MONDO 2000 Issue 4 Fun City MegaMedia/MONDO 2000 PO Box 10171 Berkeley CA 94709-5171 copyright ?none? assume copyright ISSN ?none? periodical excerpts 818w

= page 98 = ... Pamela Z is a performance artists, an avant musician, a woman writing and singing from beyond. She's radical and exuberantly free -- but not unstructured. Pamela Z transports us. She's taken tools once used for standard performance -- classical and jazz and pop and theater -- and used them to fashion something that requires whole new sets of critical standards. She uses sampling -- and so does Rap; she uses delays and tapeloops -- and so does Pop music; she uses her classically-trained voice -- and so does opera. But she's leagues to the left of Rap, miles above Pop and she's turned opera inside out. Her stage presence is rooted in a deep intuitive confidence in the originality and crystallized control of her performance. I saw her recently, opening for a widely-known performance art group, and in contrast with their faint reprise of early Frank Zappa, Pamela Z was a whole new synthesis.

She's updated opera, and she's a populist Charles Wuornen. She layers Ultra-Rationalist Serialism with a Philip Glass segmentation -- but it's all just a frame for her poignant, rueful personal observation, her singular take on the world, reflected through the infinite mirrors of electronic "echolalia" and looping. Her performance takes what it needs from mime and dance; her hands perform arabesques reminiscent of Indonesian sorcery. She interfaces with electronics, twirling knobs and jacking midis with the laser precision of the true 21st century artist. She's Robert Fripp and Diamanda Galas gene-spliced. Part Black, part Amerindian and wholly unique, she's Pamela Z. Listen to her.

--John Shirley

excerpts from article:

PamelaZ as Told to Jas. Morgan And Sara Drew

"The sound of the spoken word...once you start repeating it, there's a fundamental tone to each sound that becomes more prevalent as it's repeated. You begin to hear it as a melody. I often create melodies that way."

"I started the kind of thing I'm doing now when I purchased my first delay -- a one-second delay, which seemed like an enormous amount of time to me. I was amazed at what I could do -- one second in music is a lot of time.

"I started creating loops. I used the infinite-hold function of the delay -- so whatever I had put in, repeats endlessly -- and used that as the rhythm track, and sang and spoke over it.

"But digital delays are like drugs. I've kept on buying them, longer and longer delays -- I've just bought a couple of eight-second delays."

"When I first started using the delays, I was living in Boulder and I was an acoustic singer/songwriter. I was maybe perceived as Boulder's version of early Joni Mitchell. And the people who would come to see me were these natural-foods, natural-fibers, natural-music types. So when I started using these electronic things -- you can imagine... 'Oh, but you have a beautiful voice! You don't need that!'

"Really though, the technology isn't cold or imprisoning at all. In fact, the electronics free me to create as much sound as I want to with my voice alone. I consider that the combination of voice and delays is one instrument -- my main instrument."

"In a sense, I'm really technologically driven. The important points in my life musically are when I find new instruments. Whether it's got digital processors inside it or it's wood with strings, when it's totally new to me I get these unintentional things happening.

"It's like Cage's chance operations, or Eno's ideas about happy accidents or honoring your mistakes. I write entire songs around mistakes. I get creative bursts because of a result that I would never have come up with if I had tried to do it deliberately. And that's where the fuel comes -- for my fire, anyway."

"People find messages in my music, but really I use words because they sound interesting. One of the most obvious examples in "Pearls, Gem of the Sea." Almost the entire text -- the story line -- comes from a sales pitch that I had to give at a jewelry store I worked at. The opening line is; "have you ever been to a pearl farm over in Japan?" Terrible sales opening but it sounded great as a weird text to recite. The piece goes on to tell this story of how they culture pearls in Japan, and who invented the culturing process... all from this sales rap. And then the chorus was my own invention, based on how I would play around with this rap to make it my own. There is no message -- I just thought it sounded interesting. But people think it's an animal rights song! [laughs] -- "We shouldn't implant that irritation in these poor oysters." And a few people thought it was a song about wanting public funding for my art!"

typed by C. Vega mid may 95