Review: Ted Hearne’s ‘Farming’ Is a Sweet, Sad American Elegy

This weekend, my heart broke with Google search results.

It was strange because it didn’t contain anything overtly emotional. It was something like: “Yes, we are open. Call our consultants today.” A search for “H-2A visa program” brings up something similar to the one that allows farmers to enter the United States temporarily.

But in Ted Hahn’s “Farming,” over soulful, retro doo-wop-scented music, these bland shards are the heart of our nation: our greedy economy, our broken immigration system, our corrupted country. Seemed to touch on politics.

Twenty-four vocalists performed at Caramore, Westchester on Sunday. intersectionan accurate and upbeat new music choir led by Donald Nally, it was the sweetest and saddest song.

Suggestive, chaotic, ambitious, and often poignant considerations of colonization, consumption, marketing, entrepreneurship, whatever. — “farming” goes far beyond Google search. quilt-like script The 17th-century letters of Pennsylvania founder William Penn, the 21st-century musings of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and even out-of-context absurdities from the Twitter feed of Uber Eats and the customer loyalty program of Farmers Fridge. part is included. (“Green is the reward currency of the farmer’s refrigerator,” the singers say with maddening severity.)

He said “The Source” (based on the Afghanistan war chronicles leaked by Chelsea Manning) and “Sound from Bench” (excerpted from Supreme Court proceedings), Hahn takes these chunks of found text and gives them music that moves from richly meditative to frenzied and relentlessly repetitive. This is the intuitive translation of modern life’s information overload into sound.

The songs are sometimes pure, sometimes exaggeratedly processed into autotuned “Alvin and the Chipmunks” automation. Employing guitars, keyboards, percussion and electronics, her six instrumentalists range from moody industrial rock and his wistful synth drones to edgy, high-sugar pop. (Sometimes there’s a break somewhere in between, like the “search” in the Google section.)

At less than an hour, this nine-part Farming is Hahn’s latest collaboration with Philadelphia-based Crossing, which premiered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, and has performed at Caramoll. They have already toured the Netherlands before the show. , for the first time in New York. The threat of rain on Sunday forced us to move indoors and adapt staging and complex sound design.

Considering that situation, the production and sound were beautifully polished. A QR code included in the program linked the listener’s mobile phone to the script. Accessing it also required Karamoor to sign on to her Wi-Fi, which many in the audience didn’t seem to do.

Without following the words, it would be nearly impossible to understand what is going on in this non-narrative but text-driven work. I don’t like wasting paper, but this was the right opportunity to print a script for everyone. Future iterations may experiment with subtitles.

Also, Ashley Tata’s rendition of an exhilarating, surreal corporate parody that had the cast dressed in bright orange, magenta, and white school uniform-type outfits was too complex in an already rendition-laden production. It felt like Attempts to combine many thematic elements of the work by performing onstage what Hahn’s program notes called “a new enterprise driven by quasi-religious fervor” were confusing, but perhaps original. Things might have been clearer with the outdoor concept.

While this work is less interspersed than Hahn’s latest major work, The Place, a highly personal reflection on gentrification, “Farming” also leaves room for one more idea. It feels like the grab bag you were always supposed to have. The central pairing of Penn and Bezos, the two pioneers, their vast differences and essential similarities, was probably more than enough subject matter here.

Penn’s quote recalls some of the fundamental and irreconcilable tensions of our nation’s founding: his efforts to maintain good relations with the indigenous peoples on the one hand, and the commercial interests he wished to expand on the other. let

To what extent are Mr. Bezos’ manipulative dichotomies and Mr. Penn’s lofty claims to empower him by selling him to break his colonial promises? To what extent are they just a continuation of what was a bitter lie in the first place?

These are the kinds of gigantic, unanswered questions that Hahn’s work has, over the past decade, posed enigmatically yet powerfully, provoked by passionate, witty music. I found other pieces here distracting me from that burning central point: the Farmer’s Refrigerator, Twitter snippets, and staging.

Still, I would have hated to lose the “search”. And Hahn’s so earnestness, his eagerness to cram as much as possible into each piece, has become such a central feature of his artistry that it’s hard to think of it as a weakness. is. that’s him


Played at Caramoll on Sundays.

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