Unlikely heroes often emerge from the most unlikeliest of places. I first came across Laetitia Schteinberg through the prolific and talented aural raconteur, Hal McGee. (Check out his bandcamp page and his website. Insane and provocative are only two words and don’t even begin to tell the story. He’s been making music since the early ’80’s.) A couple of years back he orchestrated a series of email collaborative recordings by artists from around the world titled, Exquisite Corpse Audio Chain Letter. I came across it through his Facebook page, Contact Group of Homemade Experimental Electronic Music and Noise. I was fortunate enough to have a few woefully, inadequate contributions included in these projects but, and far more important, I was made aware of several artists and composers I had not yet heard of. While the complete list might make for a very interesting post one day, there is one artist who is inspiring far beyond her musical abilities.
The premise of the project was to create a one minute piece of music to be attached to a growing body of work until it reached 8 minutes. You were given a series of email addresses for those wanting to contribute and then told to only listen to the last couple seconds of what was sent you, add your bit, then pass it on. As the project carried on and the pool of contributors began to shrink, you started to see some of the same names popping up over and over again in your inbox. Frequently, the last contributor to send me their addition was Laetitia Schteinberg. The name was intriguing but it wasn’t until a few months later I realized she records under the name Ars Sonor and had released material on black circle records (a label you MUST know) and Treetrunk records (a netlabel my love for is already well documented.) Having heard a couple of her releases, as anyone who may have read any previous posts knows, I now had to hear and read everything I could find.
And this is where this post starts. Laetitia is a transgendered woman, an inspiring composer working in a variety of genres and an outspoken advocate for gender equality and human rights. Having fled Russia prior to their enacting the most archaic, barbaric and untenable human rights legislation in recent memory, she has been seeking asylum in Sweden, with no success as of yet (please, read more of her plight, in her own words, here.) While she struggles continue to avoid deportation, her case has begun to gain support from the international LGBT community at large and through more dedicated and understanding advocates within the Swedish immigration system. She has also received unwavering support for a growing network of musicians and artists who have released various consciousness raising and financial support events and statements. One which I wholeheartedly support is black circle records‘ compilation, artists for laetitia schteinberg. 26 tracks of experimental electronic music, it is a free download on one condition, downloaders are asked to sign an online petition in support of her efforts to avoid extradition. As of this writing it had already received 2500+ signatures.
While results from her second hearing were encouraging, this is still a grave injustice waiting to be righted. Throughout this ordeal, Laetitia has continue to use her voice and her plight as a clarion call for greater action for universal human rights everywhere. Please, sign the petition and add your voice to the millions across the world who support those who face daily discrimination, humiliation, hatred, imprisonment and even death from intolerant citizens, religious bigotry and dystopian governments worldwide. This may only be one small humane act in an otherwise hostile and malevolent world, but if her story inspires you to look for ways to support the LGBT friends and neighbors in your community, Laetitia’s eventually triumphant struggle will continue our inexorable march to universal equality and justice. For in the end, love and tolerance must carry the day.
As always, I’ve created a mix of music for this post, this time featuring the music of Laetitia’s projects Ars Sonor, Iky Iky, as well as several collaborative efforts. While by no means meant to be a definitive overview of her sounds, they are many of the compositions I find myself returning to again and again. I hope you enjoy.