High Concept Labs at Mana Contemporary Chicago: The Sea: Tales of Lapham
The Sea: Tales of Lapham takes its name from Lapham’s Quarterly, a modern literary anthology. Using Lapham’s "The Sea issue" as a libretto, the cycle adapts texts by some of history’s greatest seafarers and aquatic fabulists, from Shakespeare to Homer to the Book of Jonah, and concludes with a musical descent (2300 ft/minute) to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Oracle Hysterical’s trademark blend of genre (pop-rock, opera, guitar ballad) carves out a unique, contrasting sound world for each successive song, and each authorial voice.
Oracle Hysterical is a collective of four composer-performers: twin brothers Doug Balliett (electric bass) and Brad Balliett (bassoon), Majel Connery (vocals), and Elliot Cole (vocals and harmonium). Half band, half book club, Oracle Hysterical combines eclectic musical influences with literary breadth, adapting great works of literature through the medium of song. Oracle Hysterical 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.
This workshop version of The Sea: Tales of Lapham features arrangements for the four performer-composers of Oracle Hysterical together with a guest string trio (Ellen McSweeney, Brianne Lugo, Kyra Saltman) and percussion (Peter Ferry).
New York City-based musician Brad Balliett is an artistic director for chamber music collective Decoda (Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall), and performs with leading new music groups in New York, including Signal, Metropolis Ensemble, and Deviant Septet. He is principal bassoon of the Princeton Symphony, and has performed with the Houston Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Musicians, New York City Ballet, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Festival performances include Marlboro, Tanglewood, June in Buffalo, Newport Jazz Festival, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, and the Lucerne Festival. With his twin brother, Doug, Brad hosts a weekly radio show on WQXR’s Q2 Music called The Brothers Balliett, curates a monthly concert series at Spectrum in the Lower East Side, and teaches courses at the Juilliard School’s Evening Division. Brad graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 2005, and holds an MM from Rice University.
Doug Balliett is a New York City-based composer, instrumentalist and poet. The New York Times has described his poetry as “brilliant and witty,” his bass playing as “elegant,” and his compositions as “vivid, emotive, with contemporary twists.” Primarily a composer of vocal music, Mr. Balliett has written for Grammy winners Estelí Gomez and Dashon Burton, with members of the Trinity Wall Street Choir. Other recent projects include the evening-length A Gnostic Passion, written with his twin brother and commissioned by CANTORI NYC. He has held composer-in-residence positions with the Lucerne Festival Academy, the Chelsea Music Festival, New Vintage Baroque, the Millennials, and the Colonials. His works have been performed at major New York venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Juilliard, the Stone, SubCulture, (le) Poisson Rouge, Galapagos, ShapeshifterLab, and Spectrum. Upcoming premieres include a double bass concerto for Juilliard faculty member Robert Nairn and a new cantata for members of Les Arts Florissants and Le Jardin des Voix, to be written specifically for William Christie’s personal gardens.
Elliot Cole is a composer, singer, and programmer. Postludes, his book of bowed vibraphone quartets, is a new staple of modern percussion repertoire, having been performed by over 140 ensembles all over the world including So Percussion, Blow Up Roma, Mobius Quartet, and Amadinda at all major American music schools. He has performed his Hanuman’s Leap, a bardic epic for voices and drums, with Grammy-winning choir Roomful of Teeth at the Five Boroughs Music Festival in NYC will appear again with them at the Park Avenue Armory this March 2016. Oracle Hysterical, his creative friendship (part band, part book club) with Majel Connery and Brad and Doug Balliett has produced opera and hip hop collaborations with the Chicago Composers Orchestra, Metropolis Ensemble, Washington Square Winds, Opera Cabal, the Berkshire Fringe Festival, and the Lucerne Festival Academy, where they were Spotlight Artists in 2011. He lives in Jersey City and teaches at The New School, Manhattan School of Music, and Sing Sing correctional facility.
Majel Connery is a musicologist, composer and vocalist, holding degrees from Princeton University (A.B.) and the University of Chicago (M.A., Ph.D.). Recently completing a position as Visiting Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley, she is currently Mohr Visiting Artist 2016-17 at Stanford University as part of a new commission with Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and the Saint Lawrence String Quartet. Next spring she is also Mellon Visiting Artist at Wellesley College (Boston) with Ken Ueno, performing a music premiere of Ueno’s new opera Aeolus with A Far Cry at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In the fall she undertakes a residency with composer collective Oracle Hysterical at National Sawdust (NYC) that includes the debut of their Passionate Pilgrim album (Vision Into Art, Dec. 2016). Connery is co-founder and Executive & Artistic Director of avant-garde opera company Opera Cabal, and has produced and performed in a variety of projects with the company including the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s Ritornello (High Concept Labs, Chicago); the world stage premiere of G.F. Haas’s ATTHIS with ACME (The Kitchen); and in 2018 a new opera by Sarah Kirkland Snider with Shara Worden, produced by Beth Morrison Projects.