Eighth Blackbird

Eighth Blackbird combines the finesse of a string quartet, the energy of a rock band, and the audacity of a storefront theater company. The Chicago-based, four-time Grammy award-winning sextet celebrates its twentieth anniversary in 2016.

A winner of the 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, Eighth Blackbird was formed in 1996 by six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory students. In the ensuing 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 in 2009. A long-term relationship with Chicago’s Cedille Records has produced seven recordings, including four 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). Filament centers around a live recording of Philip Glass's early work Two Pages, and includes world premiere recordings of works by Bryce Dessner (Murder Ballades), Nico Muhly (Doublespeak), and two remixes by Son Lux, featuring Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond).  

The centerpiece of Eighth Blackbird’s 2015-16 touring season was the concert-length production Hand Eye which pairs Eighth Blackbird with Sleeping Giant—a composer sextet (Timo Andres, Andrew Norman, Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Ted Hearne, Robert Honstein) who each contributed one movement to the piece. A recording of Hand Eye was released in April on Cedille Records.

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 residency at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Eighth Blackbird’s members (Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin and 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). For more information, visit eighthblackbird.org.

Nathalie Joachim is a Burkart flutes and piccolos artist; Michael J. Maccaferri is a D'Addario woodwinds artist; Matthew Duvall proudly endorses Pearl drums and Adams musical instruments, Vic Firth sticks and mallets, Zildjian cymbals, and Black Swamp percussion accessories; Lisa Kaplan is a Steinway Artist.

(September 2016)