go?”is an OH collaboration with stop-motion animationist Evan Curtis. The playful, endearing figures in Curtis’s film abstractly reference elements of the song’s theme of wandering. The video is an experiment in giving OH listeners a powerful visual experience to complement the evocative storytelling.

WDYG is a demo from HECUBA. Performed by OH with Elliot Cole and Majel Connery (vocals). Doug Balliett and Elliot Cole (composition). Alexander Overington (mix engineer). Jason Treuting (drums).

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“He Will Close Your Eyes” demonstrates OH’s transformation of classical instruments (bassoon, strings) into textural elements of modern songwriting.

Pulsing, rhythmic bassoons drive the first half of the track; the second half gives way to gentler, chanted vocals, undulating bassoons, and a plucked texture that combines double bass and viola da gamba (Doug Balliett) with shimmers of autoharp (Majel Connery) and acoustic guitar (Elliot Cole).

With Christopher Botta (mix engineer) and Jason Treuting (drums).

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