Pamela Z

"No Baggage" excerpted from the performance of BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE at The Kitchen, September 2010. The traveler wants to carry all her luggage on, but meets resistance from the clerk at the check-in counter. She has to improvise to get her things on board. Pamela Z’s BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE comprises three components: A full-evening multi-media performance work, a gallery exhibition, and an interactive web-based artwork. This video shows an excerpt from documentation of the performance run at The Kitchen in New York. Baggage Allowance is a sonically and visually layered work focusing on the concept of baggage in all its literal and metaphorical permutations. Through vocal performance with electronic processing, found text, and recorded interviews, multi-channel sound, interactive video, and sculptural objects, Baggage Allowance scans and inventories the belongings (and memories) we all cart around. The work explores the concept of baggage in its many senses – physical, intellectual, and emotional – baggage as impediment and baggage as treasure. Drawing from Ms. Z’s extensive traveling and cartage experiences, text from found sources, and interviews with travelers who speak poetically about their memories of train travel and flying and their numerous baggage-related stories, the work touches upon the ball-and-chain-ness of dragging one’s things all over the world.

"Sonic Gestures" is a media installation created for the 360º immersive environment at Recombinant Media Labs in San Francisco. Consisting of multiple channels of video and audio composed of fragmented gestural images, the work surrounds the audience with a virtual chorus of chattering, whispering, singing, and ever transforming sonic entities. Sonic Gestures (commissioned by NexMap) premiered in April of 2007 at RML, and was presented as a “performance/installation” event with the artist performing live on voice and electronics. The work can function as a standalone immersive, sound and video installation, which can loop endlessly in an appropriately equipped gallery space.


Pamela Z is a San Francisco-based composer/performer and media artist who works primarily with voice, live electronic processing, sampling technology, and video. One of the pioneers of live digital looping techniques, she processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers in her solo works that combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and sampled concrète sounds. In her current performance work, she uses MAX MSP and Isadora software on a MacBook Pro along with custom MIDI controllers that allow her to manipulate sound and image with physical gestures. Her performances range in scale from small concerts in galleries to large-scale multi-media works in flexible black-box venues and proscenium halls. In addition to her performance work, she has a growing body of inter-media gallery works including multi-channel sound and video installations.

Pamela Z has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. She has performed in numerous festivals including: Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center (New York); La Biennale di Venezia (Italy); the Interlink Festival (Japan); Other Minds (San Francisco); and Pina Bausch Tanztheater's 25 Jahre Fest (Wuppertal, Germany). She has composed, recorded and performed original scores for choreographers and for film/video artists, and has done vocal work for other composers (including Charles Amirkhanian, Vijay Iyer, and Henry Brant). Her large-scale, multi-media performance works, Parts of Speech, Gaijin, Voci, and Baggage Allowance have been presented at venues including the Kitchen in New York, Theater Artaud and ODC Theater in San Francisco, the Museum of Contemporary Art Theatre in Chicago, as well as at theaters in Washington D.C. and Budapest Hungary. Her one-act opera Wunderkabinet inspired by the Museum of Jurassic Technology (co-composed with Matthew Brubeck) premiered at The LAB Gallery in San Francisco, and was presented at REDCAT in Los Angeles and Open Ears Festival in Canada. She has had media works presented in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); the Erzbischöfliches Diözesanmuseum (Cologne); the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs NY); the Dakar Biennale (Sénégal); Krannert Art Museum (IL), and the Kitchen (NY).

Ms. Z has been commissioned to compose works for new music chamber ensembles: the Bang On A Can Allstars; Ethel, the California E.A.R. Unit; the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; the Empyrean Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra. Since 1986, she has been producing “Z Programs”, an ongoing series of interdisciplinary events in which her own work has been featured along with that of other experimental artists in various genres. She has collaborated with a wide range of composer/performers, media artists, and choreographers including Miya Masaoka, Joan Jeanrenaud, Brenda Way (ODC Dance), Jeanne Finley + John Muse, Shinichi Momo Koga, Leigh Evans, and Jo Kreiter. She has participated in several Zakros New Music Theatre events (including their John Cage festivals), and has performed with The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Pamela is the recipient of numerous awards, including: the Guggenheim Fellowship, the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts; the Creative Capital Fund; the MAP Fund, the ASCAP Music Award; an Ars Electronica honorable mention; and the NEA and Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Pamela Z's new inter-media performance work Baggage Allowance, will have it's New York premiere at the Kitchen in September of 2010.