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Oracle Hysterical

New York, NY      

Oracle Hysterical is twin brothers Doug Balliett (double bass, viola da gamba) and Brad Balliett (bassoons), Majel Connery (vocals, keyboards), Elliot Cole (vocals, guitars, keyboards), and Dylan Greene (percussion). Part band, part book club, Oracle Hysterical combines eclectic musical influences with literary breadth. All members of the group perform and compose, with each project developed collectively.

Oracle’s works occupy the fluid space between classically-inclined song-cycle and art-rock concept album. The group’s songwriting illuminates fragments of great literary works like a child in a dark forest with a flashlight. Text sources have ranged from Grimms’ Fairy Tales to Greek tragedy, and falsely-attributed Shakespeare, all in collections of songs that distill centuries-old writing through a unique contemporary lens.

Their current project, Terra Nova, is commissioned by Hub New Music. It is an evening-length collection of songs inspired by new lands, and the people to ventured into them. Texts are drawn from pilot Amelia Earhart, naturalist John James Audubon, Arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, the Spanish Requirement decree of 1513 and more. Terra Nova was co-presented in workshop form by Metropolis in NYC January 2020, and travels to Peabody Essex Museum (Boston) for a premiere March 7, 2020.

Oracle’s most recent album, Hecuba, was called “evocative art pop” by Brooklyn Rail, and “delightfully bonkers” by BBC Radio 3, and released on the National Sawdust Tracks label. Hecuba is a lush and experimental rock-leaning album based on Euripides’ tragedy of the same name. Written around 424 BCE in Athens, Hecuba is a savage story of revenge in which the disgraced queen of Troy, Hecuba, with her city razed and her children murdered, descends from nobility to primal violence. 

Other touring projects include The Sea, a collaboration with the Grammy-nominated orchestra A Far Cry, which commissioned and premiered the work at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2016. In the song-cycle, Oracle Hysterical weaves music from texts by history’s greatest seafarers, explorers, and aquatic fabulists, from Shakespeare to Homer, and John Donne to the Book of Jonah. In 2017, Oracle Hysterical collaborated with period-instrument ensemble New Vintage Baroque on Passionate Pilgrim. The album, released on Naxos/Vision into Art, was called “music that is unstuck in time” by the Wall Street Journal, and what it would sound like if “Belle and Sebastian were to cut a record of Baroque-inspired folk songs,” by the New Yorker.

Other past projects include Cleopatra with the Metropolis Ensemble, and The Brothers Grimm with New Vintage Baroque. Oracle has appeared at the MATA Festival, the Berkshire Fringe Festival, The Stone (NYC), The Hideout (Chicago), (Le) Poisson Rouge (NYC), National Sawdust (NYC), the Toledo Museum of Art, and at the Lucerne Festival Academy, where they were Spotlight Artists in 2011.

The Sea

Premiered at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2016), THE SEA is commissioned by A Far Cry. This evening-length song cycle performed by A Far Cry and Oracle Hysterical includes texts by Shakespeare, Homer, John Donne, and the Book of Jonah.

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Helen, from Hecuba

Oracle’s sophomore album, Hecuba, is based on the eponymous tragedy by Euripides. In this video, the group performs “Helen,” the opening track from the album.

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