2016 Year Enders

Sarah Hennies End of Year Thing


Sarah Hennies is a composer and percussionist currently residing in Ithaca, NY. Her work is primarily concerned with an immersive, psychoacoustic presentation of sound brought about by an often grueling, endurance-based performance practice that Nathan Thomas of Fluid Radio described as “a highly sophisticated and refined performance technique…that starts and ends with listening and encourages a different way of listening from its audience.” She is a fairly regular performer in the Boston area.

I don’t live in Boston – never have – but every time I’m there it feels the way I imagine it feels for normal people when they return to their hometowns. Living rooms and bars full of old friends and family who smile and ask you how you’ve been doing. Washington Street Arts Center in Somerville has become this place for me; it’s like my own weird little experimental music version of Cheers.
In October 2016, due to intense east coast traffic and a Californian tour-mate who seemed to operate on an alternate scale of time and space, I was over three hours late for my show and I arrived after 10pm in a panic. The first thing I saw was Al Deaderick on the front steps who I think said something like, “Everyone here hates you and they all left,” and the person next to him (Chris Strunk? Morgan Evans-Weiler? I don’t think so. Some other wry, friendly face) laughing and interrupting my apologies, “Nobody cares. Come on in.” Inside everyone was having a good time talking and hanging out; they didn’t seem like they were waiting for anything. Smiling Michael Rosenstein gave me a hug and I think said something about how he couldn’t wait to hear us play.
I had a nightmare early this morning which caused me to wake up crying. In the dream, I was playing a show and I had blacked out from drinking before I played. When I regained coherence and realized I’d already played my set and had no idea what had happened but I knew it was bad and that everyone was mad at me and that I’d ruined the set for my bandmates, smiling Michael Rosenstein was there to say, “That’s OK, we all have bad days.” My life is filled with people like Michael and places like WSAC that permeate my otherwise dark and unmanageable inner dialogue and, at the risk of using a tired old cliché, “make it all worth it.”
2016 is the first full year of my life that I’ve openly and publicly identified as queer, so I feel a certain lack of license to speak about the Pulse shooting in Orlando or the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland with any authority of “we” and “us.” This is, of course, totally false, but there’s a self-imposed feeling that I “haven’t suffered enough” to earn the title of “real queer,” ironically a result of the same internalized self-hatred and learned expectation of suffering that led to 30 years of shame and a subconscious inability to reckon with my own identity. That said, I have long been gravely afraid of dying in some situation that’s out of my control like a fire or a shooting; they happen all the time. I’m also afraid of the totalitarian, megalomaniac, racist, sexual predator about to take charge of the U.S. and his VP who wants to literally electroshock the gay out of people. It’s hard to recover from the crushing cosmic “fuck you” that comes from a nation voting to legislate you into oblivion. It’s even harder to see brilliant, beautiful people dying because they wanted to hang out with other people like them, because they had nowhere else to go. I quite literally don’t have words for it.
There’s a charming, sad, and lovely commonality between queer punks (who are having a renaissance right now with tons of absurdly great, smart, funny, sad bands) and adventurous sound explorers (ongoing renaissance since approximately 1900) in that we’ve learned to make our own way because no one else will have us. What a blessing to get to start your own band, make your own art, choose your own second-hand family, decide your own name and gender.
My “Best Music of 2016” list has one song on it, lyrics copied below.
Michael, when is the next gig? I’m working on some really cool new music.
We are not worthy to receive you, 
We are the daughters and the sons, 
We are the hand-me-down trousers, 
The blazers and blouses, 
And I have never owned, 
A belt that suitably fits, 
About our different hips, 
I’ve grown as big as I can be, 
As small as when you found me, 
Humming ‘Bastards of Young’ 
Blessed Mother what a mess, 
The broken ladder of success, 
Holy Mary what a mess, 
The broken ladder of success, 
They wrote a letter to your parents, 
They caught you kissing on the bus, 
But when they asked you said nothing, 
Those lines are not for crossing, 
The damage has been done, 
We are not worthy to receive you, 
We are the daughters and the sons, 
We are the second hand trousers, 
Blazers and blouses, 
Irredeemable ones.

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