CATHERINE CHRISTER HENNIX – The Electric Harpsichord

Die Schachtel

I’ll be explicit straight away. The ballyhoo surrounding this release, strategically put in action by the certified organs of so-called cultural development, is unjustified. According to what we read most everywhere The Electric Harpsichord is an alleged lost masterpiece of minimalism, an acoustic revelation revolving around laws incomprehensible to anyone but the person who designed them. It is in fact a pretty normal, occasionally tedious 25-minute piece for keyboard and custom sine wave generator, enriched by some degree of stratifying overtones and pulsations. Moreover, the lone existent recording – this – sounds rather unremarkable due to the loss of the original masters; let’s say, a tad over an improved cassette.

The compulsory theoretical ingredients are there for a potential “expansion of awareness”: the dedication to Pandit Pran Nath, the encouraging words and mystic poetry of La Monte Young, and the obvious exaltation by Henry Flynt, a long-time partner of Hennix. The sumptuous book accompanying the disc features the elaboration of an abstruse theory – generated by the composer’s indubitable mathematical expertise – cunningly thrown in the face of credulous addressees. Excluding fellow cosmic mathematicians, the following events could result: 1) An inexpert reader/listener feels like a substandard being for not understanding this “alternative universe”, still trying to act as everything is nevertheless palatable – after all, everybody’s saying that this is a fantastic work. 2) The familiar connection between numbers, spirituality and lack of actual significance – artistic or else – is soon established in the common sense of those whose hair is getting greyish and whose ears have welcomed too much genuinely deep music to be hoodwinked.

Over the years, many subjects were seen churning out theories about the concealed mechanics of creation, presumed visionaries attempting to convince someone else that what they pretend to see is The Truth. Pragmatically speaking, cheaper explanations always lie beyond these majesties. One might have to do with the utilization of psychotropic drugs during the process of conception of these “new sciences” (indeed hinted to by Flynt in this circumstance, not that we had any doubt). Another is represented by dysfunctions of certain mechanisms of the brain – perhaps caused by that very intoxication, or by the inebriation given by an initial positive response, or by adolescent traumas – which tend to amplify self-importance and egotism besides generating a sense of inviolability and “ownership” of scarcely autonomous individuals. This usually ends in cerebral wreck and/or paranoid megalomania, thanks to the hard slaps administered by reality (which, in turn, generates additional baffling presumptions; this is a different story, though). That said, we’re not necessarily insinuating that Hennix is dishonest, or was shocked as a child; however, her speculations are oddly comparable to the type of affected impenetrability that anticipates similar “evolutions” more often than not.

The truth, without the capital T, is quite easy to observe down here. If this music was once said not to cause the presupposed effects (again, Flynt’s reminiscence) in a realistic critic and musician such as Tom Johnson; if this tape was lying disregarded in the archives for decades, before becoming another bait for trout thirsty of collector’s items and cult figures; if these sounds didn’t stir this reviewer for a moment, and are definitely less mind-altering than hundreds of akin compositions heard in this house (hell, even Fripp & Eno’s “Swastika Girls” on No Pussyfooting adjusts my perception better), then it means that the declared values are not that revolutionary. Catherine Christer Hennix is unquestionably an intriguing character. The record, unfortunately, is not on the same level of interest, despite the hype. Feel free to be curious in regard to an “illuminatory sound environment”; on the other hand, don’t bother to weaken your bank account.

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