Episode 30: Pamela Z

Pamela Z talks with festival director Lucy Dhegrae about her upcoming performance on the closing night of the Chicago festival on April 8th, 2018 at Constellation. Pamela talks about how her start in classical voice, street busking, and performing in small clubs led her to move to San Francisco to become one of the world’s foremost pioneers in the medium of voice and electronics. For more information about Pamela Z and links to the recordings heard on this episode, please visit our Show Notes.

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Pamela Z Show Notes


Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist who works primarily with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound, and video. A pioneer of live digital looping techniques, she processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and sampled concrète sounds. 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 theaters and concert 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 – performing in international 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, including Memory TraceBaggage AllowanceVoci, and Gaijin, have been presented at venues like the Kitchen in New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Theater Artaud (Z Space) 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 shown media works in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); Erzbischöfliches Diözesanmuseum (Cologne); the Tang Museum (Saratoga Springs NY); the Dakar Biennale (Sénégal); Krannert Art Museum (IL), and the Kitchen (NY).

Ms. Z has had chamber music commissions from Kronos Quartet, the Bang On A Can All Stars; Ethel String Quartet, the California E.A.R. Unit; the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; the Empyrean Ensemble, and St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra. She curates and produces "the ROOM Series", a San Francisco avant-chamber series featuring the work of a variety of virtuosic solo artists and chamber groups playing experimental music. She has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Joan La Barbara, Joan Jeanrenaud, Brenda Way (ODC Dance), Miya Masaoka, Jeanne Finley + John Muse, Shinichi Iova Koga (Inkboat), Christina McPhee, and Luciano Chessa. She has participated in several New Music Theatre events (including John Cage festivals), and has performed with The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Her interactive web-based work Baggage Allowance can be viewed at baggageallowance.tv where it is permanently installed.

Pamela Z is the recipient of many honors and awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; the Creative Capital Fund; the MAP Fund, the ASCAP Music Award; an Ars Electronica honorable mention; and the NEA Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. For more information visit: www.pamelaz.com

Episode 29: Tony Arnold

Tony Arnold, one of the leading sopranos in contemporary classical music world, sits down with Resonant Bodies Festival director Lucy Dhegrae to talk about her upcoming set on April 7th at Constellation for the inaugural Chicago festival. Tony talks about her teaching philosophy, her on-stage performance priorities (spoiler alert: it’s not text!), how she went from pianist to conductor to vocalist, and how she began performing with International Contemporary Ensemble. For more information about Tony Arnold, please visit our Show Notes.

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Tony Arnold Show Notes

“Soprano Tony Arnold is a luminary in the world of chamber music and art song.  Today’s classical composers are inspired by her inherently beautiful voice, consummate musicianship, and embracing spirit” (Huffington Post). Hailed by the New York Times as “a bold, powerful interpreter,” she is internationally acclaimed as a leading proponent of contemporary music in concert and recording, having premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers.  Since becoming the first-prize laureate of both the 2001 Gaudeamus International Competition (NL) and the 2001 Louise D. McMahon Competition (USA), Tony Arnold has collaborated with the most cutting-edge composers and instrumentalists on the world stage, and shares with audiences her “broader gift for conveying the poetry and nuance behind outwardly daunting contemporary scores” (Boston Globe). Her unique blend of vocal virtuosity and communicative warmth, combined with wide-ranging skills in education and leadership were recognized with the 2015 Brandeis Creative Arts Award, given in appreciation of “excellence in the arts and the lives and works of distinguished, active American artists.”

As the soprano of the intrepid International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Tony Arnold is a catalyst for dozens of groundbreaking projects, the most recent of which is David Lang’s Whisper Opera in ICE’s touring production directed by Jim Findlay.  She has toured the U.S. extensively as a member of the George Crumb Ensemble, and has become the voice most associated with Crumb’s music since the beloved Jan DeGaetani.  A noted guest artist at international festivals on four continents, Tony Arnold has been featured at the Darmstadt Festival and Witten New Music Days (Germany); Time of Music (Finland); Cervantino (Mexico); Musica Sacra Maastricht (Netherlands); Tongyeong Festival (Korea); Perspectives XXI Festival (Armenia), and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.  She regularly appears with leading ensembles including the JACK Quartet, Orion Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Talea Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Now, Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

With more than thirty discs to her credit, Tony Arnold has recorded a broad segment of the modern vocal repertory with esteemed chamber music colleagues.  Her recording of George Crumb’s iconic Ancient Voices of Children (Bridge) was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award, and her recording with ICE of Nathan Davis’s On the Nature of Thingness (Starkland) was named Best Contemporary Classical Album at the 2016 Independent Music Awards.  Other notable releases include György Kurtág’s monumental Kafka Fragments (Bridge); Jason Eckardt’s uncompromising Undersong (Mode) and Tongues (Tzadik); Olivier Messiaen’s mystical Harawi(New Focus); and the complete Webern project under the direction of Robert Craft (Naxos).  Of the Webern, The Guardian writes, “sung with remarkable poise and warmth by soprano Tony Arnold…each [song] is a perfectly etched miniature, a nugget of impacted lyricism, and Arnold unwraps them with immense care.”

A strong advocate for the creation and commissioning of new music, Tony Arnold’s artistry has attracted many of the most gifted composers of our time.  The growing repertoire of vocal chamber music now includes major works written for her voice by Georges Aperghis, Eric Chasalow, Philippe Manoury, Josh Levine, George Crumb, Pamela Madsen, Fredrick Gifford, David Liptak, Brett Dean, Christopher Theofanidis, Jason Eckardt, Hans Tutschku, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Jesse Jones, Nathan Davis, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, John Zorn and David Gompper, amongst others.  In 2012, Arnold and violinist Movses Pogossian were the recipients of a Chamber Music America Commissioning Grant to support the creation of Seven Armenian Songs by Gabriela Lena Frank. Upcoming commissioning projects include a new work for voice with the International Contemporary Ensemble by Marcos Balter, and the premiere of Amy Williams’s Fünf Worte for soprano and harmonium.

Tony Arnold has worked on a sustained basis with young composers and performers, sparking new musical ideas and fostering collaboration with succeeding generations.  In the summer of 2017, she will join the vocal arts faculty of the venerable Tanglewood Music Center, followed by an appointment to the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory beginning September 2017.  In 2015-16, she was the Kunkemueller Artist-in-Residence at the Boston Conservatory, and was simultaneously in residence at Brandeis University as part of the Brandeis Creative Arts Award.  In 2009, Tony Arnold was the first performer ever invited to be the Howard Hanson Distinguished Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music.  For over a decade she served on the faculty of the University at Buffalo, where she founded the extended techniques vocal ensemble, BABEL.  She is currently on the faculty of the Wellesley Composers Conference (MA); the soundSCAPE Festival (Italy); and New Music on the Point (VT).  She has performed, lectured and given master classes as a guest in over 50 universities worldwide. 

Tony Arnold is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University.  Growing up in suburban Baltimore, she composed, sang and played every instrument she could persuade her parents to let her bring home, but never intended to become a professional vocalist.  Instead, she applied her varied musical background to the study of orchestral conducting.  Following graduate school, she was a fellow of the Aspen Music Festival (as both conductor and singer), and she enjoyed success as the music director of several orchestras in the Chicago area.  In her early thirties, Tony reconnected with her love of singing, and discovered a special ability for making the most complex vocal music accessible to every audience.  Having been inspired by many mentors, she is especially indebted to the teaching of sopranos Carmen Mehta and Carol Webber, conductors Robert Spano and Victor Yampolsky, and composer György Kurtág.

Life Story (1993) Thomas Adès (b. 1971) Tony Arnold, soprano Jacob Greenberg, piano Randall Zigler, double bass Gleb Kanasevich, bass clarinet Michael Norsworthy, bass clarinet Performed live on September 9th, 2015, at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.
Lotófagos (2006) Beat Furrer (b. 1954) with Tony Arnold, soprano and Randall Zigler, double bass Performed live at the Resonant Bodies Festival on September 9th, 2015 at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. José Ángel Valente, "Lotófagos," from Fragmentos de un Libro Futuro Estábamos en un desierto confrontados con nuestra propia imagen que no reconocíamos.