Magic Names vocal sextet

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.

Working With Stockhausen’s Stimmung (1968) Filmed by Iki Nakagawa from daria fain on Vimeo.

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.



What is it Like to be a Bat ?

batPerformer/composers Kitty Brazelton and Dafna Naphtali collaborate on a montage of extremes: textures hard/soft, noises white/red, harmony rooted/disembodied, silence.  Both women sing with startling multi-octave ranges*. Both women play electric guitar / bass. Both women compose hard-core computer music. All this is woven, spliced, patched, threaded, then drummed together by BAT’s third member: Danny Tunick.  Their eponymous CD was released 2003 on Tzadik label.   The band active 1996-2006, on hiatus, but with a new  track “Stabat Mom” still unreleased.  visit What is it Like to be a Bat ? orginal website.    Tzadik CD info here.

!! new!! video from one of their first performances, at the Kitchen in 1999.

full press release..

*Both women sing with startling multi-octave ranges: Brazelton honed her edge as vocalist in rock bands since 1969, and in the 90’s with her large ensemble DadaDah (Village Voice: “Wild-woman vocalist . . . with a wailing intensity in all her genres” ) .  Naphtali vocalizing for years in improv bands as well as classical recitals and new music ensembles.

Both women play electric guitar: Naphtali has toted hers from coast-to-coast, purveying jazz, folk, disco, whatever the gig required , while Brazelton makes unheard-of sounds on a bass guitar, with punk pick, Soviet-made fuzz box, never having played a bass before (though she’s written concertos for the instrument).

Both women compose hard-core computer music: Naphtali (consultant-teacher at Artist in Residence programs at Harvestworks and Engine 27 and former Chief Engineer of NYU’s Music Technology program) conducts live interactive radical ambience processing using her custom Max/MSP programs, while Brazelton ( D.M.A. Columbia University, 1994; now composer/professor, Bennington College) created digital sound tracks and samples from natural sound sources and field recordings using old time software re-synthesis at Columbia’s Computer Music lab or written-from-scratch, CSound code at home on her desktop, unwilling to settle for current off-the-rack plug-in sound.

All this is woven, spliced, patched, threaded, then drummed together by BAT’s third member: Danny Tunick, percussionist extra-ordinaire, whose credits span alterna-rock and contemporary classical realms.   He’s a recorded contributor to bands Barbez, Guv’ner, Camp and Mad Scene as well as the Princeton Composer’s Ensemble, Common Sense Composer’s Ensemble and the Bang on a Can Festival’s Spit Orchestra.

While Naphtali, Brazelton and Tunick alchemize in plain view, for their 2003 CD, sound artist Paul Geluso finalized this strange brew from the mixing board.

Brazelton and Naphtali are currently mixing their newest work StaBAT Mom, which documents their lives as women in a punk digital montage true to what they have done with the Bat? trio since 1997.   This latest chapter is about what it’s like to be a working mom, and incorporates that famous statement on the all-enduring mom — Pergolesi’s 1736 Stabat Mater — singing his gorgeous soprano-alto duet with the achingly poignant major-2nd suspensions,  which they put through a computer as an isorhythmic/morse code cantus firmus, so they could play some math-rock over it. Into that they peppered Naphtali’s outrageous song fragments about losing one’s sense of reality with two active young daughters, weave in Brazelton’s 1992 lullaby written when her daughter was 3 mos. old with colic. In addition to computers and singing, Brazelton plays electric bass and keyboard and Naphtali plays electric guitar, sings, does live sound processing (and of course with Danny Tunick on drums, glockenspiel, custom music boxes, toys).

What is noise to the old order is harmony to the new…”—Jacques Attali “Please ask me if you like it.”—Gertrude Stein


CD Chatter Blip

Dafna Naphtali – sound processing, electronics & voice
Chuck Bettis – electronics & voice

Buy CD here, or buy at iTunes

Recorded March 2009

1 – council 64 (7:17)
2 – gab jiba (6:33)
3 – hybrid chatter (1:54)
4 – renegade (9:45)
5 – fade flatlands (12:26)
6 – breach (8:05)
7 – blip wiki (6:20)
Total Time: 63:20

CHATTER BLIP is a duo performance piece by Chuck Bettis (electronics/voice and Dafna Naphtail (electronics/processing/voice) — an interstellar multi-character audio operetta involving a multitude of human, alien, and machine voices, in a mash-up of primal and classic sci-fi and electro-acoustics.

Dafna Naphtali + Chuck Bettis: Chatter Blip by hansteg

Track 1:
a petition from a lowly human causes much debate among the Devices (the hybrid electronic beings from planet_64).   The living oracle predicts that all humans must return to earth in order to survive and will soon start an uprising.   The greek chorus are hybrid children — interrupting the proceedings, invading, and playing some ancient earth music they have discovered.

Track 2:
gab jiba
the Supreme Device agitatedly debates with itself about whether or not it can allow the human petitioner to return to her planet.  It fondly recalls the quaint human traditions, and their influence on the culture of planet_64, and especially a favorite– the ritual office dance.    to calm himself he gives orders for some of the humans to be brought in to amuse him.   Meanwhile, unseen, the petitioner surreptitiously slips into an idle transporter.  She starts desperately hitting random buttons, and is suddenly successful and serendipitously and instantly transported elsewhere in the galaxy.

Track 3:
hybrid chatter
the petitioner, now far from planet_64 discovers that her transporter is also itself a hybrid being (although it is not as intelligent as a Device).   To save herself, she befriends it, impersonating a Device. remaining quiet about her identity, she is able to keep the transporter unaware that she is actually a runaway human.

Track 4:
back on planet_64, at a renegade human settlement, humans toil side by side and live in harmony with lower caste machines and decommissioned (former) Devices.     The tribal leader calls the humans together and declares that the time has come for the great uprising and for humans return to their home planet as had long been foretold.   Energized, the humans immediately set to the task of completing the work of many generations, secretly building a transporter of materials that humans have grown and mined themselves (and using designs stolen from the Devices).

Track 5:
the humans  finally lift off in their homemade transporter, to scour the galaxy and find the petitioner in her stolen craft.    But their navigation system is very primitive.   They can only navigate by using their feelings and intuition to communicate with the instruments and locate the petitioner.    As they built the ship themselves, their transporter is not a hybrid, nor a device.  It is powered with the help of mysterious flat beings who also were long ago enslaved by the hybrids and so are in alliance with and loyal to all humans.

Track 6
on planet_64 the council discovers the breach. They angrily realize that the petitioner has made off with a vehicle, and worse, that a renegade group of humans has followed her in rebellion.

Track 7
blip wiki
the renegades’ transporter has located the petitioner and her ship. The two transporters begin to communicate and discover an affinity for each other —  they begin to move closer and attracted to each other both physically and emotionally.   The petitioner, lonely and hopeful, knows that very soon she will be with her people again and finally on her way back to earth.   She sings an ancient song she remembers from a previous life.  She does not know what awaits her.

cd reviews..
François Couture / Monsieur Délire
There are lyrics buried in the effects (and included in the booklet), sci-fi metaphores that give the music a futuristic aura it wears well. These are not songs but edgy improvisations with in a rough though stimulating style.

Massimo Ricci / TemporaryFault
Certain solutions are quite humorous – occasionally awesome – in their warped glory, completely unrecognizable voices utilized as instruments for the generation of baffling soundscapes abounding in rhythmic diversifications, clustery indeterminations and instant outgrowths dressed with timbres from the depth of a black hole.

Andrea Ferrari / Chain DLK
..strange analog-electronic, bleeps, angel vocals, lyrical intersections, outer space yodels .. creates this strange “life after death” experience.