The Lab

The Lab is a nonprofit experimental art and performance space located in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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Sparrows and Ortolans: Laetitia Sonami and James Fei

$15 general / free for members of The Lab
7:30pm doors / 8pm music
Reserve seats here

James Fei and Laetitia Sonami started their improvisational collaboration in 2013. While the materials and techniques used by the two musicians differ significantly, both employ tactile interface coupled with electronic systems that exhibit complex behavioral response. Sonami performs with her most recent instrument, the Spring Spyre. Constructed around a web of springs whose signals are analyzed through neural networks which in turn control the audio synthesis in real time, the Spring Spyre can exhibit a wide range of sonic behaviors depending on its training terrains. Fei's setup consists of a mix of old modular equipment and homebrewed circuits. The system is driven by multiple feedback loops, often on the brink of instability. Signals are recursively routed through microphones, spring reverb, and converted between audio and control voltages. Circuit elements are also modified by touch, integrating the non-linearities and the immediacy of the body with the electronic processes.

James Fei (b. Taipei, Taiwan) moved to the US in 1992 to study electrical engineering. He has since been active as a composer and performer on saxophones and live electronics. Works by Fei have been performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, MATA Micro Orchestra and Noord-Hollands Philharmonisch Orkest. Recordings can be found on Leo Records, Improvised Music from Japan, CRI, Krabbesholm and Organized Sound. Compositions for Fei's own ensemble of four alto saxophones focus on physical processes of saliva, fatigue, reeds crippled by cuts and the threshold of audible sound production, while his sound installations and performance on live electronics often focus on electronic and acoustic feedback. Since 2006 Fei has taught at Mills College in Oakland, where he is Associate Professor of Electronic Arts and Program Head of Art and Technology.

Fei has performed extensively as an electronic musician and saxophonist, including performances at the Kitchen, Diapason Gallery, White Box Gallery, Experimental Intermedia, Harvestworks, Roulette, Merkin Hall, Town Hall, Knitting Factory, The Stone (all New York), Rose Art Museum (trio with Alvin Lucier and Christian Wolff), Adademie der Kunste (Berlin), Steim (Amsterdam), Pit Inn (Toyko), Osaka Arts Aporia and humaNoise Festival (Weisbaden). Fei has lectured on sound art, improvisation and composition at Columbia University, Wesleyan University, The Art Institute of Chicago, Taipei Normal University, Theremin Center (Moscow), Pro Arte (St. Petersberg), Krabbesholm (Denmark), IAMAS (Ogaki, Japan) and NUAS (Nogoya, Japan).

Laetitia Sonami (b. France) settled in the United States in 1975 to pursue her interest in live electronic music. She 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. Sonami is best known for her unique instrument, the elbow-length lady's glove, which is fitted with an array of sensors tracking the slightest motion of her hand and body.

Sonami currently performs with her newest controller, the Spring Spyre made of analog springs and digital neural networks. She is collaborating with James Fei and recently completed a piece with Eliane Radigue, OCCAM IX.  Sonami performs worldwide and received numerous awards among which the Herb Alpert Awards in the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Awards. Sonami lives in Oakland, California and teaches at SFAI and the Bard MFA Music program, NY.