Eighth Blackbird does less and more

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Eighth Blackbird
  • Eighth Blackbird
This week Eighth Blackbird presents two exciting concerts at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Last year they played programs called Powerful and Powerless, the first focusing on pieces with political content and the second consisting of works without clear meaning or external reference, and this week's concerts take a similarly binary approach within the context of the museum's current exhibition The Language of Less (Then and Now), which addresses various iterations of minimalism. Thursday's concert, the Music of Less, features minimalist works, and Saturday's program, the Music of More, presents music crammed with ideas.

One of the most admirable things about Eighth Blackbird is the generous attention it pays to music written by active composers, especially younger ones, and these concerts are no exception. Thursday's program includes works by Caleb Burhans, Timo Andres (you can listen to his piece Crashing Through Fences here), David Lang, and Jacob TV, but I'm most excited by the older compositions on the program—including Music in a Similar Motion (1969), an early piece by Philip Glass; Alvin Lucier's Fidelio Trio (1987), which engages in glorious trompe l'oreille, with viola and cello playing against piano to create psychoacoustic effects; and Durations I-V (1960), a classic by Morton Feldman, scored for six musicians who start together but then proceed at different paces of their own choosing, delivering the notes with soft, clear articulation.

Saturday's program contains even more new work, including compositions by Fabian Svensson, Amy Kirsten (you can check out a recording of her solo flute piece Pirouette on a Moon Sliver here), Kurt Rohde, Bruno Mantovani, and Andy Akiho. The, uh, old school is represented by arrangements of two of Gyorgy Ligeti's brilliant Etudes— Etude No. 4 ("Fanfares") and Etude No. 6 ("Autumn in Warsaw")—for sextet. The MCA has added a great late-night program on Saturday, for which Eighth Blackbird will be joined by dozens of musicians drawn from local ensembles—including the Anubis Quartet, the Fifth House Ensemble, Fulcrum Point, and Ensemble Dal Niente—for a 50-player performance of Terry Riley's wild classic In C (1964).

photo: Luke Ratray

Today's playlist:

Magic Pocket & Morten Qvenild, The Katabatic Wind (Bolage)
Oren Ambarchi, Triste (Southern Lord)
Bob Brookmeyer, The Modernity of Bob Brookmeyer: The 1954 Quartets (Fresh Sound)
Wolfgang Rihm, Music for Three Strings (CPO)
Toshio Hosokawa, Landscapes (ECM)

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