In 1995, Mills College student Heather Perkins was surprised to find herself one of the few women in a graduate electronic-music class. Mills, one of America's most prominent undergraduate women's colleges (its graduate school is coed), became home in 1996 to American academia's first electronic-music program. It was co-founded by a woman, the electronic composer Pauline Oliveros. Perkins decided to redress the imbalance in her class by curating a show just for female composers.
After she moved to Portland, Perkins repeated the occasion in 2004 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and again at Holocene in 2008 and 2010. Each time, she drew more collaborators from Seattle, Portland and beyond. This year, the group is sponsoring a five-day festival that features the riveting San Francisco performance artist Pamela Z, as well as performances and workshops.
Electrogals workshops—a "rock and roll camp for nerds"—will include a talk by PSU music professor Bonnie Miksch, Electrogal Christi Denton demonstrating music-making on iPads, and Natasha Kmeto explaining the loop-based software music-sequencer Ableton. In all-day installations, composers including Perkins will create music on stage with their computer screens projected so that viewers can see how the magic is made.
A baker's dozen of performers covers the spectrum from academic to more pop- and beat-oriented electronica sounds, low-fi to futuristic digital. Some will use gadgets such as Wii units and glove MIDI controllers, and many will be accompanied by video. Pamela Z, a pioneer in live digital looping, will combine performance art, extended vocal techniques, text and found noise, using controllers that allow her to translate physical gestures into provocative sounds. It's the group's most ambitious production yet.
"We've never had trouble finding amazing female composers and performers," Perkins says. "There's nothing inherently manly about a synthesizer."
SEE IT: Electrogals 2011 Festival: Gals Gone Wired will run Oct. 10-15 at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449, disjecta.org. Workshops will be held at 7 pm Oct. 10-13. Evening concerts are at 8 pm Friday-Saturday, Oct. 14-15. Workshops $5; concerts $15-$20.