Eighth Blackbird | Museum of Contemporary Art | Classical | Chicago Reader

Eighth Blackbird All Ages Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 24, 3 p.m. 2016

Last fall Chicago new-music institution Eighth Blackbird released the striking Filament (Cedille), a collection of material that stylistically fans out from the 1968 Philip Glass minimalist masterpiece Two Pages. That piece was recorded live during a 2013 performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art (where the ensemble is currently artist in residence), as Bryce Dessner of the National joined in on guitar along with Nico Muhly, who played organ. Together they nailed the giddy 16-minute piece of rapidly spinning, repetitive figures, sonically simulating the wagon-wheel effect in the process. Though Muhly’s “Doublespeak” was composed for the group as an homage to Glass—the album’s only other explicit connection to the composer aside from Two Pages—there’s no missing his influence on two short pieces by songwriter Son Lux and on Dessner’s Murder Ballads. The latter is a seven-movement invention that recasts the stark melodies and harsh themes of American old-time music into something contemporary and driving. And Eighth Blackbird’s dedication to commissioning and performing new work continues this weekend. We get a preview of their album due out this spring when they perform a program of new pieces called “Hand Eye,” written by the six members of composer collective Sleeping Giant (Timo Andres, Ted Hearne, Andrew Norman, Jacob Cooper, Christopher Cerrone, Robert Honstein). I heard a few of the works on a recent WFMT broadcast—each features a particular ensemble instrument—and they explore terrain more turbulent than Filament’s, heavy in extended technique and dramatic ambiguity.

Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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