Laetitia Sonami Portrait

Photo: Hoekzema

Laetitia Sonami is a sound artist, performer and researcher. Born in France, she settled in the United States in 1975 to pursue her interest in the emerging field of electronic music and studied with Eliane Radigue, Joel Chadabe, Robert Ashley and David Behrman.

Sonami’s sound performances, live film collaborations and sound installations focus on issues of presence and participation. She has devised new gestural controllers for performance and applies new technologies and appropriated media to achieve an expression of immediacy through sound, place and objects.

Best known for her unique instrument, the elbow-length lady’s glove, which is fitted with an array of 30+ sensors tracking the slightest motion of her hand and body, she has performed worldwide and earned substantial international renown. The lady’s glove was a precursor to current wearables and gestural controllers. After retiring the lady’s glove in 2015, Sonami embarked on the design of a new instrument, the Spring Spyre based on the application of neural networks to real-time audio synthesis. Magnetic Song cycles with the Spring Spyre is an on-going exploration with this instrument and currently comprises five live compositions.

Recent collaborations include an improvisation duo, Sparrows and Ortolans, with James Fei; and Le Corps Sonore, a fully immersive sound installation on six floors of the Rubin Museum in New York City with Eliane Radigue and Bob Bielecki.

Upcoming projects include a collaboration with harpist Zeena Parkins, a new live film project with Sue-C and the design of a fantasy instrument, the lady’s balls.

Sonami has performed at numerous festivals across the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and China, including the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, the Bourges Music Festival in France, the Sonambiente Festival in Berlin, the Interlink festival in Japan, Bang on a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA, The Kitchen in New York City, and Other Minds in San Francisco.

Awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts (2002), Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts Award (2000), the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship (2000), Studio Pass-Harvestworks Residency (2001), and a Creative Work Fund Award (2000) for a collaboration with Nick Bertoni and the Tinkers Workshop.

Sonami lives in Oakland, California and was a guest professor in the Music Department at Mills College, CA until its demise in the spring of 2023.

“… Sonami sometimes looked like a human antenna searching the air for sounds, or like a deity summoning earth-shaking rumbles with a brusque gesture.” – New York Times

“Experimental music is rarely this visceral and engaging” – Los Angeles Times

 “Working since the 1980s, Laetitia Sonami continues to serve as an important figure for female artists working with technology. Her lady’s glove made her a well-­known name within the performance art scene, particularly because she was one of a few women experimenting with sound and technology.“ One of 10 San Francisco Personalities You Should Know in 2014, Complex Mag

“… sultry and magical” – Village Voice