Co-presentation with Third Angle New Music

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

US WEST COAST PREMIERE: Contralto is an hourlong work for video, strings, and percussion. The piece features aspects of experimental music and documentary, with a cast of transgender women that speak, sing, and perform vocal exercises, accompanied by a dense and varied musical score that includes various conventional and “non-musical” approaches to sound-making.

When a transgender man begins taking testosterone, his vocal cords thicken and his voice deepens, dropping into the so-called “masculine range.” It is not widely known, however, that trans women’s 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, plus a higher risk of harassment and violence, due to the possibility of unintentionally publicizing someone as trans.

“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, peculiar relationship between gender and sound.

Third Angle New Music performs and records the masterworks of the twenty-first century while commissioning new works from regional and nationally recognized composers. Its bold and innovative programming, high artistic standards, and tireless efforts to bring music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to a diverse audience have earned it abundant critical acclaim. With the organization’s focus on creating a soundtrack for our time, Third Angle has created and presented more than 125 programs of contemporary music, commissioned more than 66 new works, and released 13 recordings to critical acclaim.

Sarah Hennies is a composer and percussionist based in Ithaca, NY. Her work utilizes an often grueling, endurance-based performance practice in a subversive examination of psychoacoustics, queer identity, and performance art. She has presented her work 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). 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. Hennies founded the record label Weighter Recordings, releasing works by artists working at the fringes of contemporary music.

This concert is sponsored by Altabira City Tavern with additional generous support from George Rowbottom & Marilyn Crilley.