eighth blackbird bring signature performance of Steve Reich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet

“With these blackbirds singing morning, noon, and in the dead of night, horizons could not but expand.” – Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times blog, “Culture Monster”

The fearless, Chicago-based, Grammy-winning sextet eighth blackbird brought its youthful exuberance, new-music pedigree, and singular chops to California’s annual, cutting-edge Ojai Music Festival. It was only the second time an ensemble had curated the famous festival, and, according to Josef Woodard in the Santa Barbara Independent, this year’s Ojai was “beautifully and creatively put together by the festival’s ‘music director,’ cherished new music ensemble eighth blackbird.” Woodard continued:

“The four-day extravaganza managed to be a compact history of what’s recent and where it came from. The festival began tranquilly on Thursday night, with the program ‘Music for a Summer Evening,’ featuring George Crumb’s piece of the same name. It all ended in a happy über-tutti heap at the end of Sunday evening’s feast-like five-hour marathon, with Louis Andriessen’s raucously brain-rattling Workers Union, the stage eventually filled with every musician brought into town for the weekend.”

A highlight of the festival was a performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet, which Steve Reich composed expressly for eighth blackbird last year. As the title suggests, the work requires twelve players and was given its world premiere by eighth blackbird, playing against a recording of itself on tape. For this Ojai performance, eighth blackbird invited six friends for a performance that evoked this response from new music web site Sequenza21: “Clearly, Double Sextet is something that must be added to our libraries.” We won’t have to wait much longer – in August, eighth blackbird heads into the studio to record Double Sextet for a forthcoming Nonesuch release.

eighth blackbird brought in many of its intrepid and talented friends for the festival, including pianist Jeremy Denk, composer/guitarist Steven Mackey, the ensembles Tin Hat and QNG Recorder Collective, sound sculptor Trimpin, dancers Elyssa Dole and Carla Kihlstedt, singer Lucy Shelton, and percussionists Greg Beyer, Nathan Davis, and Doug Perkins, to name but a few.

Highlights were many, but included the world premiere of Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert’s Slide, of which the Ventura County Star wrote:

“Ojai Music Festival’s Slide has both wit and complexity... . The symbiosis between genres and styles that pervades this year’s densely programmed festival for a multitasking generation is the essence of Slide. ... A back story explained in detail in the program was almost required reading for anyone attempting to grasp the total concept, but even without that, it was possible for those with open eyes and ears to relish the wit and complexity of the work.”

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