“Heenan simply dazzles: his control over the behemoth contrabass clarinet is impressive. He can squeeze out of it the tiniest overtones and the harshest screams with flexibility…”
– François Couture
Chris Heenan (Washington D.C., 1969) lives in Berlin and is an active composer/ performer and organizer of experimental music. He performs on alto saxophone, contrabass clarinet, and analog synthesizer in contexts ranging from solo to large groups and in various ongoing projects.
He uses these instruments to investigate new musical forms, noise, and improvisation both in his solo work and in collaboration with composers and performers such as actors, musicians, dancers, and visual artists. Heenan has developed a formidable solo voice on his wind instruments, particularly with the contrabass clarinet where he uses extended techniques, often incorporating multiphonics with surprising results, to reveal the subtleties inherent to the instrument.
Heenan’s regular projects include Nordzucker (with Michael Maierhof, Birgit Ulher, and Lars Scherzberg), PIVOT (with Liz Allbee), Trigger (with Matthias Müller and Nils Ostendorf), Team Up (a trio with Jeremy Drake and a third member percussionist), Phantom Limb and Bison (with Chris Forsyth, Jaime Fennelly, and Shawn Hansen), a duo with zitherist Dimitra Chatzigoga.
Heenan has also recently collaborated with a number of Berlin-based musicians: with Alessandro Bosetti on The Conversation, with Burkhard Beins in a recent version of Adapt/Oppose and as a member of The Pitch (extended) (with Boris Baltschun, Koen Nutters, Morten Olsen, Michael Thieke). He is also a member of Berlin’s Splitter Orchester. Some other recent collaborators include Tiziana Bertoncini, George Cremaschi, Axel Dörner, Sven Åke Johansson, Hans Koch, Annette Krebs, Thomas Lehn, Lou Mallozzi, and Olivier Toulemonde.
Heenan performs regularly in the U.S. and Europe, featured on such festivals as Stuttgarter Saxofonfestival; Projektgruppe Neue Musik Festival, Bremen; Improvised and Otherwise, Brooklyn, NY; Experimental Intermedia, New York; Klub Katarak, Hamburg; Sonic Acts XIV, Amsterdam; Blurred Edges, Hamburg; and at venues such as Artist Space, New York; Radial System, Berlin; Sendesaal Radio Bremen; The Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL; and The
Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Heenan has also been active as a curator of musical events and concerts. In 2004 he founded the record label Reify, in addition to co-founding line space line (2002–2005), a new and improvised music series in Los Angeles that produced over 120 concerts and two yearly festivals. In 2007 he was invited to curate a concert at The J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: An Evening of Works by Ichiyanagi, Kosugi, Ono and Shiomi as part of the exhibition (Rajikaru!): Experimentations in Japanese Art, 1950–1975. Since 2009 he has, with Christopher Williams, co-curated the monthly music and sound salon Certain Sundays: A Salon at Sowieso in Berlin, inviting internationally renowned musicians and sound artists to present and discuss their work in an intimate setting.
Heenan is the recipient of grants from American Composers Forum, Arts International, The Durfee Foundation, Kulturamt Neukölln, Initiative Neue Musik Berlin e. V., Deutscher Musikrat, and Hauptstadtkulturfonds Berlin. He received his MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in 2004 and was a fellow-in-residence at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart (2004–2006).