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Lady’s Glove Controller.
Modified glove that can control sound, mechanical devices, and lights. It was created by the sound artist and performer Laetitia Sonami (b France, 1957). Sonami received her MFA from the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in 1980. She made the first pair of glove controllers in 1991 for a performance with Paul DeMarinis called ‘Mechanization Takes Command’ at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. The pair of rubber kitchen gloves (a deliberately ironic choice) has five Hall effect transducers glued to the fingertips of the left-hand glove and a magnet glued to the right-hand glove. Touching fingers to the magnet causes different voltages to be converted into MIDI signals that then are sent over connecting wires to control synthesizers and samplers. The second version has one white arm-length left glove using the same type of transducers on the fingertips with an added magnet on the inside of the thumb and a set of microswitches on the tops of the fingers and with the wires hidden in the glove. The right hand manipulates a mixing board. Lady’s Glove controller no.3 is made of gold Lycra with resistive strips (bend sensors taken from a Mattel toy ‘Power Glove’) sewn along the fingers and the wrist. The inside of the index finger has a pressure pad sewn on, and the palm has an ultrasonic transmitter. One receiver on the right arm and another on the left foot allow for calculating the distance between the hands and the height of the left hand above the ground.
Lady’s Gloves no.4 (1994) and no.5 (2001), enhanced versions of glove no. 3, were constructed by the electrical/computer engineer and instrument builder Bert Bongers under sponsorship by STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music in Amsterdam). The sensors are sewn on top of a thin black arm-length mesh Lycra glove. This glove can be covered by another glove of any colour or style if desired, but it was used in Sonami’s performances uncovered. Glove no.4 added to Glove no.3 a mercury switch on top of the hand and an accelerometer to measure the speed of motion of the hand. Glove no.5 further added two accelerometers on a right wrist band, additional Hall effect transducers, a light sensor, additional switches, LEDs, and a miniature microphone.
For all the gloves, the resulting signals are input into STEIM’s Sensorlab, a small analogue-to-MIDI interface. The signals can then proceed to MAX-MSP (‘maximum signal processing’) software. The sounds or other effects and the mapping of sensors and motions to sound vary according to the composition. While the signals usually control sound parameters and processes, they have also been used to control motors, light bulbs, or video effects.
Sonami has used Lady’s Gloves for solo and collaborative compositions and performance art, for which she has received numerous awards and fellowships. In 2012, she was working on the ‘Lady’s Web’.
Anne Beetem Acker