Katrina Ballads is New York composer Ted Hearne’s hour long dramatic song cycle inspired by the tragic events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. This work uses entirely primary-source texts to paint a rich musical portrait of that devastating and telling week in September 2005. Setting the words of flood survivors, relief workers, politicians and celebrities, including Anderson Cooper, Barbara Bush, Kanye West, and George W. Bush’s iconic “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Hearne creates a cutting-edge musical experience and a vivid look into America’s darkest hours. The music is rhythmic, theatrical, and American to the core, possessing an edgy post-minimalist drive and a deep jazz influence. It is a moving performance, challenging us to remember and reflect upon our own history. New Amsterdam is releasing a digital-only version of the album on August 29th, 2008, commemorating the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Allan Kozinn of The New York Times compares the journalistic aspect of Katrina Ballads to the overtly political work of John Lennon, and found the 2010 performance at Le Poisson Rouge to have a “tough edge and a wildness of spirit that suited the music, and the subject.” Time Out Chicago called Hearne’s interweaving of relevant political phrases and New Orleans’ musical idioms “utterly convincing and musically compelling,” and All About Jazz claimed that the album “brings back all of the tragedy and all of the surrealism inherent in such an epic event.” The album was named one of the best classical albums of 2010 by Time Out Chicago and The Washington Post, and was the winner of the 2009 Gaudeamus Composition Prize.