"Sheer genius from
the most gifted and enterprising vocalist/composer/audio artist in
the US since the heyday of Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk... The
effects are stunning... Essential." Read The Wire review.
"Her new CD... is a lovely listen."
"A skilled performer [whose voice] remains rich and nuanced whether singing,
speaking, or testing the bounds of both. "
Is Better is
the first CD devoted exclusively to works by the "funny, inventive,
and talented" (Village Voice)
composer/performer Pamela Z, and the recording offers some of her most
widely enjoyed signature pieces.
The New York Times writes the "acclaimed
is "a wonderfully compelling performer with a lot of range." The
New Yorker comments that "at the center of it all is the simple
beauty of her classically trained voice - which can give her work an almost
medieval purity." And the San Francisco Chronicle has enthusiastically
commented that "Z creates lustrous sonic landscapes."
The essence of Z's
mesmerizing music is a skillful blending of her lovely voice with refined
electronic manipulations. Pauline Oliveros writes that "this CD beguiles
us with a rich introduction to a fine vocalist/composer who adeptly embraces
technology," noting that Z "invigoratingly
explores great varieties of solo, chorused, extended, and manipulated vocal
The CD opens with the haunting, mysterious Bone Music, a
staple of Z's solo repertoire in which she pounds an empty five-gallon
water bottle as background to a wordless melody and gradually mixed in
The bewitching Badagada is a typical example of Z's
early works for voice and delays that involved floating a melody over digital
delay loops of short, melodic motifs.
The CD's third track is Number
3, a live recording of
an improvised duet between Z and San Francisco choreographer Jo Kreiter. The
only pre-determined element was a bank of vocal samples. In the performance,
Z triggered the samples with her BodySynth™ and processed her live voice
with digital delays.
When Z first moved to San Francisco, she worked at
Tower Records. She took the text of the curiously entrancing Pop
Titles 'You' entirely from one page of the 'Y' section of the Phonolog
Report, a large, yellow catalog that listed all currently available titles.
Z reports that in concert, listeners react with a Rorschach-like variety
of personal responses.
The lovely, captivating, and edgy In Tymes of
appeared on Starkland's From A to Z sampler CD. Z originally
created the piece to be performed live with two digital delay units, and
for this Starkland recording she chose to augment it with additional vocal
samples, triggered via keyboard in the studio.
Regarding the next two pieces, Z writes:
"The MUNI Section and NEMIZ are
both from a suite of works called Metrodaemonium, commissioned by Secession
Gallery for a site specific sound series. To create the samples, I carried
a portable DAT recorder as I walked and rode public transportation through
the streets of San Francisco. ('NEMIZ' is the unfortunate
1990s acronym for my neighborhood – the Northeast Mission Industrial
Z created the droll, witty Geekspeak for
her radio piece Parts of Speech. During an artist-in-residency at Xerox
PARC in Palo Alto, she met a number of computer researchers and programmers.
Here she masterfully manipulates samples of their voices as they provide
the definitive word on the differences between "nerds" and "geeks." The
querulous Questions is another segment from the same work.
Z explains the history of the text-driven, comically cut-up 50:
"As Charles Amirkhanian's 50th birthday approached, Nancy Karp
and I decided to throw a surprise party for him. Mimicing his early
text-sound compositions, I composed 50 for the occasion, and
got several of his friends to perform it at the party. This recording
is from a multi-track version done later that year, using only my voice."
sample-laden Feral comes from Z's soundscore for
Jo Kreiter's aerial dance work Hoist. Z recorded bassoonist
Sara Schoenbeck and percussionist J Why improvising in her studio, chopped
their sounds into short fragments, manipulated them with pitch-shifting,
reversing, and layering, and then constructed the movement in ProTools.
The CD concludes with the mournful, ghostly Obsession,
Addiction, and the Aristotelian Curve, a collaboration with harpist/composer
Barbara Imhoff that also originally appeared on Starkland's From A to
Z compilation. After receiving a stereo mix of acoustic and processed harp material from Imhoff,
Z added several tracks filled with her straight and processed vocals. Imhoff says:
"The piece structurally represents the destructive, insular cycle
of addition. The classic ABA form presents a gradual take-over by the 4-chord
cycle of the processed, distorted harp track, which becomes a character
emerging out of the addict’s nightmare state."
Z has toured extensively around the world. She has performed
in numerous festivals including Bang
on a Can at Lincoln Center in New York, the Interlink Festival in Japan, Other
Minds in San Francisco, the Pina
Bausch Tanztheater's 25 Jahre Fest in Germany, La Biennale di Venezia
in Italy, and Dak'Art La Biennale de l'art africain contemporian in
Senegal. Z has composed commissioned works for such new music ensembles
as the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the California
E.A.R. Unit, and St.
Luke's Chamber Orchestra. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including
a Guggenheim Fellowship, the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, the ASCAP
Music Award, and the NEA and Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship.