Sarah Hennies’ Contralto
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.
“Contralto” stars Alexandra Brandon, Alyssa Green, Anna McCormick, Dreia Spies, Sarang Umarji, and Josie Zanfordino and was premiered at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY on November 30, 2017. The musical score was performed by Erik Carlson (violin), Wendy Richman (viola), T.J. Borden (cello), James Ilgenfritz (contrabass), Tim Feeney, Greg Stuart, and Ashley Tini (percussion).
Sarah Hennies in person! This screening is made possible in part by funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.