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Presence: Stenberg|Cahill Duo & Pamela Z

The Stenberg|Cahill Duo - tireless champions of New Music in the Bay Area - collaborating with extended voice/electronics pioneer Pamela Z


Violinist Kate Stenberg and pianist Sarah Cahill will commission Pamela Z to compose Presence, a 20-minute trio work with interactive electronic media. The premiere will take place in June 2020 at San Francisco’s Royce Gallery and will tour nationally during the 2020-21 season and beyond.

The work will explore presence (and absence) in its many senses – physical, incorporeal, demeanor, carriage, presence of mind. Working with the three women’s physical forms, focus and stage presence, Z will incorporate gesture, facial expression, and physical attitude into the score – making use of silence, slow deliberate actions, imitation, and unisons to fill the space with the ever-changing intensity of imposing, dignified, fleeting, insistent, and comforting presence.

The work will incorporate one of Z’s innovative artistic signatures: gesture–controlled MIDI instruments for all three performers. Their movements will manipulate interjections of sampled audio and video projected on tall, human scale surfaces. The acoustic sound of all three performers will also be processed in real time to create densely layered, contrapuntal, timbrally complex music. Taking full advantage of the performers’ resourceful capabilities, the score will involve vocalization and require theatrical acumen from the instrumentalists in addition to the composer herself.


“Given the virtuosity and interpretive range this concert required, it’s difficult to believe that the Stenberg | Cahill Duo was formed in 2016: these two musicians sound as though they have been collaborating with one another much longer. Contemporary music fans are fortunate to have this simultaneously authoritative and approachable pair.”  (San Francisco Classical Voice)

Kate Stenberg’s violin playing has been described as “highly virtuosic and deeply communicative…full of character and presence” (NewMusicBox). A “Bay Area new-music luminary” (San Francisco Chronicle), Stenberg is the former first violinist of the award winning Del Sol String Quartet, and has has commissioned, recorded and/or premiered more than 100 new works.

Sarah Cahill, recently called “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, is the dedicatee of works by John Adams, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Frederic Rzewski, and many others. Keyboard Magazine writes, “Cahill has been instrumental in bringing to life the music of many of our greatest living composers.” She was named a 2018 Champion of New Music, awarded by the American Composers Forum.

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 in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. In addition to her solo work, she has been commissioned to compose scores for dance, theatre, film, and chamber ensembles including Kronos Quartet, the Bang on a Can All Stars, Ethel, and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, an Ars Electronica honorable mention, and the NEA Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship.

Project Media

Pamela Z – Suite for Solo Voice & Electronics
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Features: Pamela Z

An example of Pamela Z’s distinctive practice as a composer/performer, demonstrating her integration of classical and extended vocal technique, gesture-controlled MIDI devices, and interactive electronic sound.

(For a shorter segment, please forward to 8′ 28″)

Performed 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.

Stenberg | Cahill Duo – “Tocar” by Kaija Saariaho
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This performance by the Stenberg|Cahill Duo – demonstrating the ensemble’s sensitive interplay, lush tone, and dedication to contemporary repertoire – was recorded live at Old First Church in San Francisco, October 2018.

(For a shorter segment, please forward to 0′ 52″. For additional samples of the duo performing, please see the artist profiles.)

Pamela Z – Carbon Song Cycle
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Features: Pamela Z

A sample demonstrating Pamela Z’s composing for ensemble, as well as her usage of multi-media, with dramatic staging and lighting.

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

Start and End Dates



San Francisco, California

Project Created By

Kate Stenberg’s violin playing has been described as “highly virtuosic and deeply communicative…full of character and presence” (NewMusicBox), as heard in performances in a dozen countries and on numerous CDs from New World Records, Sono Luminous, Newport Classics, Decca Records, Other Minds and New Albion labels. She is a leading interpreter of contemporary chamber music…

In Collaboration With

composer, performer, singer
San Francisco, California
performer, pianist
Berkeley, California


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