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Composer/media artist Pamela Z receives Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Celina Colby
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Composer/media artist Pamela Z receives Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT

Interdisciplinary artist Pamela Z has been awarded the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts by MIT. The award includes a $100,000 investment in Z’s creative practice and an artist residency at MIT later this spring. In anticipation of the residency, MIT will host Z for a series of campus visits and performances this month.

For decades, Z has been creating multi-layered musical compositions using electronic processing, sampled sound, her own voice and other technological tools and innovations. The root of her compositions is her classically trained voice, but Z has utilized electronic methods to blaze a new musical trail in both solo and ensemble performance. Some of the tools Z uses are custom-made for her process and are activated by physical gesture, merging the human and electronic components of the music-making process in a fascinating way. During previous visits to MIT, Z has explored tools in the campus’ Center for Art, Science & Technology.

“As an artist whose work crosses disciplines and relies on integrating new technologies, I’m delighted by this kind of recognition from such a prestigious and innovative institution,” she says. During her residency, Z will teach several classes for students at the intersection of digital technologies and musical performance. Students in this field will have the opportunity to learn from Z’s decades of experience and later apply this knowledge at the Voxel Lab for digital music and visual arts innovation.

The public will have the opportunity to experience Z’s music as well. On April 19, Z will perform an open-to-the-public concert, “Pamela Z with People,” which explores her repertoire from early works to newly minted ensemble pieces. On April 20, the lecture “Pamela Z: Crossing Disciplines” will delve into her artistic practice. Both events are free but require pre-registration online.

The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts is awarded to innovative artists working in a cross-disciplinary process. In addition to the monetary investment, the award offers artists access to the cutting-edge tools and research at MIT. Previous award recipients include Thomas Heatherwick, Audra McDonald, David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan-Lori Parks, Santiago Calatrava and many others.

“We look forward to welcoming Pamela Z and presenting her with MIT’s highest award in the arts,” says MIT Associate Provost and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury. “More than 1,700 students participate in our music classes and ensembles each year. Her pioneering work will be an inspiration, especially for the large number of students interested in electronic music and digital instrument design.”

arts, Arts at MIT, Black composers, music