Percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies uses minimal sounds to explore the marginalization of trans people | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies uses minimal sounds to explore the marginalization of trans people 

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click to enlarge Sarah Hennies

Sarah Hennies

Walter Wlodarczyk

New York percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies digs deep into the music she writes, developing minimal sound worlds she inhabits for extended durations. On her new album, Embedded Environments (Blume), she pushes what seem like simple ideas to extremes. “Foragers,” a piece for four percussionists, was recorded in a vacant grain silo in Buffalo, and the structure’s acoustic properties allow the track’s series of murmuring thrums and extended silences to take on a life of their own. In this rare Chicago performance Hennies will perform a piece called “Falsetto,” which also builds a long, slow arc of tintinnabulation generated primarily from cheap bells purchased in thrift stores. There’s something immersive—and also absurd—about the result as she pushes her four-limbed limits to the hilt in an increasingly active and intense performance. In an essay for the online quarterly Lateral Addition Hennies wrote about being pleased with a negative review of the piece whose writer observed of it, “I thought I didn’t understand percussive theory anymore. Hell, I thought I didn’t understand music anymore.” The work produces a sense of confusion and aloneness within Hennies too—one that symbolizes her decision to come out as a trans woman a few years ago. “Falsetto” further reflects her identity and her trans activism with the serendipitous discovery that many listeners connected the small bells with those used in church, an institution that for many years forbade women to perform and instead used men to sing upper-register parts in falsetto. The trio of clarinetist Jeff Kimmel, vocalist Carol Genetti, and trumpeter Graham Stephenson will open the evening with an improvised set.   v

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