San Francisco-based composer Pamela Z gave a talk and performed pieces from her extraordinary sonic repertoire at CIIS last Saturday night, January 23, and I’ve been listening to her CD, “A Delay is Better,” ever since. Watching this artist work is a disarmingly intimate experience. Precise, demanding pieces such as “Bone Music” and “In Tymes of Old” come into being intensely in the moment, as PZ creates samples from her own voice and “found” objects (she squeezes bubble wrap, bangs on an empty water bottle) then digitally loops the sounds to create complex sonic experiences highly mediated by technology. The stage is crammed with wires and microphones, her two MacBook Pros, a freestanding Musical Instrument Digital Interface device that responds to her elegant gestures, and a mating snake ball of data cables. This controlled electronic mess contrasts with PZ’s dazzling personal presence and vocalizations, which range from invented “alien” language (an urgent semblance of communication) to her lush bel canto vocal style raveling out phrases like “mi amor” or “you don’t know me I don’t know you/Why do you talk to me that way?” to a thrilling, ecstatic pitch. The music manages to simultaneously create and subvert conventional meaning, creating a zone of such delicious sensual and intellectual discomfort that I keep going back just to revel in that atmosphere.
Saturday Night @ CIIS is a free working artist series, presented by the Department of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry. Please visit our website for upcoming events.