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Sarah Hennies – “Contralto” at LCMS

Contralto is a one-hour work for video, strings, and percussion composed by Sarah Hennies 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

”The whole experience was quite disorientating but very emotionally charged, leaving me with an unsettled feeling that is difficult to describe. During the performance, I was mesmerised by the humour and humanity of the film’s expressive subjects.” – Kate Bradley, Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century

“[The work] of a woman considering herself and women like her to a degree I have never seen on stage before.” – Tamzin Elliott, San Francisco Classical Voice

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).

Louth Contemporary Music Society’s We Sing for the Future is funded by the Arts Council, financially supported by Create Louth and the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.

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