Franny is listening to a program on wolves. I say to her, Would you like to be a wolf? She answers haughtily, How stupid, you can’t be one wolf, you’re always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, with five or six others.
Percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies’ new album “Everything Else” is comprised of two 20-minute tracks. ‘Falsetto’ is a piece performed using a variety of different hand-held bells sourced from thrift stores and flea markets, with layer upon layer of slightly different rhythms and timbres interacting acoustically to the extent that they are constantly merging and separating, making it difficult to distinguish them or tell how many there are. They become like a crowd or a pack, as the above quote from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus indicates: both one and more-than-one, uncanny and unpredictable in its/their indeterminacy and multiplicity. The piece’s sudden stop implies an endless ringing continuation just out of earshot.
Second piece ‘Everything Else’ introduces the clicking, ripping, and scrunching of what sounds like a frustrated or distracted typewriter operator. Lurching, unsteady tones emanate in a scattered fashion from an accordion or some other bellows instrument, along with peeps from a similarly unstable duck whistle. Apart from the gradual introduction of instruments, the piece changes very little in overall effect, and again ends in an arbitrary manner that suggests the possibility of perpetual continuation. There’s a sense of dry absurdity and irreverence here, yet it’s difficult to write this off as simply a joke piece, as it shares a certain uncanny multiplicity with the first track. Better to say that humour doesn’t necessarily indicate shallowness, nor does profundity necessarily require seriousness.
What ties the two pieces together, above and beyond an uncanny multiplicity, is the sense in which they are both always exceeding and overspilling their own context. ‘Falsetto’ is technically ‘just’ a bunch of different bells clinking, and yet the sensory experience of the piece is so much richer and more intense than this description would suggest. Likewise, ‘Everything Else’ goes nowhere yet is in constant Brownian motion, its momentum all the more relentless for having no overall direction. There’s something very captivating about all this excess, a psychoacoustic absorption in resonances and not-quite-repetitions. This overspill seizes and charms the ear, making beguiling music out of unlikely sounds.