Grammy-winning eighth blackbird promises - and delivers - provocative and engaging performances to its burgeoning audiences. Combining bracing virtuosity with an alluring sense of irreverence, the sextet debunks the myth that contemporary music is only for a cerebral few. The ensemble attracts fans of all ages to its performances and recordings, which sparkle with wit and pound with physical energy; it inhabits and explores the sound-world of new music with comfort, conviction, and infectious enthusiasm. eighth blackbird is widely lauded for its performing style - often playing from memory with theatrical flair - and for making new music accessible to wide audiences. The New York Times raved: "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." Profiled in the New York Times and NPR's All Things Considered, the sextet has also been featured on Bloomberg TV's Muse, CBS News Sunday Morning, St. Paul Sunday, Weekend America, and The Next Big Thing, among others. The group is in residence at the University of Richmond in Virginia and the University of Chicago.
In recent seasons, eighth blackbird launched its program "The Only Moving Thing," comprising new commissions by Steve Reich and by David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe. The group made its Zankel Hall debut and also performed for the first time at The Kitchen in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Houston Friends of Music, and Pittsburgh's Chamber Music Society. It also inaugurated its own hometown series - now in its third season - at the prestigious Harris Theater at Millennium Park. The group toured Osvaldo Golijov's song-cycle Ayre with soprano Dawn Upshaw and performed a fully memorized and staged cabaret-opera version of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire.
The sextet has appeared in Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, and South Korea; at nearly every major chamber music venue in North America, with performances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum.
Since its founding in 1996, eighth blackbird has actively commissioned and recorded new works from such eminent composers as Steve Reich, George Perle, Frederic Rzewski, and Joseph Schwantner, and has commissioned groundbreaking works from a younger generation (Jennifer Higdon, Stephen Hartke, Derek Bermel, David Schober, Daniel Kellogg, and Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez). The group was honored in 2007 with the American Music Center's Trailblazer Award and a Meet The Composer Award. eighth blackbird received the first BMI/Boudleaux-Bryant Fund Commission, was the first contemporary music group to win the Grand Prize at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, won the 2000 Naumburg Chamber Music Award and the 2004 NEA/CMA Special Commissioning Award, and has received grants from BMI, Meet The Composer, the Greenwall Foundation, and Chamber Music America, among many others.
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.