NEW YORK PRESS Vol 17 - Issue 43 - October 27-Nov 2, 2004
THERE ARE NOT many artists around these days who can hold the stage all alone for an entire performance. Excluding stand-up comedians (a special breed all their own) and depressed singer/songwriters, few even try. I don't want to rush to judgment, but just by looking at Pamela Z—dressed head to toe in black, her hair piled wildly above her head, arms outstretched in gesture, surrounded by tables filled with electronics, a PowerBook, and backlit with projection screens—I'd stick around to find out if there was any substance behind the proffered show.
Superficialities aside, I've heard Pamela Z at work and been impressed by both the range of her own voice and the un-clichéd way she works with technology. Maybe it takes a woman to get beyond the "boys with toys" traps of performing live with lots of gear.
Z (yes, her last name was changed when she moved to San Francisco in 1984) has a special place in the hearts of avant garde music fans on the West Coast, but we'll get a chance to see/hear her evening-length, multi-media, one-woman opera Voci here in NYC this week.
For this production the voice, ultimately Z's main instrument, will be aided and abetted by real-time processing and video accompaniment as she plays with the myriad ways that vocal elements impact our interactions with the world.
I got a hold of a DVD of some of the show's highlights. In the course of the performance, Z passes through a series of vignettes, making cutting and comic points along the way. She moves from dueting with the irritating "you have no new messages" voice on the answering machine to singing in the fantastic reverb of a simulated shower stall. At one point she even asks the audience to turn their cell phones on "for my listening pleasure."
Veterans of Z's performances will be familiar with her use of the BodySynth (designed by Ed Severinghaus and Chris Van Raalte), which allows her to play with sounds via physical gestures—just a step forward or a flick of a wrist. That figures into her performance in Voci, in addition to samples triggered using light sensors and her interactions with large-scale video projections.
If you enjoyed fellow West-coaster Amy X Neuburg's show back in March at Joe's Pub, you'll likely want to be in a seat at some point during Voci 's three-night run.
The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St. (10th Ave.), 212-255-5793; $15, 8.