KB inclined home, james waxing moon

New York City music-maker Kitty Brazelton loves to do everything: sing, play in bands, improvise, compose operas, symphonies, music for chamber, church and choir, teach, write, translate ancient texts, think in four languages, study, watch, listen, and learn as much as she can about the world around her. Music is her passion since eighteen when she joined the campus acid rock band, discovered medieval plainchant, radical free jazz improvisation and the ascetic serialism of the mid-20th-c. classical “uptown” all at once.

“Brazelton is a totalist composer, part of a generation that believes that there’s more than one way to compose and that all musical genres are available for use, from high modernism to downtown funk. She isn’t interested in cheap irony or vain attempts at hipness, though; she’s stylistically inclusive because she simply wants to make interesting and original sounds.” —Danny Felsenfeld, Time Out New York

moon curl
Kitty Brazelton as flounder
  • Twin Cities choir VocalEssence and director Philip Brunelle commission and premiere Brazelton's O Joy!, “a commercial yet very meaningful setting of Psalm 77” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) at their 40th birthday celebration hosted by Garrison Keillor, Orchestra Hall, September 2008. The concert is broadcast later on National Public Radio.
    • O Joy! receives New York City and Vermont premieres from New Amsterdam Singers led by Clara Longstreth and Bennington College Vocal Chamber Ensemble led by Tom Bogdan.
    • O Joy! is published by Boosey & Hawkes in their “Sing A New Song” series.
  • Innova Recordings releases Brazelton's ecclesiastes: a modern oratorio for male vocal quartet, cello, extended drum kit, concert bass drum, hammered dulcimer, bells, “found” soundtracks & drones, with funding from the New York State Music Fund. Brazelton also sings. Texts are from the Book of Ecclesiastes, re-translated from the Hebrew and Latin by Brazelton.
    • Brazelton publishes blog with all her thoughts and research on the Book of Ecclesiastes:
      reading ecclesiastes through the kaleidoscope of time & belief
    • John Schaefer broadcasts then podcasts much of ecclesiastes: a modern oratorio on New Sounds: Modern Oratorios & Sacred Texts and the album is deemed eligible for Grammy nomination.
  • While on sabbatical from her post at Bennington College, Brazelton returns to school at the City College of New York to study post-doctorally with composer David Del Tredici setting a cycle of orchestral songs from civil-war-era poetry and letters by abolitionist and slave-owning ancestors.
  • (Kitty is interested in writing and teaching how America's musical history can reflect and heal our past, and perhaps our present. To that end, she attends the Center for Black Music Research Conference 2008 in Chicago.)
  • After some years off stage, writing operas, building houses, scolding teenage daughters, teaching (and learning from) college students—all with ferocity and fervor—Kitty returns to singing with her great friend and guitarist Hui Cox in a project called "Redemption." Just voice, just guitar, and some basic bass. That's all. Songs of the soul.
Redemption project at Spectrum

click here for downloadable 1-page bio
downloadable 1-page bio

  (or long story short)click here for the story short!
Kitty in Musica Orbis

Dancer, sculptor, illustrator, teen poet, rock plunges twenty-something Kitty into the punk underground of CBGBs, then on to four national tours, Billboard remarking on her “natural stage presence”, New York Times “the richness of her soprano” and The New Yorker mentioning her semi-classical-fused-with-folk band Musica Orbis in the same paragraph as other “local, primitive rock bands, with names like…Talking Heads…”

New Yorker listing for CBGB's in 1976

[Musica Orbis was actually neither local nor primitive. Based in an 18th-c. farmhouse outside of Philadelphia, this quintet of trained musicians—Brazelton, flute, voice; Caille Colburn, harp; Tom Stephenson, cello, David Clark, bass, Stephenson and Clark on a wide range of mallet and stick percussion and Susan Gelletly/Bob Loiselle on multiple keyboards—aspired to connect their experiences in experimental classical, jazz, acid rock with pop songwriting and dance rhythms. To that end, rehearsing 6 days a week in their communal fieldstone home, they studied, transcribed and interpreted pop music of the ’70s as fiercely as the classical masters they'd studied as Swarthmore College music majors. Musica Orbis (meaning “music of the spheres,” an ancient metaphysical concept that celestial bodies moved in inaudible “rhythm” and “harmony” with each other guiding our lives) remained unique and underground until they broke up in 1979.]

Evolving into a “dynamo on stage” (New York Times), thirty-something Brazelton leaves the gentle avant-garde behind and goes metal, fronting and songwriting for rock bands V and Hide the Babies. Together she and songwriting partner Joey Scarperia, heavy metal bassist of the NJ band Toyz, pursue the American rock dream, trying to get “signed”, building a following in nightclubs in Philadelphia and New York, making videos but the response is peripatetic. Sometimes wildly positive—contracts with a major talent agency and well-known producer, managers, physical trainers, and a song called I’m not a Virgin mysteriously lost to Madonna.

the horns of Dadadah
Kitty with Hide the Babies
cello and bass

Spiritually, emotionally and mentally spent, Brazelton begins to attend grad school writing serialist chamber music by day, playing at CBGBs by night. Mentor Jack Beeson challenges her to resolve this double life.

Seeking deeper and truer harmony of expression, Kitty returns to the totalism of her youth, sharpening its edge with twenty years of stage experience. Now forty-something and a new mother, she founds Dadadah, a nine-piece comprov rockestra with jazz horns and classical harp & cello, whose 1999 CD Love Not Love Lust Not Lust is called “brilliant” (New York Times) and “impressive” (Rolling Stone).

Playing in New York City rooms (with forays to Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison WI) for over 10 years on the fringes of the jazz/improviser scenes, Dadadah included many local greats:

  • Danny Weiss/Phillip Johnston/Michael Attias on alto sax
  • Tom Varner/Tracy Turner/Lydia Van Dreel/Dan Grabois/Mark Taylor on French horn
  • Chris Washburne/Ben Herrington on trombone
  • Elizabeth Panzer/Park Stickney on harp with sit-ins by Kathy Supové on keys when harps were scarce
  • Chris Tso/Hui Cox/Knox Chandler/Roger Kleier on electric guitar
  • Mary Wooten/Matt Turner/Martha Colby on cello
  • Eunice Holland/Ed Broms/Roland S. Wilson/Keith Lambeth/Jeff Song/Chris Wood/Mat Fieldes on electric bass
  • Jim Pugliese/Ed Ware/Owen Howard/Kevin Norton/Dane Richeson/Todd Turkisher/David Rozenblatt on drums.

Below is a shot of Dadadah playing the Knitting Factory's Texaco Jazz Festival in front of the World Trad Center Towers before they fell.

Kitty gets her masters and doctorate in composition at Columbia in '91 and '94.

During this decade—the ’90s—Brazelton explodes with performance activity, curating the seminal totalist Real Music Series on Sundays at CBGBs for “composers, musicmakers, wordsmiths & mavericks” juxtaposing these performers in brief cameos on three stages surrounded by inflatable sculpture. In a similar spirit of rich contrast, she curates the Women’s Avant Fest in Chicago in 1997.


Todd Reynolds, Sandra Sprecher and Danny Tunick at CB's, 1993.
Photo by sculptor John Toth.

real music series

She founds American chamber sextet Bog Life in 1991. Bog Life tours libraries in Cape Cod with Brazelton, mezzo-soprano, John Uehlein, baritone, Libby Van Cleve, oboe, Elizabeth Panzer, harp, Chris Nappi, percussion and Jay Elfenbein/Ed Broms bass, performing works by Ruth Crawford Seeger, Duke Ellington, Timothy Swan, William Billings as well as Brazelton, Uehlein and Elfenbein.

In 1995 Brazelton co-founds cyber-punk What Is It Like to Be a Bat? with composer/singer/MAX improviser Dafna Naphtal. Bat?’s 2003 CD on John Zorn’s Tzadik draws comments such as “brilliant and dangerous” (All Music Guide) and “pending Armageddon” (Boston Herald). Over two decades, Dafna and Kitty continue to document their lives as women artists, lovers, wives and mothers in massive semi-improvised semi-scored techno-montage epics with 3rd Bat? member, percussionist/conductor Danny Tunick.

bat poster

In 1996 she collaborates with three other downtown women composers to become the Hildegurls who reinterpret medieval abbess-composer Hildegard von Bingen at Lincoln Center Festival ’98.

Hildegurls' Electric Ordo Virtutum, Act I
L-R: Kitty Brazelton, Lisa Bielawa (foreground), Eve Beglarian, Elaine Kaplinsky
Photo by Stephanie Berger, 1998.

Still, Kitty continues to see herself as working within the classical tradition, infusing American dialects into deep, complex and passionate structures. She composes Sleeping Out of Doors, a semi-concerto for piano and orchestra premiered by Kristjan Järvi and Absolute Ensemble at Merkin Hall in 1998.

American Opera Projects commissions 4th-of-July Fireworks in 1999, words by Billy Aronson (Rent, Comedy Channel), music by Kitty Brazelton, which premieres in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park in 2002 outdoors beneath a Civil War monument with a small multi-genre orchestra.


Kitty's setting of George Plimpton's posthumous libretto Animal Tales, commissioned by the Family Opera Initiative and director Grethe Barrett Holby in 2004 with development partners Atlantic Center for the Arts, Montclair State University and the Jaffe Family Foundation, premieres in November 2008 concert readings in New York City to rave response.

CAT! the Opera Musical, spin-off from Animal Tales,, premieres at the Central Park Zoo, directed by Grethe Barrett Holby.

Kitty Brazelton at the 2008 performance of Animal Tales
photo by Arthur Elgort, 2008

A Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition (Columbia University ’94), her chamber music is heard in innovative works for Manhattan Brass Quintet and California EAR Unit on her 2002 release Chamber Music for the Inner Ear (CRI Emergency/New World, with support from the Copland Recording Fund) to which Gramophone UK responded:

“Few composers are as uninhibited in saying exactly what they want to say…a trip you’re not likely to forget.”

Through it all, Kitty maintains a commitment to serve the cause of universal harmony by uniting musical languages.


Kitty Brazelton is a professor at Bennington College in Vermont and lives in New York City’s East Village while her daughter is at college in Arkansas.