Listening session n°8

After seven Listening Sessions, we have prepared a special outlook for your ears: in her first solo exhibition outside of the US, the renowned composer, experimentalist, sound and media artist Pamela Z will engage with  Untraining the Ear through a sonic exhibition and a solo performance:

In the dark basement gallery space, discrete images synchronize with each other, they often intersect and traverse screens, expanding into bigger images of oversized arms of the sonic body. Arms draw gestures in breath, tone, whistles, playing with provenance and absence of both meaning and the message. The viewer, looking for understanding, associates gestures with a mouth in the absence of a mouth, with an eye in the absence of an eye, and with a voice in absence of words. These trespassing associations suggest a seeing through listening. In this instance, the visuals become audio-informants of movement, physicality, materiality of the anima-machine, machine-anima, showing the operative character of vocality and sound.

This exhibition is titled after its central piece: With Sonic Gestures, Untraining the Ear listens to the extra-sonicity manifested in the lifelong artistic oeuvre of Pamela Z. The four works for voice, video, text and sound, featured in this exhibition ( Sonic Gestures, Memory Palace, Parts of Speech, and Declaratives in the First Person) attempt to focus listening to the multi-modality of voice. We listen to the uniqueness of Z's voice and its performativity. Z’s ability to freestyle across genres and musical traditions, could be described as: "post-genre (and post-racial) experimentalism" as George E. Lewis has underlined in his text "The Virtual Discourses of Pamela Z" (2007) [1]. Her work rejects almost any formal description and detailing, or association to one specific musical tradition, especially classifications striving on the white male avant garde musical traditions and history.  She mentions for example that framing her vocal techniques as “extended” is “Eurocentric in that it assumed that using the voice in the Western way is normal and going outside of that is extending it. A Tuvan singer does not think of themselves as using extended technique. They are just singing. It kind of reminds me of how our society sees being white and male as the normal thing and everybody else as the exceptions, so that women are just ’extended’ men." [2] 

The story of this exhibition, therefore focuses on the artist's voice and its relationality with others, glancing at the process through which the sound of the inward self is transmitted and listened to. This exhibition invokes Adriana Cavarero, with whom we listen to Pamela Z's work through the “vocal ontology of uniqueness”, in which each sound emitted through the mouth, shapes an individual and unique sonic materiality of one’s body, and relationality to others in proximity of our ears. The voice, beyond its semantic and logocentric theme, comes from within a self, it transcends through vibration into another body. Maybe if we focus our listening to the voice through the “contextual sonorous articulations that emit from the mouth of someone and that is destined for the ears of another,” particularly female and queer vocalic bodies, we could recognize how much more we can learn about one another. It is, therefore, this moment when we realize that each human and non-human voice emitted through mouth, in embodied voice, is a unique identifier of discrepancy and singularity; when listening to voice, we hear uniqueness, we hear a story, we hear history, and we create spaces for collective listening and contact zones.

With this Untraining The Ear Listening Session, we pursue to explore such possibilities of listening to the acoustemologies of the voice and of voicing out, inviting the listeners’ ears to access a literal physicality of sound.

The eighth listening session is a part of a new cycle of Untraining the Ear – a month long program of performances, installations, workshops, symposia, talks, and more magic.

With the Listening Sessions, SAVVY Contemporary, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and CTM Festival suggest an alternative way to listen to music and sound. In order to contextualise how we listen to the world today we also need to replay the past of abounding sonic references. We (the audience, the performers, the space, the radio, the moderators and the technicians) will rhetorically navigate through archives of maverick composers in the attempt to reindex their contributions, to create other possible genealogies and narratives. By involving sound practitioners coming from diverse genres to perform, and scholars to discuss works of the composers, we listen back to the influence and ingeniosity of musicians and sound artists who defy the linearity of 20th century avant-garde music history. We would like to shed light on and unbox works of pioneers such as Halim El-Dabh, Eliane Radigue, Jose Maceda to mention a few. We will also commission new works to echo and reflect (with a contemporary take) rare archival body of works that have been marginalised by history of avant-garde music and sound art.


George E. Lewis, “The Virtual Discourses of Pamela Z,“ Journal of the Society for American Music 1/1 (2007).


Kennedy, Kathy. “A Few Facets of Pamela Z,” MUSICWORKS Interview, 2000, www.pamelaz.com/musicworks.html.