Bryan Eubanks: Object V / Sarah Hennies: Contralto

30 Nov 2017

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Thursday, November 30th, ISSUE is pleased to premiere Berlin-based composer Bryan Eubanks’ “Object V” and composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies’ “Contralto,” two new works employing singular compositional strategies.



Thursday, November 30th, ISSUE is pleased to premiere Berlin-based composer Bryan Eubanks’ “Object V” and composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies' “Contralto,” two new works employing singular compositional strategies.

Bryan Eubanks’ “Object V” is a new composition for viola, clave, metal plate feedback system, electronic samples, and Digital Signal Processing. Performed by Eubanks and Catherine Lamb (viola), “Object V” is part of a series of solo electroacoustic works which began as a way to explore what is possible with a limited set of materials placed in a simple frame or grid. The intention of the grid, beyond an exercise in simplicity or minimalism, is to exhaust what might be construed as form: a framework that collapses musical structure into its most basic archetypes of superposition, seriality and repetition of both similar and contrasting elements. Since the material is limited, the variation comes from these interactions, and what might result from this is a more literal experience of the materials themselves, and subsequently the composition. Rather than attempting to evoke subjective phenomena, the Object series functions obliquely as it alienates its component materials in the (repeated) moment of hearing. In seeking to minimize the stylistic mediation of the materials, the pieces present the sonic artifacts of the impossibility of non-mediation.

The work originated at a residency at EMS in Stockholm in the winter of 2014 where Eubanks was left with hundreds of fragments of feedback from the studio's Buchla and Serge synthesizers. With no concrete idea what to do with these materials, they became the building blocks for this exploration of formlessness. Since then, a produced body of compositions has expanded to include four solo electro-acoustic works, one studio realization, two works for ensemble, this duo, and an installation for one viewer at a time.

Sarah Hennies premieres “Contralto,” a film and sound work 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 along with a live music score for string quartet and three percussionists, all of whom also perform various sound-making actions using “non-musical” instruments such as paper, bowls of grains, office equipment, etc. The cast of the film includes several former and current students of the Ithaca College Voice and Communication Modification Program for People in the Transgender Community course, offered to aid transgender people in finding a speaking voice that is more suited to their identity. It is not widely known that when a transgender man takes testosterone his vocal cords thicken, causing the pitch of his voice to drop into a so-called “masculine” range. The same, however, is not true for trans women whose voices are unaffected by higher levels of estrogen. 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. This creates a situation where transgender women’s identities are betrayed by their bodies.

“Contralto” - defined in musical terms as “the lowest female singing voice” - uses the sound of trans women’s voices to explore trans identity from the inside and expose a profound and queer relationship between gender and experimental sound studies.

Bryan Eubanks (b. 1977, US) is a musician composing electronic and acoustic works for small ensembles, solo instruments, computers, and idiosyncratic electronics; improvising in collaboration; and experimenting with spatial diffusion techniques. Publicly active since 2001, he's had numerous collaborations and presented his work internationally in a variety of settings. Long term projects include work with Andrew Lafkas and Todd Capp in Oceans Roar 1000 Drums and electro-acoustic work with Catherine Lamb. Living in Berlin since 2013 he has been working with Lucio Capece, Konzert Minimal, Xavier Lopez, Pascal Battus, Adam Asnan, Toshi Nakamura, Jason Kahn, and Stephane Rives (among others). He also composes music for dance and curated a series of 120 concerts at Studio 8 in Berlin from 2013 – 2016. In 2011 he co-founded Sacred Realism with Andrew Lafkas and Catherine Lamb to distribute recordings and scores.

Sarah Hennies (b. 1979, Louisville, KY) is a composer and percussionist based in Ithaca, NY. Her work utilizes an often grueling, endurance-based performances practice in a subversive examination of psychoacoustics, queer identity, and expressionistic absurdity. Her work has been presented in a variety of contexts including Café Oto (London), cave12 (Geneva), Ende Tymes (NYC), Festival Cable (Nantes), the Johns Hopkins Digital Media Center, O’ Art Space (Milan), and Second Edition (Stockholm) and she has composed several site-specific works for decommissioned industrial and military spaces such as Silo City (Buffalo, NY), Fort Tilden Bunker (Queens, NY) and The Monon Line Railway (Indianapolis, IN). She received her M.A. from the University of California-San Diego in 2003 where she studied with renowned percussionist Steven Schick and in 2016 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. As an educator and facilitator, Hennies has directed multiple performances of Cornelius Cardew’s monumental work The Great Learning, served as visiting faculty at the Roots & Rhizomes Percussion Residency at the Banff Center for Arts & Creativity, and has lectured or given workshops at numerous universities and independent venues. In 2013 Hennies also founded the record label Weighter Recordings for releasing her own work and other new and unusual music by living composers.

Catherine Lamb (b. 1982, Olympia, Wa, U.S.), is a composer exploring the interaction of elemental tonal material and the variations in presence between shades and beings in a room. She has been studying and composing music since a young age. Her family growing up traveled extensively, allowing her to listen to differing sounds and approaches. In 2003 she turned away from the conservatory in an attempt to understand the structures and intonations within Hindustani Classical Music, later finding Mani Kaul in 2006 who was directly connected to Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and whose philosophical approach to sound became important to her. She studied (experimental) composition at the California Institute of the Arts (2004-2006) under James Tenney and Michael Pisaro, who were both integral influences. It was there also that she began her work into the area of Just Intonation, which became a clear way to investigate the interaction of tones and ever-fluctuating shades, where these interactions in and of them-selves became structural elements in her work. Since then she has written various ensemble pieces (at times with liminal electronic portions) and continues to go further into elemental territories, through various kinds of research, collaboration, and practice (herself as a violist). She received her MFA from the Milton Avery School of Fine Arts at Bard College in 2012 and is currently residing in Berlin, Germany.​

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