The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Catherine Christer Hennix
Central Palace Music/Live At Issue Project Room Dustin Krcatovich , April 11th, 2016 10:21

It would be completely fair to say that Swedish polymath Catherine Christer Hennix is among the more unjustly overlooked of the early minimalist composers. For once, though, it's not all our fault: though she began recording and performing in the late 1960s, all but one piece from that era sat on the shelf until less than a decade ago. How could we have known? Luckily, Important Records had an inkling about it, and have thus begun to take it upon themselves to start righting the wrongs of history. With Central Palace Music and Live At Issue Project Room, a clearer picture of Hennix's work begins to emerge, and she takes her rightful place at the table somewhere between Riley, Conrad, and Niblock (La Monte Young sits at the head, mostly by force of personality).

Of course, to Hennix, referring to her sound as "music" or its structure as "composition" is a touch anachronistic. The goal is more using the science and mathematics of music, and a disregard for the semantics of same, as a means of transcending western approaches to music, to use instruments to harness a sound that effectively tunes the body and mind. In other words, Hennix's work is more of a time-shifting psychotropic sound bath, for the purpose of facilitating what she once referred to in an interview as a "sustained out-of-body experience in an altered state of consciousness". This isn't music for washing the dishes or eating lunch or fucking, but an experience unto itself.

Live At Issue Project Room documents a concert of Hennix's piece 'Blues Alif Lam Mim In The Mode Of Rag Infinity/Rag Cosmosis', performed by her just-intonation ensemble the Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage and recorded at the titular Brooklyn space in 2014. If you surrender to it, it gets about as close to accomplishing Hennix's goals as any recording ever could: time seems to slow and crab-walk sideways as the piece expands and contracts. Though it takes clear inspiration from myriad eastern musical traditions – like her friend La Monte, Hennix studied with Pandit Pran Nath, and it shows – it is no traditional piece, and is as much in line with the Theatre of Eternal Music as it is with any raga.

Central Palace Music is an uncovered archival recording of Hennix's old ensemble the Deontic Miracle, captured at an eight day festival at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm in 1976. It approaches the conjuring of the eternal sound in a fashion that is perhaps reedier and harsher than later attempts, and its recording quality is not quite as easy on the ears, but this is not to say that it's any less rewarding or compelling; penetrating it (or perhaps, letting it in) just takes a modicum more effort. That said, that same harshness also makes it the cooler of the two on a strictly musical level, if only because it echoes some of the fucked moves of far-flung contemporaries like the Taj Mahal Travellers or MEV, and even the unholy sprawl of Metal Machine Music. Hennix's motives may have been different than that of all of those jokers, but hey, kicks are kicks.

It is truly a blessing that we're getting to listen to this stuff, that it's managed to escape the dustbin of history. Both of these releases are as top-shelf as it gets, and as essential as the work of any of Hennix's more well-documented peers. It's simultaneously bracing and lulling, depending on how you choose to approach it, and consciousness-enhancing if you listen at all.