The Deontic Miracle by Catherine Christer Hennix

Catherine Christer Hennix
The Deontic Miracle – Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku
Blank Forms (2xLP/DL)

This latest release is the first-ever surfacing of a work by Swedish composer Catherine Christer Hennix recorded in 1976 (at Moderna Museet), continuing a series that kickstarted last year by Blank Forms (Brooklyn, NY) with Selected Early Keyboard Works which we covered here. The players include:

  • Catherine Christer Hennix – Amplified Renaissance Oboe, Live Electronics and Sine Wave Generators
  • Peter Hennix – Amplified Renaissance Oboe, Amplified Sarangi
  • Hans Isgren – Amplified Sarangi

The set includes two extensive improvisations whose titles are taken from Japanese Gagaku, Music of Auspicious Clouds and Waves of the Blue Sea – both running over forty minutes in length. From the outset I’m imagining what an eleven year old boy (myself) would have thought about hearing this strange noise back in the year of the US Bicentennial (a long way from Stockholm) – and I’d have to say the mid 50’s adult in me feels as though hearing this for the first time likely captures the strange intensities implied. It makes me feel like that (inner) child listening intently, discovering something so otherworldly, and out of its era, something that could yet be from the future, even now. It’s modern and futuristic in its drone and middle eastern resonances.

These so-called ‘auspicious clouds’ harken to the garden I walked into this morning only to witness chemtrails left behind from three planes that criss-crossed to form a perfect X perpendicularly to my home, and how it gave me pause. Maybe it’s a sign, or buried treasure, or something sinister yet to unfold. This awkward collision that man has on nature and one’s surroundings. Hennix blares through with electronic wavelengths that snake through, up and around with a wild sense of abandon. Though the direction may be unknown, it’s oomph is quite leading in confident stride and bold symphonic control.

The sonics of dual oboes and the vibration of sarangi (a vintage stringed instrument from India) sets this record apart from anything I’ve heard in years, it sounds like a small orchestra playing on a live airstrip with the purring planes in and around focused musicians, tuning, communicating with one another, giving way to each other in the process. It’s a very full-bodied sound.

On the second composition, Waves of the Blue Sea, you can hear the ‘ripples’ made by the wind instruments, and the way in which they sync and slide, it’s an unfamiliar trill, but one that is identified in the pitch of this unique woodwind. At times it gives a momentary flouirsh like the shades of tone from a bagpipe, only far more disciplined (though it makes me wonder what this piece would sound like with the larger sister woodwind alongside). There’s a bit of a reverie, a sense of longing, a deer-in-the-headlights sense of awe. Hennix and her trio here offer extended drones that break at points that seem physically impossible, yet are likely in the flux of her sine wave generators that use the output speakers in a way to trick the ear with tone. This doesn’t come off as though you are being fooled, however, it’s completely seamless on all ends.

There is this romantic collision of wo/man/machine here – something that speaks to the capacity and influence of industry and noise on melody and the shape of tone itself. It’s as though the players are stripping back layers to form something far more delicate from the competing din around it, like a safety blanket, only much more harmonic. There’s a keen sense of separation that, at times has this stunting presence of oscillation – but even though it might be quite stilling, the coloration never fades from view. In fact, this work is so genuinely robust it feels almost pictorial, as if one is dreaming with their eyes wide open. Hypnotic.

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