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What If, Instead of Playing an Instrument, You Wore Your Instrument?

Pauchi Sasaki in the Speaker Dress | Photo by Juan Pablo Aragón

Hit play below to listen to our Arts Alive interview with Claire Chase and Pauchi Sasaki.

What If, Instead of Playing an Instrument, You Wore Your Instrument?
    What if, instead of playing an instrument, you wore your instrument? That’s exactly what two performers will do Tuesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall for an LA Phil Green Umbrella concert.

The two performers are Claire Chase, a flutist and founding member of International Contemporary Ensemble, and composer, violinist, and sound artist Pauchi Sasaki, who has created what she calls Speaker Dresses, for a piece called Gama XV.

As Pauch Sasaki describes it, a Speaker Dress is “a dress made out of many small speakers.”

Pretty simple, right? Well, not exactly. Sasaki spoke with me via Skype from her home in Lima, Peru, where she where told me the Speaker Dresses that she and Claire Chase wear for the performance are self-contained audio systems. Each has more than 100 speakers, connected to microphones and other amplification devices that pick up and process sounds that the performers are making. But, Sasaki says, not always sounds from their instruments.

Photo by Janice Smith Palliser

“I play violin and Claire plays flute, but the challenge of this dress is: who are we without our instruments? Are we still able to make music? To connect with people even if we are without our main tools? Now, at the end of the piece we do have a little conversation with our instruments as well. But the piece has this dichotomy: how to be alone and then with our main tools.”

Claire Chase | Photo by Armen Elliott

Claire Chase agrees. She was on that Los Angeles-to-Lima Skype call from her home in Brooklyn. Chase says she actually prefers the part of the performance that does not include her instrument: the flute.

“The sensation of wearing your own sound system is really something. It’s really extraordinary. The amount of resonance and the feeling of wearing both armor and also wearing a device that transmits sound (quite a lot of sound) is unlike any other experience that I’ve had. It’s at once fragile and vulnerable and extremely powerful.”

For Gama XV, Chase and Sasaki move around the performance space and interact with one another and the audience. There’s a palpable sense of spontaneity and possibility in each performance. Each performance is quite different and a lot depends upon the venue. Chase and Sasaki say unpredictability is one of the reasons they love to perform it so much.

Pauchi Sasaki and Claire Chase perform Gama XV on Tuesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s part of a Green Umbrella concert which also includes Frederick Rzewski’s Coming Together and Ted Hearne’s Law of Mosaics. Gustavo Dudamel conducts. For more information, click here.

Written by:
Brian Lauritzen
Brian Lauritzen
Published on 10.01.2018

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