Composition Colloquium: Pamela Z

Colloquium | April 6 | 3 p.m. | 135 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

Pamela Z (born 1956, in Buffalo, New York) is an American composer, performer, and media artist who is best known for her solo works for voice with electronic processing. In performance, she combines various vocal sounds including operatic bel canto, experimental extended techniques and spoken word, with samples and sounds generated by manipulating found objects. Z’s musical aesthetic is one of sonic accretion, and she typically processes her voice in real time through a software program called MAX MSP on a MacBook Pro as a means of layering, looping, and altering her live vocal sound Her performance work often includes video projections and special controllers with sensors that allow her to use physical gestures to manipulate the sound and projected media.

Raised in the Denver Metro area, Pamela Z received her bachelor's degree in music from the University of Colorado at Boulder (1978), where she studied classical voice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she worked as a singer/songwriter on voice and guitar throughout Colorado under the name Pam Brooks. She began experimenting with digital delay and reverb to process her voice in the early 1980s and started composing works involving live looping.

In 1984 she relocated to San Francisco where she legally changed her last name to Z and became active in the San Francisco Bay Area contemporary music and performance art scene. Throughout the late 1980s and the 90s, she continued to create solo voice and electronics performances, and gained visibility through her appearances in Bay Area new music performance venues, theaters, and art galleries. She began touring her work nationally and internationally and, by the year 2000, she was performing regularly in New York, Europe, and Japan. Z has performed in such festivals as Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center in New York, the Interlink Festival in Japan, Other Minds in San Francisco, La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy, and Pina Bausch Tanztheater's Festival in Wuppertal, Germany.

In addition to her solo voice and electronics works, Z has composed chamber works commissioned by ensembles such as Kronos Quartet, the Bang on a Can All Stars, the New York string quartet ETHEL, The California EAR Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and Orchestra of St. Luke's. She has also composed scores for modern dance companies including ODC Dance, Flyaway Productions, and Mary Armentrout Dance Theater. In addition, she has composed and recorded film scores for independent filmmakers including Barbara Hammer, Lynn Sachs, Jeanne Finley and John Muse.