Described by The New Yorker as “friendly, unpretentious, idealistic and highly skilled,” eighth blackbird promises its ever-increasing audiences provocative and engaging performances. It is widely lauded for its performing style – often playing from memory with virtuosic and theatrical flair – and its efforts to make new music accessible to wide audiences. A New York Times reviewerraved, “eighth blackbird’s performances are the picture of polish and precision, and they seem to be thoroughly engaged…by music in a broad range of contemporary styles.” The sextet has been the subject of profiles in the New York Times and on NPR’s All Things Considered; it has also been featured on Bloomberg TV’s Muse, CBS’s Sunday Morning, St. Paul Sunday, Weekend America and The Next Big Thing, among others. The ensemble is in residence at the University of Richmond in Virginia and at the University of Chicago.
The centerpiece of eighth blackbird's 2007-2008 season is its kinetic program “The Only Moving Thing”, featuring new commissions by Steve Reich, and maverick composers David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe. The group is also premiering Mirrors, a ground-breaking new multimedia work by composer Tamar Muskal and interactive digital artist Danny Rozin, as well as a new work by Stephen Hartke as part of the group’s “Sound Mirror” program. This season, eighth blackbird makes their debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, returns to the Kennedy Center, and is in residence at DePauw University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. eighth blackbird also inaugurates its hometown series at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park.
In previous seasons the sextet has appeared in South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Amsterdam, and throughout North America, including performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the La Jolla Chamber Music Society, and has performed as soloist with the Utah Symphony and the American Composers Orchestra. During the summer the group has appeared several times at Cincinnati’s Music X, the Great Lakes Music Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. They have also appeared at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, and in 2006 made their debut at the Ojai Music Festival, where the group was named Music Director for the 2009 season.
Since its founding in 1996, eighth blackbird has been active in commissioning new works from eminent composers such as George Perle, Frederic Rzewski, Joseph Schwantner, Paul Moravec, and Stephen Hartke, as well as ground-breaking works from Jennifer Higdon, Derek Bermel, David Schober, Daniel Kellogg, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and the Minimum Security Composers Collective. The group received the first BMI/Boudleaux-Bryant Fund Commission and the 2007 American Music Center Trailblazer Award and has received grants from BMI, Meet the Composer, the Greenwall Foundation, and Chamber Music America, among others.
The ensemble is enjoying acclaim for its four CDs released to date on Cedille Records. The first, thirteen ways, was selected as a Top 10 CD of 2003 by Billboard magazine. beginnings, their second disc, was summed up by the New York Times: “The performances have all the sparkle, energy and precision of the earlier outings…It is their superb musicality and interpretive vigor that bring these pieces to life.” About fred, featuring the music of Frederic Rzewski, the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “The music covers all kinds of moods and approaches, from dreamy surrealism to caffeinated unison melodies, and the members of eighth blackbird deliver it all with their trademark panache.” Their fourth CD, titled strange imaginary animals, was released in November 2006. In 2006 the group debuted on the Naxos label in a performance of The Time Gallery, commissioned by eighth blackbird from 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec.
The members of eighth blackbird hold degrees in music performance from Oberlin Conservatory, among other institutions. The group derives its name from the Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The eighth stanza reads:
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know