Reservoirs of sound

Sarah Hennies; photo David Andrews

Ah, the Santa Fe Railyard. Where else can you drop off your kitchen knives at the Farmers’ Market for sharpening, walk across the street to hear an intriguing world premiere by a rising young composer, then pick up your knives and buy a ristra or two, or maybe some goat cheese, all before lunchtime?

Sarah Hennies’ Reservoir 3: Confirmation, for violin and four cellos, receives its first-ever performance at Chatter’s 10:30 a.m. Site Santa Fe concert on Saturday, Feb. 25. The idea for the three-composition Reservoir series came to her a few years ago on an airplane. “I started thinking about a piano as a container,” says Hennies. “Then I saw a documentary about Sigmund Freud that talked about the reservoir of the unconscious. That became the concept for three pieces about different relationships between consciousness and subconsciousness.”

Hennies is a transgender woman, and her best-known work is 2017’s Contralto for violin, viola, cello, bass, three percussionists, and video, which has been performed almost 30 times in cities ranging from Copenhagen, Verona, and Malmö to Brooklyn, Toronto, and Tucson. She describes it as “using the sound of trans women’s voices to explore transfeminine identity from the inside and examining the intimate and peculiar relationship between gender and sound.” (Testosterone causes transgender men’s voices to drop but estrogen has no effect on the vocal ranges of transgender women.)