The Source is a modern-day oratorio; a patchwork of American primary-source texts from 2005-2010, culled into a libretto by Mark Doten, set to music by Ted Hearne and directed by Daniel Fish.
The US military documents known as the ‘Iraq War Logs’ and ‘Afghan War Diary’ form a central part. This massive trove of classified communications, leaked from the Dept. of Defense by Pfc Chelsea Manning (then Bradley Manning), was released in 2010 by WikiLeaks and their media partners.
Manning, then 22 years old and stationed in Iraq, was reported to the authorities by the famed former hacker Adrian Lamo and arrested in May 2010. Manning had sought out Lamo online, drawn by his reputation as a hacker, his public support of WikiLeaks, and possibly his sexual orientation (Manning was aware that Lamo is bisexual and worked for greater LGBT rights in the 90’s.) The two engaged in a far-ranging online chat, during which Manning spoke of the leaks, as well as her feelings about herself, her gender identity, life in the Army, US foreign policy, secrecy and her hopes that her actions would lead to “worldwide discussion, debate and reforms.” Excerpts of these chats, published later by Wired.com, form the other core portion of Mark Doten’s libretto.
Four performers (two men, two women) sing the words of Manning, the War Logs, and tangential voices as required. They sit amongst the audience, who occupy the entire theater and are surrounded on all sides by four giant screens projecting video throughout. A band of seven musicians playing Hearne’s multistylistic score is stationed behind one of the screens.
The video, by Jim Findlay and Daniel Fish, is composed mostly from original footage of nearly 100 people’s faces, filmed by Fish and Findlay as they watched a very small part of what Manning exposed — an 8-minute excerpt of an airstrike by Apache helicopters in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. At the end of the piece, the same excerpt is shown to the audience.
The Source embodies a struggle to grapple with the leaks themselves: the sheer enormity of their scope (483,000 Army field reports and 251,000 diplomatic cables were released along with several videos), their vivid yet emotionless depiction of people and events in distant places, their unflinching portrait of our wars.