Law of Mosaics
Ted Hearne attend- ed the Manhattan School of Music and the Yale School of Music, and his teach- ers and mentors have included Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, David Lang, Nils Vigeland, and Julia Wolfe. His music has been performed or commissioned by the Minnesota Orches- tra, the Calder Quartet, The Knights, New York City Opera, the Albany Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, LA Opera, the Chicago Symphony, and eighth blackbird, among others. (His orchestral work Stem was commissioned by the LA Phil and premiered by the Los Angeles Philhar- monic under Joshua Weilerstein in 2013.) He received the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of the Arts and his oratorio Katrina Ballads won the 2009 Gaudeamus International Compos- ers Award; its recording was named one of the best classical albums of 2010 by The Washington Post.
A composer of polyglot sensibilities, Hearne is as comfortable in operatic and orchestral works as he is in rock and choral music. “I’m really into music that success- fully combines different musical traditions into something original and confounding.” Hearne recently joined the composition fac- ulty of the Thornton School of Music at USC.
Law of Mosaics was composed in the fall of 2012 for the string band A Far Cry and was premiered by that ensemble in Boston in May 2013. The composer has written the following note.
“Thomas Jefferson went through the New Testament and removed all the miracles, leaving only the teachings.”
“Meaning is a matter of adjacent data.” “The law of mosaics: how to deal with parts in the absence of wholes.”
These passages, along with many others, are appropriated from a variety of sources and arranged by David Shields into his 2010 book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. It is a patchwork treatise on art and digital culture, and is an inspiration for Law of Mosaics – a 30-minute piece for A Far Cry.
The musical material from the first movement, “Excerpts from the middle of something,” is lush and climactic – but it is also a fish out of water, removed from sur- rounding music that might help it be better contextualized. It could follow a tense build-up, or precede a climax and resolu- tion, but instead we hear it repeated and revised. As the material circles in on itself, it begins to make sense on its own, but never really “goes” anywhere.
The second movement, “Palindrome for Andrew Norman,” is constructed en- tirely of samples lifted from other pieces of music. Each plays an important or climactic role in the piece from which it is lifted, but is used here as a single building block in the construction of a symmetrical (and rather arbitrary) formal structure: the palindrome. Each sample is altered from its original composition in some way: it may appear backwards, or revoiced, or as a canon with itself, but an element of its essential character is always preserved.
Andrew Norman is a contemporary com- poser from New York [now the director of the LA Phil’s Composer Fellowship Program] whose 2010 string trio The Companion Guide to Rome is heard among the many snippets of source material in this movement.
In some way, the rich history of works written for the string orchestra informs and influences every performance by every individual string orchestra active today, whether they choose to perform those works or not. Climactic moments from Adagio for Strings [Samuel Barber] and The Four Seasons [Antonio Vivaldi], slowed down and layered on top of one another, explores what can happen when two “staples” of the repertoire (likely to be found on a Best Classical Hits CD) are stretched out and mashed up.
The fourth movement, “Beats,” is driven by noise, punk, and electronic music more than classical music influences. A simple and clear form is filled with music that plays with the space between pitch and non- pitched sound.
“Climactic moments from movement three, three times as slow as before” is simply a reframing of music you have already heard.
“The warp and woof” refers to the lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (woof) threads that together create the texture and foundation of a woven fabric. It is a fitting end for a piece that imagines the framing of musical content to be as integral to the structure of a work as the way that content is framed. — Ted Hearne