Emi Maeda | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tokyo-born harpist Emi Maeda has spent much of her life studying the classical repertoire for her instrument, but you probably wouldn't guess it from listening to her own "Batgirl in Vienna." On that piece Maeda--who's currently studying at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki--uses her harp as the interface for an elaborate network of electronics; the sound places her somewhere between the laptop set and the wild, highly physical noiseniks that seem to pop up in Japan like dandelions. Maeda attaches a contact mike to her harp's soundboard and holds another mike in the hand she uses to strike its strings; both signals are fed into a bank of effects, then a mixer, which she manipulates in real time to make (as she puts it) "beautiful feedback sounds." Her notion of beauty is highly idiosyncratic, but these pieces do achieve a magical sci-fi quality at times, as electronic tones flutter and drift through milky ether. At more frenetic moments she seems to be doing a sonic rendering of a computer meltdown, with dense layers of piercing, sputtering white noise and violent low-end rumble. I've heard only a small sampling of her work, but its coloristic range, structural ingenuity, and dynamic intensity left me craving more. This is her U.S. debut. Sat 12/4, 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 312-666-0795, $12. All ages.

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