Raised in the Denver area, the African American Z received her bachelor's degree in music from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied classical voice. After performing throughout Colorado as a rock musician under the name Pam Brooks, in 1984 she moved to San Francisco, where her experiments with live digital delay vocal processing began leading her down a different artistic path, and she changed her name to Pamela Z.
In performance today, she typically processes her live voice through MAX MSP software on a MacBook Pro, combining operatic bel canto and experimental extended vocal techniques with percussion objects, spoken word, and sampled sounds. Z has performed in such festivals as Bang on a Can at Lincoln Center in New York, the Interlink Festival in Japan, Other Minds in San Francisco, and La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.
Z has been commissioned from such sources as the Bang on a Can Allstars, Ethel, The California EAR Unit, the Robin Cox Ensemble, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and Orchestra of St. Luke's. Many of her signature pieces are collected on the 2004 Starkland release, A Delay is Better. In 2008 her work "Declaratives In First Person" was included on the compilation album Crosstalk: American Speech Music (Bridge Records) produced by Mendi + Keith Obadike. She is a member of the electroacoustic ensemble sensorChip and the interdisciplinary performance ensemble The Qube Chix, both based in San Francisco. Z has received numerous awards, including: the Guggenheim Fellowship; the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts; the Creative Capital Fund; the ASCAP Music Award; and the NEA and Japan/US Friendship Commission Fellowship.
Z is also known for her narration work in independent film and television. Her voice appears in several documentaries including Sam Green's The Weather Underground (2002), Hrabba Gunnarsdottir's Alive in Limbo, and the PBS station KQED's weekly arts TV program Spark
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