Taylor Ho Bynum/Matthew Harvey

 “The Temp”, a thrilling new oratorio from composer Taylor Ho Bynum and librettist Matthea Harvey was recorded live in concert at Dartmouth’s Spaulding Auditorium in February 22, 2020 – just weeks before the Covid 19 pandemic shutdown – with a 65-member ensemble combining two of the Hopkins Center’s flagship student ensembles, The Coast Jazz Orchestra, under Bynum’s direction and The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Filippo Ciabatti, with an exceptional group of guest soloists: vocalists Kyoko Kitamura and Michael Mayo, saxophonist Jim Hobbs, trombonist Bill Lowe, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and violinist Erica Dicker. 

“The Temp” is a secular oratorio for classical orchestra, jazz big band and choir, with four instrumental soloists and two vocal soloists. It features an original libretto by acclaimed poet Matthea Harvey, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow. Harvey used erasure processes on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, extracting words and phrases to craft a new narrative – a story of contemporary labour relations and a rebellion against corporate hierarchy that manages to be engaging, witty, and ultimately uplifting.

Composer Taylor Ho Bynum is best known for his long collaborations with creative music legends like Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon and forward-thinking peers like Mary Halvorson, Jason Kao Hwang, Ingrid Laubrock, and Tomeka Reid. While Bynum is intimately familiar with large-scale orchestral projects, having premiered compositions with the Scottish BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Tri-Centric Orchestra, and having produced and co-conducted Braxton’s last two operas, “The Temp” is his most personally ambitious orchestra work to date. The music blends the pre-determined and the spontaneous through a series of movements that seamlessly shift between through-composed passages and conducted improvisations for the full ensemble. The composition uses two conductors, sometimes working simultaneously, with two of the instrumental improvisers and the two vocal soloists embodying the two lead characters, supported by a choir of workers’ voices. Unlike many jazz/classical hybrids where improvisation is relegated to a light flavouring – in this work it is the main course, embedded within the performance practice of the entire ensemble.