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Maria Chávez, Abstract Turntablist, Redeems the Broken Record

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The abstract turntablist is a composer-in-residence at Mills College.  (Courtesy of Mills College)

Maria Chávez is known for layering shards of broken vinyl records on turntables, letting the needle lurch between grooves in a semi-autonomous act of sound collage. She likes storing sleeveless records on top of one another, encouraging new scratches, and uses turntables in various states of disrepair. The abstract turntablist, who also creates sculptures and installations, contextualizes her work in the lineage of composer-philosophers Pauline Oliveros, who theorized the practice of “deep listening,” and John Cage, who stressed the creative potential of chance. She stopped DJing years ago, and refuses to release recordings of her work.

The internationally-exhibited sound artist was born in Peru and is based in New York City, but she’s currently the David Tudor Composer-in-Residence at experimental music haven Mills College. This weekend, Chávez appears twice: on Friday at Adobe Books in San Francisco, as part of the shop’s quietly well-curated performance programming; and on Saturday at Mills’ Littlefield Concert Hall in Oakland. The former event, which is free, is described as a hands-on workshop and “performative lecture of sorts,” while the campus gig, which costs $10-$15 at the door, features Chávez in a more traditional setting.


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