Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1979 and now residing in Ithaca, New York, the vernacular of Sarah Hennies is immersive, durative sound articulated via vibraphone. The two pieces comprising Gather & Release are each exactly twenty-seven minutes long. Complementing her chief instrument, Hennies employs field recordings, sine waves and “bilateral stimulation,” a psychotherapeutic tool (visual, auditory or tactile) intended to help process emotional information in the treatment of psychopathology. Webside notes explain that Hennies´ musical reconnoitering synthesizes “with her experiences of identity, obsession, anxiety, tension, grief, and loss”.
Out of a mist of white noise, the vibraphone wavers sweetly on “Gather”, like a lightly caressed singing bowl. Receding only to reemerge lower down and more somberly, it smoothes out into a drone, over which Hennies rings a “here I am” bell in the brume. The landscape around her closes in, with an embracive warmth emanating from the ground upward, broken dramatically by a high-pitched, nasal squeal, as piercing as the sewing needle threaded through the cover art fabric.
“Release” is the slow opening of the fist that “Gather” made in its five final minutes. The vibraphone is more conventionally “recognizable” as it is stricken and shimmers into layers of curved air. Then it becomes a metronome, clacking out time, under whose overweening presence a vivid, plummy combination of electronic and acoustic waves flow. In the sixteenth minute, a family recording of Hennies´ grandfather reciting a tragic poem by one May Riley Smith begins, but his voice is summarily attacked by what sounds like a violin being betrayed by its bow. Slave ship tympani replicate the earlier tick-tock, and only a thin whimper slips through its haughty rhythm.
Personal and perplexing but ultimately open-ended, Gather & Release provides us narrative bones, arteries and a soul bared or prepared for further fleshing out.