Laetitia Sonami | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Laetitia Sonami 

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French-born, Oakland-based composer Laetitia Sonami strings together a fascination with artistic process, integral knowledge of new electronic and computer music technologies, the delivery of a great monologuist, the narrative drive of a born storyteller, and a subversive spark that undoes things when they begin to get too obvious. Once a student of composers Robert Ashley and David Behrman at Mills College, Sonami comes armed with an electronic lady's glove--a customized version of the device first developed by Michel Waisvisz--that has pressure, motion, and space sensors that respond musically (via samplers, a MIDI mixer, and synthesizers) to her physical gestures. Thus, different parameters of the overall performance may be controlled by specific digits, creating a situation in which, for instance, the pinky bone might be connected to the pitch shifter. This sort of interactive computer performance can be formalistic and dry in the wrong hands. Luckily, Sonami integrates her own fabulous reading voice and compelling text. And, like Ashley at his best, she finds ways to productively complicate the relationship between words and sounds. "What Happened II" features a devilish story by Santa Fe writer Sumner Carnahan, which Sonami fragments, distorts, and distends by means of the electronic glove, even as she speaks. By the middle of the tale her voice has virtually evaporated, represented only by traces of electronic sounds. The other piece on the agenda in her Chicago appearance is a brand-new textless composition for the glove, "... And She Keeps Coming Back for More," which returns her to that almost forgotten staple of predigital electronic composition, frequency modulation. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee; 666-7737.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/photo/Andre Hoekzema.

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