Magic Names is a six-member self-led vocal ensemble, founded in 2007 to champion Stimmung, the rarely performed vocal masterpiece of Karlheinz Stockhausen (written in 1968). The group’s premiere concert after an intensive 18-month rehearsal period was in May 2009 at the New Museum in New York City. We are an eclectic group of New York performing artists. We come together as composers, classical singers, pop singers, dancers, sound-artists, and film-makers. We are all avid improvisers – united by a shared passion for contemporary repertoire, and new experimentation. Current and sometime members of the group have included Gisburg, Nick Hallett, Dafna Naphtali, Robert Osborne, Daisy Press, Peter Sciscioli and Margot Basset.
Stimmung is a formidable 70-minute work for six singers, and a subtle sine-wave drone B-flat 9th chord. The score calls for nearly constant singing of quickly fluctuating phonemes in polyrhythmic overlapping patterns, creating a Western-influenced overtone singing style. Aleatoric sections of the piece pit one singer against another’s rhythmic disruptions and pitch deviations, creating beat frequencies, and other sound events that are reminiscent of the composer’s work for tape and electronics. The atmosphere is interrupted intermittently by lusty singsong texts, and by “magic names” of ancient gods and goddesses. Poetic levity is incorporated into otherworldly intonation.
We are an eclectic group of New York City performing artists. We come together as composers, classical singers, pop singers, dancers, sound-artists, and film-makers. We are all avid improvisers – united by a shared passion for contemporary repertoire, and new experimentation.
Stimmung was only the starting point for Magic Names. In recent seasons we have incorporated original works written by members of the group. Including “Fassbinder Songs”, written by Gisburg for the Vital Vox Festival 2010, and “Panda Half-Life” by Dafna Naphtali, commissioned by American Composers Forum Jerome Commissioning Program.
As well, we have a strong collaborative relationship with choreographer Daria Fain, an acclaimed New York choreographer who who invited the group to participate with her in her piece “Working with Stockhausen’s Stimmung” commissioned and presented by Danspace Project in New York City as part of PLATFORM 2010, with other performances in the past few years as Judson Church and 92nd street Y.