Little Nicky's is a monthly series curated by Noah Phillips and Chuck Johnson. Each installment features a set by a Bay Area artist or group whose sound will complement the special atmosphere of Studio Grand, a multi-use arts space with intimate and lush acoustics. Guitarist and composer Chuck Johnson will open each show with a solo performance. This month we're joined by Laetitia Sonami and James Fei.



Laetitia Sonami and James Fei: Sparrows and Ortolans

While the materials and techniques used by the Fei and Sonami are distinctly different, both employ tactile interface coupled with electronic systems that exhibit complex behavioral response. Sonami performs on her new spring-based instrument (the Digital Spring Spyre), constructed around a web of springs whose vibrations are analyzed by neural networks (Rebecca Fiebrink's Wekinator). It exhibits particularly erratic behaviors. Fei works with a mix of vintage and homemade analog modules. The system is driven by multiple feedback loops, often on the brink of instability. Signals are recursively routed through microphones, spring reverb, and crossings 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.

Audio excerpt (recorded at Steim, 2013)

Laetitia Sonami

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. 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 Digital Spring Spyre, made of mechanical springs and neural networks. She has received numerous awards among which the Herb Alpert Awards in the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Awards. Sonami lives in Oakland, California.

James Fei

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 feedback. He was a recipient of the 2014 award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Fei has taught at Mills College in Oakland since 2006, where he is Associate Professor of Electronic Arts.


Chuck Johnson

Chuck Johnson is a composer and musician residing in Oakland, CA. He approaches his work with an ear towards finding faults and instabilities that might reveal latent beauty, with a focus on American Primitive guitar, experimental electronics, and minimalist composition. Recordings of his work have been published by Three Lobed, Strange Attractors Audio House, Merge, Communion, and Amish, among others.

He has been featured on the Tompkins Square compilations Beyond Berkeley Guitar and Imaginational Anthem, and in 2011 his solo acoustic guitar debut A Struggle Not A Thought was released on Strange Attractors Audio House. His follow-up solo LP Crows In The Basilica was released to critical acclaim on Three Lobed Recordings in May of 2013. He is also active in soundtrack composition and sound design for film and television, and is the composer for the popular PBS series A Chef's Life.

Doors 9pm, Show at 9:30pm
$10-15 Sliding Scale



** No refunds or exchanges are permitted. **