TRADITIONAL BEL CANTO JOINED WITH DIGITAL EXPERIMENTATION WHEN COMPOSER, PERFORMER, AND MEDIA ARTIST PAMELA Z PREMIERED A NEW WORK AT VIRGINIA TECH IN APRIL 2016. THE WORK WAS HELD IN—AND INSPIRED BY—THE CUBE, THE MOSS ARTS CENTER’S HIGH-TECH AND THEATRICAL IMMERSIVE SPACE.
The performance, presented in partnership with the School of Performing Arts, featured works for voice with processing, samples, gesture controllers, spatialized sound, and interactive video. In creating the work, Pamela Z collaborated with Eric Lyon, an associate professor of practice in the School of Performing Arts, to explore the spatial sound projection capabilities of the Cube.
A pioneer of live digital looping techniques, Pamela Z processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. She also uses wireless musical-instrument-digital-interface controllers to manipulate sound with physical gestures. Her solo compositions combine experimental vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and elements of musique concrète, an assemblage of recorded sounds abstracted for their musical value.
Her Cube performance marked the culmination of Pamela Z’s weeklong visiting artist residency at Virginia Tech. During her stay, she discussed her creative process and sources of inspiration with members of a graduate poetry workshop led by Erika Meitner, an associate professor of English and director of the master of fine arts program in creative writing.
“In my writing workshops I ask students to engage with different modes across the arts spectrum,” Meitner says. “My students had no previous exposure to musical composition, and because poetry has a large aural component, they were curious about Pamela Z’s methods and inspirations. Being able to attend her performance and make poems from her pieces was a truly generative experience for all of us.”