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Pamela Z

San Francisco, CA         

Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist who works primarily with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound, and video. A pioneer of live digital looping techniques, she processes her voice to create dense, complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and sampled concrète sounds. She uses MAX MSP and Isadora software on a MacBook Pro along with custom MIDI controllers that allow her to manipulate sound and image with physical gestures. Z’s compositional approach often involves sampling, sculpting, and layering of speech sounds – creating text collages and deriving pitch and rhythmic elements from language. Her performances range in scale from small concerts in galleries to large-scale multi-media works in theaters and concert halls. In addition to her solo works, Ms. Z has received numerous chamber music commissions from ensembles including Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, the Bang On A Can All Stars, Ethel, Del Sol String Quartet, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the California E.A.R. Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra. She has a growing body of inter-media gallery works including multi-channel sound and video installations. Her interactive web-based work Baggage Allowance can be viewed at baggageallowance.tv where it is permanently installed.

Pamela Z has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan – performing in international festivals including Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center (New York); La Biennale di Venezia (Italy); the Interlink Festival (Japan); Other Minds (San Francisco); and Pina Bausch Tanztheater’s 25 Jahre Fest (Wuppertal, Germany). She has composed, recorded and performed original scores for choreographers and for filmmakers, and has done vocal work for other composers (including Charles Amirkhanian, Vijay Iyer, and Henry Brant). Her large-scale, inter-media performance works, including Parts of Speech, Gaijin, Voci, Baggage Allowance, and Memory Trace, have been presented at venues including the Kitchen (NY), Theater Artaud (SF), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), the Museum of Contemporary Art Theatre (Chicago), as well as at theaters in Washington D.C. and Budapest Hungary. Her one-act opera Wunderkabinet inspired by the Museum of Jurassic Technology (co-composed with Matthew Brubeck) premiered at The LAB Gallery in San Francisco, and was presented at REDCAT in Los Angeles and Open Ears Festival in Canada. She has shown works in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum (New York); Savvy Contemporary (Berlin); the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs NY); the Dakar Biennale (Sénégal); Krannert Art Museum (IL), and the Kitchen (NY).

Z curates and produces “the ROOM Series”, a San Francisco avant-chamber series featuring the work of a variety of virtuosic solo artists and chamber groups playing experimental music. She has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Joan La Barbara, Joan Jeanrenaud, Stephan Koplowitz, Brenda Way (ODC Dance), Miya Masaoka, Jeanne Finley + John Muse, Shinichi Iova Koga (Inkboat), John Sanborn, and Luciano Chessa, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

Pamela Z is the recipient of many honors including the Rome Prize, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency; the Guggenheim Fellowship; the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award; the Herb Alpert Award; Creative Capital; MAP Fund; ASCAP Plus Award; an Ars Electronica honorable mention; and the NEA Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. www.pamelaz.com

Pamela Z Solo Voice & Electronics

Pamela Z performs a suite of solo works for voice and electronics to open a concert by Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (in partnership with LA Philharmonic’s Noon to Midnight Festival) on Sunday, November 19th, 2017, in Santa Monica, CA. She is processing her voice using custom MAX MSP software and manipulating sound using gesture-controlled MIDI instruments. Excerpts in this video include:
0:00 Quatre Couches
3:21 Badagada
6:14 Typewriter
7:47 Breathing

© 2017 Last Letter Music (ASCAP)

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Attention (Composed by Pamela Z for Del Sol Quartet)

Del Sol Quartet in the premiere of Pamela Z’s Attention
Thursday November 10, 2016 at the Exploratorium’s Kanbar Forum in San Francisco.

Attention is a new work by Pamela Z commissioned by Del Sol String Quartet. Composed for string quartet, fixed media (video and multi-channel sound), voices, and mobile phones, the work explores the ways in which attention and focus are challenged in today’s culture.

Attention was presented by the Exploratorium’s Cinema Arts program, and was supported by a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

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Excerpts from CARBON SONG CYCLE

Excerpts from the premiere of Pamela Z and Christina McPhee’s CARBON SONG CYCLE, in the cavernous, concrete BAM/PFA (Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive) main gallery on April 12, 2013. The piece is in 10 movements scored for voice with live processing, bassoon, viola, cello, and percussion, with live, multi-channel video.

Pamela Z (music composition, voice & electronics)
Christina McPhee (video, and video performance)
Dana Jessen (bassoon)
Charith Premawardhana (viola)
Theresa Wong (cello)
Suki O’Kane (percussion)

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles November 1 2004 | By Pamela Z
Making the Old New Again

As praise, parody, study, mockery, comparison, portraiture, or open-ended commentary, we take aural snapshots of what we hear and print them, enlarge them, cut and paste them, and shuffle them...