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Ted Hearne Uses the Baton As a Tool for Protest

Ted Hearne
Photo: Jen Rosenstein

The 36-year-old composer, who sang with the Chicago Children’s Choir starting at age 5, credits the group’s social-justice focus for inspiring Sound From the Bench, his piece about corporate personhood that was a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize in music. (It was beat out by Kendrick Lamar’s Damn.) The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts Unsettlement Anthems, in which Hearne conducts and performs with the CCC in a concert of his own work, on April 1 and 2.

On his passion for choirs

“I’m still interested in experimenting with all types of sound and I love writing instrumental music, but choral material to this day feels like my home style. It’s the easiest access to emotional directness.”

On the rarefaction of classical music

“It becomes used for comfort, escapism, or as a cultural status symbol. These concert halls — I don’t want to say they’re intimidating, but they’re designed to be a sanctuary for a certain type of person.”

On politically slanted composing

“No one’s going to ask Kendrick Lamar why he’s writing political music, but I get asked that all the time. It smacks of this fake white idea of neutrality and eternal art. I try to turn it back and say, ‘What music isn’t political?’ ”

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