Grammy award-winning eighth blackbird performs world premiere of Slide at Ojai Music Festival, June 12

Chicago-based sextet eighth blackbird plays a great deal of new music, but the double assignment to curate California’s Ojai Music Festival in June and perform a major world premiere as the festival’s highpoint and culmination is something new and different. Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert’s eagerly-awaited Slide will debut at Ojai on June 12.

Slide is music-theater of a kind that eighth blackbird is well-equipped to perform: the group is famous for playing most of its scores from memory, often moving about the stage freely or in choreographed steps. In Slide, according to librettist Rinde Eckert, the six players will combine to represent a single character – that of a psychologist conducting a strange and strangely stimulating experiment. Eckert and Mackey based Slide on Eckert’s recollection of reading about an experiment in which a psychologist showed subjects out-of-focus slides, and asked them to describe what they saw. Through stages of the experiment, when challenged by a shill and by the psychologist, the subjects were brought to doubt their own experiences but continued to cling to their impressions.

In the Ojai program, composer Steve Mackey describes his first impression of eighth blackbird and his immediate desire to write for the group. He and Rinde Eckert – who has worked with Mackey as writer/librettist/actor on previous occasions – converse eloquently about their new collaborators and their work together, in footage made by eighth blackbird and available on its blog, Thirteen Ways.

Mackey describes the typical eighth blackbird performance of new music as comfortable and unafraid: “There’s no furrowed-brow attitude to the new – [the members of eighth blackbird] are unfettered by music! They are going to present an interesting and exciting array of images and music in Rinde’s psychology experiment.”

Among other things, the video, which includes rehearsal footage as well as a two-part interview with Slide’s creators, is an illustrative introduction to a one-of-a-kind work. More about the work and its creation can be gleaned from KUSC radio’s member-newsletter and from Santa Barbara’s newspaper, the Daily Sound. eighth blackbird’s flutist, Tim Munro, wrote an Ojai introduction for KUSC, describing the invitation to curate Ojai this year as “shockingly, overwhelmingly, nerve-rattlingly unexpected” and having a “kids-in-a-candy-store ... woo-hoo!” effect on the six of them.

“What’s up for the Fest’s 63rd year? Exciting things. New music ensemble eighth blackbird is ‘music director’. Can a string of six Grammy-Award winning musicians agree on a program? Apparently so, and it looks like a great one this year.

“There will be Ives again this year: Piano Sonata 1 performed by pianist Jeremy Denk, along with Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Featured composer Steve Reich’s work Double Sextet, which just won a Pulitzer Prize, will be part of the four-hour ‘Marathon Finale’ in three acts... . There are all sorts of neat rehearsals and interviews you can check out ... via www.ojaimusicfestival.com.”
- Leslie Westbrook, Daily Sound

In this, the 63rd season of new music at Ojai, in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of Southern California , audiences are in for a four-day treat at what KUSC titles eighth blackbird’s “Wild Musical Party.”

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