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Drone music pioneer Catherine Christer Hennix dies, aged 75

Catherine Christer Hennix, a Swedish polymath and pioneer of drone music, has died at the age of 75.

Her passing was announced and confirmed on Friday, November 17 by Blank Forms – an experimental music nonprofit which was a frequent distributor of Hennix’s music.

“Catherine Christer Hennix passed away at her home in Istanbul, Turkey yesterday. Since the late 1960s, she has created a massive and innovative body of work spanning minimal music, computer programming, poetry, sculpture, and light art—pushing the technical and conceptual boundaries of these media toward singular ends,” began the caption of the post shared on the official Blank Forms Instagram account.

It continued: “She was part of the downtown music school in New York and has worked extensively with some of its key figures, including Henry Flynt and La Monte Young. In the ’70s, Hennix studied the nature and use of harmonic sound as a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath, a master of the Kirana tradition of classical Hindustani music. For much of her life, Hennix was an enigmatic figure in musical minimalism, primarily known for her “billowing cloud” study The Electronic Harpsichord (1976). Her resurgence and later artistic activity can in many ways be credited to the advocacy of Henry Flynt, who would present the piece at tape concerts throughout the ’70s and ’80s.”

“In 2003, Hennix returned to producing computer-generated sound works, initiating a productive two-decade run. After a long hiatus from leading ensembles, she formed the Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage in 2005 after meeting the trombonist Hilary Jeffery, and later led the just intonation group the Kamigaku Ensemble. She toured internationally, released several archival recordings, circulated her poetic and theoretical writing, and exhibited her artwork in surveys such as Traversée du Fantasme at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Thresholds of Perception at Empty Gallery, Hong Kong, in 2018.”

“While a student of Pran Nath, Hennix was introduced to Sufism—first in the Chishti Order, and later taking hand with Sheikha Fariha in the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Order—and has been dedicated to its practice ever since, integrating the devotional dimensions of Islam and Sufism into all of her work with poetry and sound,” it added. “Hennix formally converted to Islam before relocating to Istanbul, where she spent the final years of her life in a wondrous immersion in the call to prayer, the sound of the One.”

According to The New York Times, Hennix’s cause of death was reported as complications of an undisclosed illness. The artist had received treatment for cancer in the past.

Speaking to Pitchfork about Hennix’s passing, Blank Forms’ founder and artistic creator, Lawrence Kumpf, staid: “Hennix was an uncompromising artist whose striving for perfection was often at odds with the material conditions of our society.”

He continued: “While she produced a vast body of work she never deviated from her singular vision often at the expense of material comforts. The concerts she gave in the last years of her life were some of the most profound musical experiences that I’ve ever had and the culmination of her life’s work. I think we are only at the very beginning of understanding the vast contributions she’s made to music, mathematics, philosophy, and art.”

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