"Contralto" is a one-hour work for video, strings, and percussion that exists in between the spaces of experimental music and documentary. The piece features a cast of transgender women speaking, singing, and performing vocal exercises accompanied by a dense and varied musical score that includes a variety of conventional and "non-musical" approaches to sound-making.
When a transgender man begins taking testosterone it causes his vocal cords to thicken and his voice deepens and drops into the so-called "masculine range." It is not widely known, however, that trans women's voices are unaffected by higher levels of estrogen in the body. Being a woman with a "male voice" creates a variety of difficult situations for trans women including prolonged and intensified dysphoria and higher risk of harassment and violence due to possibly exposing someone as trans unintentionally. This creates a situation where trans women's identities are betrayed by their bodies.
"Contralto" - defined in musical terms as "the lowest female singing voice" - uses the sound of trans women's voices to explore transfeminine identity from the inside and explores the intimate, peculiar, and powerful relationship between gender and sound.
"Contralto" stars Julie Ashkin, Alexandra Brandon, Alyssa Green, Anna McCormick, Dreia Spies, Sarang Umarji, and Josie Zanfordino and was premiered at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY on November 30, 2017. The musical score was performed by Erik Carlson (violin), Wendy Richman (viola), T.J. Borden (cello), James Ilgenfritz (contrabass), Tim Feeney, Greg Stuart, and Ashley Tini (percussion).
"Contralto" may be screened as a traditional cinematic film with a pre-recorded musical soundtrack or as a performance with live musicians performing the score. Please get in touch to arrange a screening or performance.
Made possible by support from:
Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County
Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant
New York Foundation for the Arts Shelley Pinz Professional Development Grant