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Employing quartz crystal resonators, we have measured the elastic compliance of thin polymers films doped with an azobenzene dye. From a comparison of the shifts of resonance frequency on different acoustic overtones of the resonator, the films’ elastic compliance was derived. Upon irradiation with ultraviolett light at low intensity, the compliance decreases by a few percent. Irradiation with visible light at high intensity, on the contrary, softens the material. We assume that, when irradiated with high-power visible light, the azobenzene molecules undergo rapid cycling through the trans- and cis-states, thereby softening the polymer matrix. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.