May concerts of new work by UC Santa Cruz composers the result of residencies with leading new music artists

Pamela Z                        

(Photo by Marion Gray)

UC Santa Cruz doctoral students in composition will premiere several new works this May developed during two unprecedented residencies with top names in the experimental music world—pioneering composer, performer, and media artist Pamela Z and celebrated piano/percussion quartet Yarn/Wire.

The two extended residencies, which began earlier this year, are a first for UCSC’s Music Department, offering the emerging composers access to these leading artists over several months to workshop ideas, receive one-on-one mentoring, and work collaboratively towards a culminating performance.

“It’s been the highlight of my experience at UCSC,” says Seth Glickman, who was selected to participate in both residencies. “To be in direct contact with artists like these who are pursuing new ideas in music and the performance of it, and getting a close up view of their process, is so incredibly valuable. It’s made me really stretch and expand as a composer.” 

Glickman and fellow doctoral student Alex Wand will take the stage with Pamela Z May 14 at 7pm for a concert at the Rio Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz to debut the work they developed as part of the residency. “It’s rare for a guest artist to launch the idea of building a collaborative concert with students in this way,” says Associate Professor of Music Ben Leeds Carson who oversaw the residencies. “It’s so incredible for them that it will be a shared stage.”

Both Glickman and Wand were inspired to work with text and voice in new ways for the pieces they will present. Pamela Z, a pioneer of live digital looping techniques, processes her voice in real time to create dense, complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, and sampled concrete sounds. “I love how Pamela Z draws from diverse inspirations,” says Wand. “She really broadens the conception of what it is to be a composer.”

The concert, which is part of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences’ Surge: Explorations in Afrofuturism series, will feature a number of outstanding musicians who will perform both with Pamela Z on her solo works and with the two students. They include UCSC faculty Kyle Bruckman and Willie Winant, both of whom are fixtures in the Bay Area experimental music scene. Support for the guest performers was provided by an equity and innovation grant from the Arts Research Institute and by funds raised by the Music Department on UCSC’s Fall 2021 Giving Day campaign.

Glickman, along with doctoral students Nina Barzegar, Rodrigo Barriga, and Ben Dorfan, will have new work performed in a concert by Yarn/Wire May 20 in New York, another first for the UCSC Music Department. There will be a livestream for remote audiences, 5pm Pacific.

“This is the first time an ensemble has decided to take several of our students' work ‘on the road’ so-to-speak, bringing their work to New York City, where it can have distinctive exposure to new potential collaborations and recognition,” says Carson.

Yarn/Wire is one of the leading chamber ensembles working today and internationally known for commissioning out-of-the-box thinkers in creative music. The group’s residency with the UCSC students was particularly revelatory, offering the emerging composers the opportunity to see an ensemble work through their pieces in real time and to receive extensive feedback over many iterations of the compositional process. “They are such skilled performers,” says Glickman. “Sharing excerpts with them really affected how I completed the piece.”

Carson is committed to ensuring that residencies like these continue to be an annual opportunity for students. “It’s been a privilege to see how these rare interactions and the dialogue within them have led to a phenomenal development of the voices of these dynamic and developing composers.”