What's New: 20 Years Of eighth blackbird

Aug 29, 2016

John and Nicholas at the eighth blackbird offices in Chicago
Credit Lacy Clare

eighth blackbird is a sextet based in Chicago, composed of flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello. The group derived its name from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird:

I know noble accents

And lucid, inescapable rhythms;

But I know, too,

That the blackbird is involved

In what I know.

2016 marks 20 years for the ensemble, and we’ll celebrate by talking with founding member, cellist Nicholas Photinos and hear some of their stellar recordings on What’s New!


eighth blackbird
Credit Saverio Truglia

Over the course of two decades, Eighth Blackbird has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by dozens of composers including Thomas Albert, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli, and Steve Reich, whose commissioned work, Double Sextet, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize (2009). A long-term relationship with Chicago’s Cedille Records has produced seven acclaimed recordings and four impressive GRAMMY Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance: for strange imaginary animals (2008), Lonely Motel: Music from Slide (2011), Meanwhile (2013), and Filament (2016).

Eighth Blackbird’s members (Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin & viola; Nicholas Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; Lisa Kaplan, piano) hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. Eighth Blackbird’s mission—to move music forward through innovative performance, advocacy for new music by living composers, and a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians —extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education. The ensemble served as Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival (2009), enjoyed a three-year residency at the Curtis Institute of Music, and holds ongoing Ensemble-in-Residence positions at the University of Richmond and the University of Chicago. The 2015-16 season featured a lively residency at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, with open rehearsals, an interactive gallery installation, performances, and public talks.

What’s New is a production of WBAA Classical, a listener supported broadcast service of Purdue University.

Wave the Sea - Brushy Fork from Eighth Blackbird on Vimeo.