In winter 96, Kitty Brazelton was invited by composers Maura Bosch and Jeffery Brooks to bring a small ensemble to Minneapolis to participate in a festival focusing on women composer/performer/bandleaders whose work addresses the issue of crossover between high-art and popular idioms.
In February 1997 Brazelton approached composer/performer Dafna Naphtali, and classical percussionist/punk drummer Danny Tunick to form digital-chamber-punk trio WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? . In May 97, after a long spring of rehearsal and compositional construction in which co-composers Brazelton and Naphtali negotiated the complicated logistics of interweaving brand new technology with live performance, the group debuted 30-minute opus she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?" at New York Universitys Music Technology Studio.
They performed she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?" again during the Womens Avant Fest 97 in Chicago and Minneapolis in October (see reviews).
In April 99, BAT? appeared live on WFMU-FM's "Stork Club" and was featured in Columbia University Computer Musics festival at the Kitchen: Interactive Arts 99. In February 2000 BAT performed and conducted workshops at Clark University (Worcester, MA).
As BAT? progressed, it became apparent that the ensemble was necessarily a quartet. The complex layering of live and computer-processed audio required the musical sensitivity and expertise of an experienced sound designer/musician at the mixing board. In addition, Brazelton and the group felt that this position should involve the same interactive performance as any other musical role. Sound sculptor/bassist/improviser/composer and electrical engineer Paul Geluso joined WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? in winter 2000.
In March 2000, Dafna Naphtali and Kitty Brazelton received a grant from Harvestworks/Studio PASS funded by the New York State Council for the Arts to compose a 30-minute 5 dreams; marriage (sequel to the 1997 she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?") for WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? to premiere at Sound Symposium 2000 in Newfoundland in July of that year.
BAT? premiered HarvestWorks/N.Y.S.C.A. commission 5 dreams; marriage at Sound Symposium 2000 in St. John's, Newfoundland. 5 dreams , a 25-minute juxtaposition of 5 arias based on Dafna's weeding vows with 5 answers by the longer-married Kitty was finished July 4 2000 (the night before BAT flew to Canada), and its intended pre-quel, the earlier 25-minute she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?" were performed together for the first time as an evening-length concert on July 12, 2000.
BAT? returned to New York City to present the New York premiere of the NYSCA/Harvestworks commission on July 18 2000, at the Cooper-Hewitt Museums Biennial Festival of International Design (see New Yorker announcement of that event).
In November 2000, after playing concerts at Clark University in Worcester, MA. and RPI's iEAR in Troy, NY, the quartet WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? went into the Tom Mark's Make Believe Ballroom, a recording studio in West Shokan, NY, near Woodstock, to lay tracks for a CD. They recorded the diptych she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?" and 5 dreams; marriage.
After transferring the initial multitracks into Pro Tools software in February 2001, Kitty, Dafna and Paul worked on conceptualized mixes of 5 dreams; marriage, whenever they could find the time (between teaching, Paul's getting married, Dafna's having her first child and Kitty's starting a commuting job at Bennington College in VT) to meet in Paul's small West Village studio apartment finally completing the single 25-minute mix in May 2002.
5 dreams; marriage needed to exist in its own imaginary audio world. Live, the juxtaposition throughout the piece between the past (pre-recorded) and the present posed the question: what occurs first? and why do you think of it as first? or for that matter what does it mean to be first? and so on. But that extra dimensionality risked being flattened out in a CD version of the piece where everything was necessarily pre-recorded. So the three pushed to find ways to make conceptual space through audio means.
In June 2002, the trio decided to change studio venues and moved to HarvestWorks, the original 5 dreams commissioner, to finish mixing Sermonette . While similar time-causality issues pertain in Sermonette , the balance between live and pre-recorded material is handled very differently. Sermonette didn't seem to require the careful conceptual tweaking. The recorded performance of in fall 2000 Sermonette was dynamic. Most of it was a through-take, as opposed to 5 dreams , which had to be recorded in sections and layers. But Sermonette 's "live"-ness was an audio issue and the separation between voice and drums was pretty bloody, so to speak. Exhausted, the three BAT members mixed Sermonette in one day. 4th member Danny Tunick, who had not been part of the long mixing epic, said Sermonette didn't seem to match 5 dreams .
Meanwhile, Kitty had shown the existing mixes to John Zorn in November 2002, who said the work was "brilliant"and "complex" and wanted to include it, after some remixing, on the Oracle series of his label Tzadik. John asked that the group take the mixes to his friend Jamie Saft to even out and maximize. An outside ear sounded like the perfect solution.
Saft really "heard" what Bat? was up to and did a wonderful remix at his studio Frank Booth. Tzadik treated the finished mix to a top-of-the-line mastering session with Scott Hull at the Hit Factory, under the watchful ear of Kazunori Sugiyama. Designer Chippy (Heung-Heung Chin) pulled 1997 live shots by Marc PoKempner and 2003 studio photos by Jill Peltzman into the Tzadik Oracles template. The CD released in June 2003. It is eponymously named "What is it like to be a bat?" and available on the Tzadik website as TZ7707 in the Oracles Series.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? recorded she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?"at New York Universitys Music Technology Studio in spring 1997 with the help of Greg Shakar.
Jeffery Brooks and Maura Bosch recorded the group live in concert at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis in October 1997.
These two recordings generated most of the demo material BAT? showed outsiders until recently. Both of the above can be heard in excerpt on the sonar page.
Columbia University Computer Musics Interactive Arts 99 made a video of the group which might still be seen on their website if you request it.
BAT? premiered HarvestWorks/N.Y.S.C.A. commission 5 dreams; marriage at Sound Symposium 2000 in St. John's, Newfoundland, along with its pre-quel, 1997 composition she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?". The entire July 12 concert was recorded to DAT.
she saidshe said, "Can you sing Sermonette with me?" and 5 dreams; marriage were recorded at Make Believe Ballroom in fall 2000.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? released its first CD "Brazelton/Naphtali: What is it like to be a bat?" on Tzadik/Oracles in June 2003.