Sound From the Bench is a 35-minute cantata for chamber choir, two electric guitars and drums, with a libretto by Jena Osman. It was co-commissioned by Volti and The Crossing. A reaction to Osman’s “Corporate Relations” – an incredible collection of poems that follows the historical trajectory of corporate personhood in the United States – the five movements of Sound from the Bench combine language taken from landmark Supreme Court Cases with words from ventriloquism textbooks. No mouth is Osman’s paraphrase of the central reasoning behind the majority in Bellotti v. First National Bank, the 1978 case upon which Citizens United is based: because corporations don’t have a literal mouth, they cannot literally speak, therefore advertising is their only available method of communication and must be considered speech (and is entitled to First Amendment protections as such).
The phrase the very heart is excerpted from Justice White’s dissent in this case: “It has long been recognized, however, that the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only the economy but the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process.”
— excerpted from program notes by Ted Hearne