PRESS – Computer Music Journal

PRESS – Computer Music Journal

Winter 1998  Eric Marty

Review San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players and CNMAT in concert – Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 2/9/98
…. By far the most interesting performance technology on the program was Laetitia Sonami’s glove. With the Lady’s glove, Ms. Sonami performed her somewhat improvisational Has/Had, which was based on text by Melody Sumner Carnahan and which won the Honorary Prize from the Ars Electronica Festival in 1997. Ms. Sonami combined pre-recorded sounds with live signal processing of her own speech and vocalization, all triggered and manipulated by motion, proximity, and other sensors embedded in her black Lycra glove. The glove’s versatility, sensitivity, and lifelike unpredictability, combined with Ms. Sonami’s intimate familiarity with the controller she developed at STEIM, create the natural behavior so difficult to achieve with electronic instruments-this despite the deliberately electronic quality of much of the sound. The piece toyed with unstable rhythms, the hands drawing a regular pulse toward irregularity, then to the verge of collapse before springing back into stability. The piece was at its most interesting and natural in the gray areas where the ear struggles to find regularity. The rhythmic processes grew out of work by David Wessel’s rhythm research group at CNMAT. The glove controls parameters such as duration and pitch and switches among probability sets that govern rhythmic characteristics. Hand gestures also trigger sampled sounds and effects, sometimes interfering with other controls, resulting in a certain unpredictability that Ms. Sonami must accommodate in her improvisation. Crucial to the glove’s success is Laetitia Sonami’s integration of its kinetic implications into her art Her performance approaches dance, the movement is an integral part of the art, but falls just short of full development. To be fair, it is a subtle dance inspired by the hand language of Indian singers and sign language and would benefit from a smaller hall where its intimacy could be fully appreciated. While the full potential of the gloves, and of Ms. Sonami’s kinetic language would seem to not have been fully realized yet, it is exciting and moving to witness the incubation and cultivation of this very organic art form, which promises to grow even richer and more expressive.

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