A new program airs Sunday nights on WBAA Classical: What's New. Host John Clare features new music, new releases, and interesting guests. Hear a special preview of this week's What's New, and let us know what you think.
This week we'll celebrate 20 years of new music with Eighth Blackbird! Nicholas Photinos sat down with host John Clare in the Chicago offices and studio of Eighth Blackbird.
Eighth Blackbird is “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune). Launched in 1996 as a twinkle in the eyes of six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory undergraduates, this Chicago-based super-group has earned its status as “a brand-name…defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality….known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers and even puppetry artists” (Detroit Free Press).
Eighth Blackbird kicked off its 20th anniversary in 2016, quickly garnering a fourth GRAMMY Award as well as the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Anniversary celebrations continue throughout the 2016-17 season.
Over the course of two decades, Eighth Blackbird has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by dozens of composers including David T. Little, 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 (most recently, Hand Eye) and four impressive GRAMMY Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance: for strange imaginary animals (2008), Lonely Motel: Music from Slide (2011), Meanwhile (2012), and Filament (2015).
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. The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, aphoristic poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (1917).