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Pamela Z has received commissions from various new music chamber ensembles. Some of the resulting works can be performed without the composer present, while others include a part for voice and electronics and are intended to be performed by the composer and the ensemble.
And the Movement of the Tongue (for Kronos Quartet)
String Quartet with Tape composed: 2012, duration: 23:00
And the Movement of the Tongue is a work about speaking accents—specifically accented English. The work takes the form of 12 short movements (ranging in length from 30 seconds to 2 ½ minutes) each focusing on the sometimes subtle and sometimes extreme differences in pronunciation and inflections of various English speakers.. To create this piece, Z conducted and recorded interviews with a number of people who speak English with a variety of either regional, foreign language, or cultural accents. Combing through those recorded interviews, she hand-selected speech fragments (phonemes, words, phrases, and complete sentences) that seemed sonically or musically interesting. She created hundreds of audio clips and used them to construct the text collage that became a kind of armature for the work. Many of the motifs in the string parts were derived from the melodic and rhythmic material found in the samples of those speech fragments.
Attention (for Del Sol String Quartet)
String Quartet with Fixed Media (video & multi-channel audio) composed: 2016, duration: 15:00
Attention is a work for string quartet, fixed media (audio and video), voices, samples, and mobile phones. The piece, which was inspired by the ways in which our focus and attention are constantly challenged in this era of endless notifications and non-stop communication feeds, requires the quartet to make their way through the score in the face of a series of mounting interruptions. The players are compelled to execute its three movements without pause – splitting their attention, navigating distractions and distracting one another as they “multi-task” their way through the piece.
Video documentation of the premiere: vimeo.com/pamelaz/attention
Carbon Song Cycle (collaboration with video artist Christina McPhee)
Ensemble with Voice & Electronics, composed: 2013, duration: 50:00
The work, scored by Z for voice & electronics, cello, viola, bassoon, and percussion, is performed within an immersive environment awash in Christina McPhee’s expansive, multi-channel video work. Carbon Song Cycle is inspired, in part, by ongoing changes and upheavals in the earth's ecosystem, and a fascination with the carbon cycle—the process through which carbon is exchanged between all terrestrial life forms and domains. Texts, melodic motifs, and images are inspired by and derived from scientific data concerning the carbon cycle, stories related to environmental balance and imbalance, and images abstracted from footage shot at natural and technological sites—including petroleum fields, natural gas sites, and geothermal sites around back-country California. Structurally, the piece plays upon the idea of the natural exchange of elements by passing sonic material through the various players, with audio and video elements that actively affect each other by passing information back and forth in various ways. It was commissioned by the MAP Fund and New Music USA, and premiered at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive in April 2013.
Video documentation of the premiere: vimeo.com/73735499
The Schmetterling (for the Bang On A Can Allstars)
Ensemble with Voice & Electronics, composed: 1998, duration: 8:00
This work was commissioned by the "People's Commissioning Fund" for the
Bang on a Can Allstars. It was composed for voice and electronics, samples
(BodySynth and keyboard), piano, percussion, clarinet, electric guitar, cello, and
contrabass. It premiered at the Knitting Factory on May 17, 1998. It has
had subsequent performances at Lincoln Center in New York, Yerba Buena Center
for the Arts in San Francisco, and Angel Oresanz Foundation Center for the
Arts in New York.
Ethel Dreams of Temporal Disturbances (for ETHEL )
String Quartet and Tape, composed 2005, duration 9:00
This work was commissioned by the string quartet "Ethel" and was premiered by the quartet at the Krannert Center in Champagne Urbana, IL in October 2005. From the program notes of that concert:
"Ethel would like to settle down and relax after a long day’s work and watch something she has recorded, but she’s so tired, that she drifts off before she’s even made it through the opening credits. She sleeps fitfully as mixed messages from her program, along with countless advertising breaks and news bulletins, infomercials and cultural programs scan forward and backwards across her closed eyelids and seep in through her vulnerable open ears. Ethel is puzzled as her dreams are re-written and edited to please the corporate sponsors and their themes are influenced by the whims of the underwriters. She becomes disoriented as time stretches, condenses, pauses, races forward and backwards, and she finally wakes up with her head on the TiVo remote."
Studio recording of Ethel performing the piece: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFHT4wr9FGY
for Violoncello and Delays (for the Orchestra of St. Lukes)
This work was commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Lukes for their "Second
Helpings" series at the DIA Center in New York. It was composed for
cello and electronics (three long delay lines and granular synthesis executed
in MAX MSP Software on a Powerbook). In its premiere at the DIA Center (Chelsea)
in New York, it was performed by the Orchestra's principal Cellist, Myron
Lutzke on Cello and Pamela Z on electronics. It has subsequently been played by cellist Mimi Yu (with Pamela Z on elecronics) at the Juilliard School's annual "Focus!" Festival.
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Twenty Answers (for the Empyrean Ensemble)
Twenty Answers is a work for 8 or more (or less) players and a magic oracle. As it was commissioned by the Empyrean Ensemble, its parts have been created with their instrumentation in mind (flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano and percussion) combined with the instrument of the composer (voice and electronics), but it can easily be adapted to any group of instruments. A work of ever-shifting melodic and rhythmic fragments– the piece nods to the memory of Cage with its heavy reliance on “chance operations” and its employment of silence and listening. Each player’s part consists of twenty events– the order and content of which are determined by answers generated by a fortune-telling device (the "Magic 8 Ball"). The idea for the piece came as an outgrowth of Ms. Z’s recent work exploring the binaries of “Yes and No” and the intriguing methods people have devised for divining answers to “Yes and No” questions. This piece recieved its premiere by the Empyrean Ensemble at UC Davis in January of 2008. It has also been performed by Canyonlands Ensemble at the University of Utah at SLC.
Notice of Baggage Inspection (for the Guy Livingston)
Piano with Tape, composed: 2007, duration: 1:00
This work was commissioned by pianist Guy Livingston for his project One Minute More which features 60 one-minute works by 60 composers each with an accompanying short film. Notice of Baggage Inspection included a tape part of the composer's voice reading the baggage inspection notice that is often left inside suitcases by the TSA. The pianist plays a part that is carefully timed with the spoken text.
Dr. Melfi (for the Julie Queen)
Voice and String Quartet, composed: 2007, duration: 3:00
This song was commissioned by Julie Queen for a performance evening she did called "Ten Dollar Destiny". The text (modified from a text by Carol Lloyd) involves a therapist addressing her patient.
Persistence (for the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble)
Ensemble with Voice & Electronics, composed: 2001, duration: 10:00
A chamber work with baroque and minimalist overtones, Persistence was commissioned
by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble for a concert series called "San Francisco
Inventions". Three Bay Area composers (Pamela Z, Beth Custer, and Carlos
Sanchez-Gutierrez) were each commissioned to compose a work inspired by
their experience living in San Francisco. Persisence is scored for oboe,
bass clarinet, piano, violion, viola, cello, voice, and processing. It premiered
at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on September 28, 2001. It has also
had a performance at "The Green Room" in San Francisco's War Memorial Building.
Conditions in the Southland (for the California Ear Unit)
Ensemble with Voice & Electronics, composed: 1998, duration: 9:00
This work was commissioned by the California E.A.R. Unit. It was composed
for Voice, Processing, samples (MIDI Kat), piano, violin, cello, flute,
clarinet, and percussion. It had its premiere at the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art in January of 1998.
Span (collaboration with video installation artist Carole Kim)
Ensemble with Voice & Electronics, composed: 2015, duration: 55'00"
A multimedia electroacoustic chamber work by composer/performer Pamela Z and video artist Carole Kim exploring bridges from multiple perspectives. Inspired by the many historical, structural, aesthetic, functional, and cultural concerns surrounding bridges. Scored for a six-member chamber ensemble that includes voice, brasswinds, gongs, and low strings – all of which are processed in real time and layered over an armature of text-sound composition and performed within a layered video installation created by Carole Kim.
Video documentation of the premiere here: vimeo.com/139636153
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