Snimka koncerta iz 2005. na kojem donedavno ne baš poznata legenda američkog minimalizma (rođenjem Šveđanka) i njezin sastav izvode muziku zasnovanu na apstraktnim i kozmičkim matematičkim principima neshvatljivima prosječnom slušatelju. Zvukovi koji preobražavaju prostor u kojem se izvode.
Sonic Acts' maiden release is a collaboration with Important Records presenting Catherine Christer Hennix's extraordinary live recording of 'Blues Dhikr Al-Salam', made on sunday 14th August at The Grimm Museum, Berlin. Swedish-American composer Christer Hennix is regarded among the elite of 20th and 21st century minimal composition, spending the 1960s studying the work of Iannis Xenakis and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and later becoming a noted disciple of Pandit Pran Nath and La Monte Young in the 1970s. Coincidentally, this piece was first premiered at Young's 70th birthday in 2005 synched with the infinitary computer animation NUR, and she has since extended her installation "in the venerable tradition of the pentatonic blues for a live-electronic ensemble", performing this expanded version last year, and also earlier in 2012 for her current home city, Berlin's CTM festival, in shows which can easily anywhere between this disc's 49 minute playing time and, theoretic ∞. In 2010 her recording 'The Electric Harpsichord' was ushered into an experimental electronic community barely aware of her existence, and, much like the recent unearthing and reappraisal of work by Eliane Radigue, has correctly earned her considerable reverence for its quiet complexity, purity and transcendent potential. Based on abstract and cosmic mathematic principles incomprehensible to the average listener and non-mathematician, 'Blues Dhikr Al-Salam' is manifested through voice, computer, microtonal tuba, trombone, time-mirage delay and careful sound engineering with assistance from Amelia Cuni, Robin Hayward, Hilary Jeffrey and Michael Northam. It is a work which will subtly, positively transform any space it's used in, and with careful, considered listening, finer tuned ears will marvel at the rich harmonic fidelities which arise from what is an ostensibly still drone piece. Stunning.- boomkat
The Electric Harpsichord (1976/2010)
Known to the very few, The Electric Harpsichord is possibly THE obscure masterpiece of the days of the early American minimalism. Recorded live in 1976 after many years of study under the guidance of Pandit Pran Nath and LaMonte Young, it has finally found the perfect home in the DieSchachtel ART catalogue: a lavishly produced and innovative silver/black cardboard book+CD edition, that gives the work the space and merit it deserves as a unique work of art, complete with two poems by LaMonte Young especially written for this edition, and an extensive essay by Henry Flynt.
An improvisation performed on Just Intonation tuned keyboards put through time lag accumulators similar to those used by Terry Riley, Hennix has produced one of the most remarkable pieces of music to emerge from the La Monte Young school of minimalism. A Swedish born composer, who studied in the tradition of the Xenakis and Stockhausen in the 1960s, Hennix met La Monte Young and Hindustani raga master Pandit Pran Nath at the Nuits du Fondation Maeght festival in 1970, and pursued studies with both men during the 1970s. While the use of the time lag in Riley's works such as "A Rainbow in Curved Air" results in an experience of blissful, focused, samadhi-like calm, Hennix's drone work has more in common with the chaotic fluxes of psychedelic experience or the mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a moving eternity, pulsating, shifting-something like a raga perhaps, insofar as a raga is a specific deity invoked into sound, shifting, fluttering inside the matrix of the drone. (Marcus Boom)
"In every media, the work of Christer Hennix shows extraordinary mastery of the interrelationship between Eastern and Western thought” La Monte Young
“Hennix’s The Electric Harpsichord is a gigantic piece, ma killer, a work which exists outside of style or genre. It is unbelievable. It creates blocks of sound that move min and out of each other to create the effects. It is a pure perfect piece of music that resonates and resounds and creates a universe that it is impossible by other means. In our primitive and unenlightened culture it becomes a work of transcendent power.” Glenn Branca
NEW BOXED EDITION OF THIS CD AND 60 PAGE BOOKLET LIMITED TO AN EDITION OF 500 COPIES FOR THE WORLD - THE FIRST TIME THESE INCREDIBLE RECORDINGS FROM 1976 HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE* This latest addition to Die Schachtel's sublime Art Series is a largely neglected masterpiece from Swedish-born composer Catherine Christer Hennix, a disciple of LaMonte Young and Pandit Pran Nath during the 1970s. Although her music is largely unknown - even among the experimental music community - those who've been exposed to Hennix's work tend to rank her among the elite of American minimalist composers of the twentieth century. The Electric Harpsichord (recorded in 1976) is talked about with the highest reverence by the avant-garde's cognoscenti, with Glenn Branca describing it as "a pure perfect piece of music" and "a work of transcendent power". Having embarked on her compositional career in the 1960s studying the techniques of Xenakis and Stockhausen, Hennix's musical bearing was jolted somewhat by the Nuits du Fondation Maeght festival in 1970, where she first encountered LaMonte Young and Hindustani raga master Sri Faquir Pandit Pran Nath. Over the course of the ensuing decade, Hennix would study with both these men, and to many the piece reproduced on this disc is her magnum opus. Made using keyboards tuned to just intonation and a tape delay feedback network based on Terry Riley's notion of the "time lag accumulator", the piece is a thing of sparkling psychedelic chaos, achieving that magical dichotomy between apparent narrative-shirking motionlessness and eternal flux. For all its droning stability on a 'macro' level, The Electric Harpsichord's continually recombining layers ensure it remains ceaselessly shifting in 'micro' terms. Significantly, none of this gets out of hand and you can still make out the individual pitches ebbing and flowing within the sound mass. Paying close attention reveals some incredible oceanic movements within the sound waves, and repeat listens reap considerable rewards. This recording lasts twenty-five minutes, though in the strictest terms it should be considered as only a fragment of what the composition represents; in conceptual terms The Electric Harpsichord would be an endless, perpetual entity. In support of the music itself, this release comes in a box that opens to reveal a 60-page booklet containing two LaMonte Young pieces written especially for this edition, plus an extensive essay by Henry Flynt (a close friend of Hennix) as well as some illuminating, if highly technical and abstract background text from Hennix herself, who reproduces excerpts from her "notes on the composite sine-wave drone over which The Electric Harpsichord is performed". This utterly absorbing and highly involved passage is just the thing to show drone music naysayers who think it's all just somebody holding a note for a really long time. An essential release, presented with all due reverence and care by Die Schachtel. -boomkat
Hyperbole and silence wrap around Catherine Christer Hennix’s music like the black and white of yin and yang. La Monte Young and Henry Flynt have praised her merger of music and mathematics for decades (well, initially his merger — Christer Hennix was born in 1948 and took the name Catherine when she adopted the female gender in 1990). Hennix hasn’t exactly promoted herself; while she’s lived and occasionally performed in Europe since the early ’90s, until now she hadn’t made any records. Until the release of this volume, the only way to hear Hennix was in person, on certain Henry Flynt records (C Tune, Purified By Fire, and Dharma Warriors) and via Ubuweb.
This release is an excerpt from a 1976 concert and is issued now in tribute to her late guru Pandit Pran Nath, the Kirana gharana singer who also taught Young, Terry Riley and Jon Hassell and died in 1996. Its swanky packaging signifies significance; the CD comes wrapped inside a 60-page booklet with two poems by Young, a lengthy historical-philosophical discussion of the work by Flynt, and an even longer (and decidedly over-my-head) mathematical discussion of the piece by Hennix. But the most meaningful part of the project is Hennix’s rather extraordinary music.
Hennix had been involved with music since her youth, when she got lessons from the American jazz musicians who stayed in her parents’ Stockholm home, and she’d begun working with primitive computer systems before she began associating with Young. After encountering Nath, she synthesized her analysis of tambura drones with the electronic sine tones that Young played in his house all day, every day. The outcome was a music mathematically calculated to induce altered states. The instrumental set-up on The Electric Harpsichord resembles Terry Riley’s time-lag accumulator — she plays an electric keyboard, in this case a Yamaha tuned in Just Intonation and fed into a tape delay system — but the results are quite different. Where Riley generated overlapping streams of notes, Hennix’s music rises and falls like ocean waves, with bright harmonics glinting atop a continuous sound like whitecaps. The harpsichord’s spindly key strokes accumulate into an undulating sonic mass that is neither harsh in the fashion of contemporary noisemakers nor bland. Instead, it’s rich in tones and overtones that seem to multiply in fractal cells that maintain their integrity as they increase in density. Put the CD on and putter about and it just sounds nice; give it your undivided attention and it sucks you right in and whips the alpha waves to the top of your brain pan like foam to the top of a cappuccino.
The effect is a slowing of experienced time, which may be a partial explanation for why it took Hennix so long to get this record out. But to stretch time is to stretch life, and what greater gift could you get from a five-inch shiny disc? - Bill Meyer
C.C. Hennix Dutch National Radio Broadcast (3:03'49) x
Radio show broadcast on Dutch National Radio station De Concertzender. Introduced by Mark van der Voort. A survey of the composer's work. Hennix's recordings taken from an eight day festival organized in Spring 1976 at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, and other sources, selections by Hennix.
Broadcast date: June 6, 2005 -UbuWeb
Notes on Catherine Christer Hennix's The Electric Harpsichord
Although Catherine Christer Hennix once told me that "The Electric Harpsichord" should be listened to at a volume of 100 db in order to bring out the full range of overtones contained within the piece, and although she has said that the piece is in fact infinite and thus unsuited to the time-constrained formats of the recording industry, listening to the CD of "The Electric Harpsichord" on a home stereo remains an extraordinary experience. An improvisation on the scale of Raga Multani, performed on Just Intonation tuned keyboards put through time lag accumulators similar to those used by Terry Riley, Hennix has produced one of the most remarkable pieces of music to emerge from the La Monte Young school of minimalism. A Swedish born composer, who studied in the tradition of the Xenakis and Stockhausen in the 1960s, Hennix met La Monte Young and Hindustani raga master Pandit Pran Nath at the Nuits du Fondation Maeght festival in 1970, and pursued studies with both men during the 1970s. While the use of the time lag in Riley's works such as "A Rainbow in Curved Air" results in an experience of blissful, focused, samadhi-like calm, Hennix's dronework has more in common with the chaotic fluxes of psychedelic experience or the mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a moving eternity, pulsating, shifting-something like a raga perhaps, insofar as a raga is a specific deity invoked into sound, shifting, fluttering inside the matrix of the drone. "The Electric Harpsichord" certainly reflects Hennix's study with Pandit Pran Nath-but there are none of the superficial trademarks of "ethnic music" here-what Hennix learnt from Pran Nath and from La Monte Young is a devotion to perfect pitch, and the ability to weave an improvisation through those glorious resonant tones and overtones. Yet, the piece sounds entirely modern, contemporary, in the way that Young's Theater of Eternal Music pieces do. At certain moments, the listener feels that the floor is melting beneath him, and that he is being thrown backward through time and space, while at the same time remaining mentally anchored in the constant of the drone. It's an uncanny effect, and I am not being metaphorical when I describe it this way. I have repeatedly experienced it in this way listening to this recording-and only this recording. Was this just a fluke, a singularity captured on tape? Or is it part of a system which we can go back to, repeat, come up with further experiments, variations, developments? Hennix clearly believes the latter. Recorded in the mid-1970s, and only now available to the public in 2003, "The Electric Harpsichord" points back to an incredibly fertile moment of musical exploration, in which the laws governing and ultimately trapping Western "art" music were finally overthrown in favor of an expansive, cosmically situated, perfectly tuned, improvisatory music. It also points forward to a sonic future in which, as Hennix has stated, the ratio of the known to the unknown is one to infinity!"
From Catherine Christer Hennix on the Music of the Future, An Interview with Marcus Boon:
M: What are the implications of Just Intonation for the music of the future? It opens up a vast territory that simply hasn't been looked up, but beyond saying that, I don't know what to ... expect ...
CCH: Are you familiar with the Notre Dame School and Leoninus? If you go back and study that music, you will find that it was spectacular. You must understand that these were the people that introduced the first drones in the Notre Dame Cathedral - the big organ ... that was the biggest sound ever heard in Europe. They just played the pedal point, they didn't play melodies on the organ, it was pedal point!
M: So it was just one massive blasting drone ...
CCH: Yeah! And in that big cathedral, right? ... And then they had people singing over it. That was the biggest revolution in western music, that idea of a big sound. But it was cut short because of the introduction of the keyboard which resulted in the need for re-tuning all the scales, and that just destroyed what they'd started to do ... and you only have it left in Gregorian chant today.
M: Were there heretic drone schools in the Middle Ages?
CCH: No, they weren't heretics at all - they were the masters. But the keyboard just couldn't accommodate it ... if they had had the money they would have produced a keyboard for each scale. But they were short on money, so they just had one, and they forced everybody else onto that keyboard.
M: And the music of the future will have that infinite number of keyboards ...
CCH: I would think so. I mean the computer can certainly help here. It makes it much cheaper to have all these keyboards around ...
M: And mathematics?
CCH: Yeah, and a little dose of mathematics will help too ...
M: To what degree is there a systematic exploration of the different ways of tuning in Just Intonation? Is there a consensus as to what kind of tunings are the most potent or satisfying?
CCH: No, I don't think so. Because first of all there's no a priori tuning which is the optimal. You simply choose the tuning that is aligned with your way of thinking. You have an infinite number of possibilities here and each composer should simply have her own concept of tuning. That seems to me basically the future of music. Instead of everyone using the same system of tuning, each composer works out her own system of tuning and makes music accordingly.
M: What governs your choice of tuning?
CCH: I think that's pretty subjective. Again you have an infinite number of possibilities. You have to have a discriminating mind to choose one which is attractive to more people than just yourself.
M: Will there be a holy grail-like search for some remarkable tuning method that exists somewhere in the infinity of possible tunings?
CCH: Yes, of course, that will always be the lure, the myth, so to speak of the composer's destiny. Whether the composer will find it or not is an empirical question.
M: What is the ratio of the known to the unknown in this?
CCH: Oh, it is basically one to infinity! (laughs)-- originally published in The Wire
I’ve spent the last few weeks finishing a profile of Swedish mathematician/visual artist/composer Catherine Christer Hennix for The Wire, in honor of the recent release of her 35 year old sustained tone masterpiece The Electric Harpsichord. The conversation spiraled off in many ways, from mathematical logic to quantum field theory to the Swedish jazz scene in the 1960s – take a look, it’ll be in the October issue.
It also got me thinking about drones some more, and why they can be such powerful audio experiences. My general hunch is that it has to do with sameness, which is a topic I became fascinated with in writing In Praise of Copying. Mostly we celebrate difference, diversity, novelty in our society. We associate sameness with fascist conformity, boredom, lack of imagination. In some ways of course, there is a sameness to things today that is disturbing: we value diversity but all diversity today has to be channeled through the marketplace, and with globalization, an increasing uniformity of places, cultures, societies. But maybe, as Alain Badiou says in his Ethics, the problem is finding the right kind of sameness. I note that Jacques Derrida, in his original essay on “Differance” actually wrote that “we provisionally give the name differance to this sameness which is not identical.” Somehow, that sameness dropped out of the picture as post-structuralism developed, and differance became mere difference. What did Derrida mean? Approaching this problem through Buddhist philosophy, I come to the notion of “nonduality” or, more clumsily but maybe more helpfully, “nonconceptual sameness”, meaning the nonexistence of concepts that allow for the elaboration of difference.
I think what some people find irritating about drone musics is their sameness, nonconceptual or otherwise. But to me that irritation is a sign of resistance to what’s going on, because there’s always something new going on when you let yourself experience a drone fully. La Monte Young argued that “tuning is a function of time” and that as you tune into the harmonics in a drone, you experience new aspects of it. Your own relationship to that continuous sound changes because second by second you are changing, physically and cognitively. At the same time though, when you relax into the sound, it can be ecstatic, and that is where I would locate the “nonconceptual sameness”. You loosen up your own sense of yourself and something opens up. Somehow, the drone lets you concentrate … on what? The sound? On your own psyche experiencing the sound? Both probably. I think there’s a taste of the power of the drone in all copying, since a copy is a repetition, just as a drone is a repetition. That’s really what I meant by “in praise of copying”.
The Electric Harpsichord is an uncanny piece. Henry Flynt wasn’t exaggerating when he called it “a revelation”. I’ve listened to it a number of times over the last decade and I invariably have the disconcerting but elating experience of the ground beneath me melting about half way through the piece. This is presumably what Hennix and Flynt meant when they coined the term HESE (“Hallucinogenic Ecstatic Sound Experience”) to describe works like EH in the late 1970s. When it was composed/performed, EH was part of a whole cluster of multidisciplinary efforts that Hennix was involved in ranging from visual art works to abstract Noh plays, to treatises on logic such as “17 Points on Intensional Logics for Intransitive Experiences, 1969-1979” and “Toposes and Adjoints”. Aside from a remarkable journal issue Io #41 published in 1989 (subtitle: “Being = Space x Action”) this work was never published. The Io issue is remarkable: it also features work by Hennix’s mathematical mentor Alexander Esenin-Volpin, a founder of the human rights movement in Russia as well as the mathematical school of ultra-intuitionism, a key essay by Flynt, work by poets George Quasha and Charles Stein, and a lucid introduction to Hennix’s work by Stein.
As a non-specialist in the outer regions of advanced mathematics, it’s hard to evaluate how solid the mathematical work is, and how directly it can be related to the soundworks that Hennix was producing. Yet the argument, made by both Hennix and Flynt, that one could extract a method for producing ecstatic sound works that is based on a radically reworked philosophy that takes in and appropriates mathematical logic, amongst other things, remains an intriguing one. Who even has that kind of ambition today? The notion that a radically different science or set of scientific goals could or would emerge from a different set of values to those that our own societies are built around today could be a very powerful one, taking us beyond techno-fetishism of both the libertarian and Marxist kinds on the one hand, and Luddite attitudes on the other. A lot is asked of those who want to take this path … but is that such a bad thing?
Finally it comes down to the work, and, archivally, there’s not that much of it: EH was only performed once, though there are other unreleased recordings by Hennix from the 1970s. A number of Flynt’s HESE-related recordings, as is a duo recording with Hennix entitled “Dharma Warriors”. On the other hand, Hennix is alive and well and living in Berlin, where she now has a band called the Chorasan Time-Court Mirage, featuring the marvellous Italian born dhrupad vocalist Amelia Cuni. A demo recording that I’ve listened to is pretty mesmerizing: a digitally produced drone, with Hilary Jeffery’s trombone and Hennix’s voice. It’s trance inducing but not New Age at all! Definitely a work in progress - Marcus Boon