Sarah Hennies: Contralto

1/12/19 at 8:00 pm
Radius Gallery: 1050 River St. #127, Santa Cruz
Tickets: $10 - $15

Buy Tickets

Sarah Hennies’ “Contralto” is a one-hour work for video, strings, and percussion that exists in between the spaces of experimental music and documentary. The piece features a cast of transgender women speaking, singing, and performing vocal exercises accompanied by a dense and varied musical score that includes a variety of conventional and “non-musical” approaches to sound-making.

About Language as a Wilderness

This event is part of the series Language as a Wilderness, co-presented by Indexical and Radius Gallery at the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz.

Language as a Wilderness is a five-week series of experimental music dealing with language extracted from its natural environment. It is co-presented by Indexical and Radius Gallery at the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, from Jan. 12 through Feb. 9. For more upcoming performances, visit indexical.org/events.

About Contralto

Sarah Hennies’ “Contralto” is a one-hour work for video, strings, and percussion that exists in between the spaces of experimental music and documentary. The piece features a cast of transgender women speaking, singing, and performing vocal exercises accompanied by a dense and varied musical score that includes a variety of conventional and “non-musical” approaches to sound-making.

“imaginative, resourceful, witty, defiant…haven’t been so deeply moved by a new piece in ages.” - Steve Smith, National Sawdust

When a transgender man begins taking testosterone it causes his vocal cords to thicken and his voice deepens and drops into the so-called “masculine range.” It is not widely known, however, that trans women’s voices are unaffected by higher levels of estrogen in the body. Being a woman with a “male voice” creates a variety of difficult situations for trans women including prolonged and intensified dysphoria and higher risk of harassment and violence due to possibly exposing someone as trans unintentionally.

“Contralto” - defined in musical terms as “the lowest female singing voice” - uses the sound of trans women’s voices to explore transfeminine identity from the inside and examines the intimate and peculiar relationship between gender and sound.

Hennies has recently presented Contralto in con- junction with a Q&A at venues such as the Echo Park Film Center (Los Angeles), Issue Project Room (NYC), and PICA Time Based Art Festival (Portland).

Sarah Hennies

Sarah Hennies (b. 1979, Louisville, KY) is a composer based in Ithaca, NY whose work is concerned with a variety of musical, sociopolitical, and psychological issues including queer & trans identity, love, intimacy, psychoacoustics, and percussion. She is primarily a composer of solo and chamber works, but is also active in improvisation, film, performance art, and dance. She presents her work internationally as both a composer and percussionist with notable performances at Le Guess Who (Utrecht), Festival Cable (Nantes), send + receive (Winnipeg), O’ Art Space (Milan), The OBEY Convention (Halifax), Cafe Oto (London), ALICE (Copenhagen), and the Edition Festival (Stockholm). As a composer, she has received commissions across a wide array of performers and ensembles including Bearthoven (NYC), Bent Duo (NYC), Cristian Alvear (Santiago), Claire Chase (NYC), R. Andrew Lee (Denver), LIMINAR (Mexico City), The Living Earth Show (San Francisco), The Thin Edge New Music Collective (Toronto), Two-Way Street (Knoxville), and Yarn/Wire (NYC).

In late 2017 she premiered the groundbreaking work, Contralto at Issue Project Room (NYC), a film exploring transfeminine identity that uses aspects of “voice feminization” therapy as artistic material. The piece features a cast of transgender women accompanied by a dense and varied live score for string quartet and three percussionists. The work received widespread acclaim and has since been performed and screened all over the world at a variety of venues and festivals including Bent Frequency (Atlanta), La Sobilla (Verona), Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles), MOCA Tucson, Time-Based Art (Portland, OR), and the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox Theatre.

Her work has been supported by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New Music USA, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County, and in 2016 she was awarded a fellowship in music/sound from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Hennies is currently a member of improvised music group Meridian with Greg Stuart and Tim Feeney, a duo with sound/performance artist Jason Zeh, and the Queer Percussion Research Group with Jerry Pergolesi, Bill Solomon, and Jennifer Torrence.

In 2013, Hennies founded the record label Weighter Recordings, releasing works by artists working at the fringes of contemporary music including Prune Bécheau, Thomas Bonvalet, Morgan Evans-Weiler, Tim Feeney, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Enrico Malatesta, and Matt Sargent.

Back