On May 15, 2021, Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art on Staten Island will present the New York City premiere of Terra Nova, a new concert-length song cycle composed by the members of Oracle Hysterical and performed in collaboration with the contemporary mixed-instrument quartet Hub New Music.
Terra Nova is inspired by a range of ambitious, gritty (and sometimes naive, cruel, and myopic) explorers. Among its songs is a playful setting of John James Audubon’s descriptions of wood warblers by Brad Balliett, Dylan Greene’s depiction of the pre-Columbian exploration of North America by Chinese mariners, a melancholy view from Amelia Earhart’s cockpit by Majel Connery, Elliot Cole’s haunting setting of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s final letter home, and a Beastie Boys-like shout of the cruel Spanish Requirement of 1513, set by Doug Balliett.
The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art will serve as a dream setting for this piece. Itself a dichotomy of old and new, and with an explorer’s pedigree as well; the museum is dedicated to the presentation of contemporary art, but is set in a repurposed sailors’ dormitory, a mid-19th century Greek Revival gem with frescoes of Poseidon still gazing down from its ceiling. The Newhouse is located within the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, one of New York City’s lesser known cultural gems, and is sure to make (small ‘e’) explorers of many of the program’s audience, many of whom will travel by ship (the Staten Island Ferry) to get there.
The artistic partnership of Oracle Hysterical and Hub New Music is a formidable one. The Oracles: a team of some of classical music’s most creative creators. Hub: young, highly-acclaimed and among the scene’s most energetic champions of new music. Terra Nova was given a preview workshop performance on January 17, 2020, at 1 Rivington, hosted by Metropolis Ensemble, and received its world premiere at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA on March 7, 2020. These performances announced this new work as a powerful experience in both text and music, by turns darkly ironic, heartrending, and straight-up fun (and occasionally a confounding mix of all three).
Terra Nova’s New York City premiere promises to be a must-see event. With an expert cast and a confluence of connections linking text, music, and venue, it promises to capture the imagination of concert-goers from Staten Island and beyond, with an attendance target of a capacity crowd of 200. 5BMF will also capture live audio and video to help spread the word about this great new piece, the ensembles, and the Newhouse Collection.
Support from New Music USA will bolster this project by promoting it within the new music community, and through financial support of co-commissioning fees, artist fees, and A/V documentation.
Composed by Oracle Hysterical’s Brad Balliett, “A Thousand Fearful Wracks” comes from the song cycle The Sea, performed here by members of Oracle Hysterical and the string orchestra A Far Cry. The song takes its text from William Shakespeare’s Richard III (Act 1, Scene 4), and a passage where the character Clarence describes a nightmare in which he is drowning. This is Oracle Hysterical in full lyrical mode, and in a similar collaborative context to their project with Hub New Music. (Recorded October 6, 2017)
Of this piece, the composer Pascal Le Boeuf writes: “Media Control is […] a critique of post-truth culture [reflected by] the use of themes to represent ideas and politicians in an abstract story.” Hub New Music brings this characteristic sense of play and incisiveness to their new collaboration with Oracle Hysterical, teasing and filling out the many complex facets of Terra Nova’s explorer-subjects. (Recorded March 11, 2019)
Start and End Dates
New York, New York