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BEHIND THE SCENES with Pamela Z


*As a performer with a classically trained voice, what do you find compelling about making audio/radio work?

*My classically trained voice is only one part of my palette of sounds. I have been interested in sound as a medium since I was very young, and I used to make radio works even as a child, using two cassette tape recorders to record back and forth, making very dirty, lo-fi, layered collages. Now, with the digital tools I have at my disposal, I find it extremely enjoyable to sculpt layered sound pieces using sampled voices and an unlimited number of other sounds as source material.

UsingGeekspeak *as an example, explain how and why you use the technique of repetition?

I love repetition. I discovered that I love it when I got my first digital delay in the early 80s. I found that the spoken word contains all kinds of fascinating rhythmic and melodic material which is only brought out by repetition. I was ignorant of composer Steve Reich's early (tape loop) works at that time, and I kind of re-invented the wheel by creating short digital loops of phrases and vocal sounds and then layering them, often out-of-phase with other loops of different tempi. In Geekspeak , I really enjoyed exploring the timbres of those charming geek voices by looping them endlessly. Also, as you are probably aware, repeating words is a sure-fire way of causing them to eventually shed their original meanings. They finally become just sounds, audible gestures with interesting flavors

**Voices in my Head is a true piece about your mother and the voices she hears in her head. Listeners feel your mother's anxiety as she's haunted by Florence, her ex-therapist. How did you create the feeling of mania in the sound design of this piece?*

*For that piece (which was originally a segment of a live performance work) I started with the story, and the phrases that "Florence" was uttering. I recorded the Florence phrases using my own voice, but contorting it into husky, mean, whispery tones. As I mixed the piece, I made layers of the different bursts of phrases, spacing them out to coincide with the reading of the story. In the live version, I read the story in real time while playing the samples. In the recorded version, I read the story as a voice-over and then mix it with the samples.

**When you hear traditional radio stories on public radio, do you ever imagine different ways in which those stories could be told?***

I'm really open to all different ways of approaching this kind of work. I know that, if it were me producing public radio stories, I'd probably be tempted to sample some key phrases or breath sounds or other random noises and create a sound bed or a sound broth for the story to swim in, but I don't expect other people to do the same thing. For example, I really kind of enjoy the way Ira Glass has a sort of stock set of incidental music that he pulls from and somehow manages to make it fit with every different story he has on, somehow making it at once fresh, but also familiar and comfortable, as if the music places you in someone's familiar living room where you are used to sitting and listening to these stories. Since I'm a composer, I don't really have the desire to use someone else's music as background or incidental music. I'd rather make my own music for that purpose. But I admire someone who does that in an imaginative way. I think the wide range of techniques for making sound work are part of what makes it all so much more interesting.