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They're budget-challenged, so their public performances are sporadic. They abide in the easily overlooked niche of college a cappella. And their style defies a succinct description.

But the Harmonics, part of Stanford for almost two decades, are about as musically big as a small set of student voices could be. The group's penchant for creative risk has been galvanized by departing music director Charlie Forkish, '11, who over the last three years has driven the Harmonics into such technologically edgy territory that they've gotten national attention. The result is a cappella that's electrified and, depending on your taste, electrifying.

The goal, says Forkish, is to deliver "a vocal rock show" in "the way that is the most fun and most entertaining." Part of what that means is miking each singer during live shows, allowing Forkish to effectively intertwine computer and other electronic effects from offstage. Of course, if someone is using software to imitate a guitar, or to add reverb and distortion, the standard definition of a cappella—voices without instrumental accompaniment—pretty much goes out the window. "We'll let the critics decide what to call it," says Forkish, a music, science and technology major.

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