Press Room

Composer Steven Mackey’s Slide to be premiered at Ojai

world premiere of Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert’s Slide, “a multi-media
extravaganza,” is the centerpiece of the 2009 Ojai Music Festival – the intense
four-day new-music jamboree curated this year by the new-music sextet eighth
blackbird.  Slide is a concert-length music-theater work,
the third collaboration between Mackey and Eckert, and their first with the
Chicago-based ensemble.  eighth
blackbird’s proficiency in performing
musico-theatrical works is already a thing of legend, and impressed Mackey from
his first encounter with the group.

saw and heard eighth blackbird perform his Indigenous Instruments in 2003.  “They did things that I had not heard
before… .  I was totally
convinced,” he said, as quoted by Frank J. Oteri in a program note for the
Festival.  In the same program
note, Oteri went on to describe Slide:

“[Slide] tells the true story
of an individual relentlessly committed to a mad pursuit… .  A psychologist named Renard conducts a
deceptive experiment, asking subjects to view and identify a series of
out-of-focus slides [while] a shill disagrees with what they say, making the
subjects defensive and uncertain of their awareness.”

and Eckert also collaborated on a program note for the Ojai premiere,
explaining that Slide was inspired by a telling psychology experiment they’d read
about, which all too clearly demonstrated a kind of human behavior familiar to
readers of history and today’s newspapers.

“First, show subjects out-of-focus
slides, snap them into focus, and note the time it takes the subject to adjust
his/her gaze and identify the object pictured.  Next, ask the subject to guess what this unreadable slide
might actually depict when in focus, and note the time of the delay in
recognition.  Finally, place a
confederate in the room, a shill pretending to be a second subject; repeat the
process, asking the subject to guess at the out-of-focus image.  Have the shill disagree, offering an
alternative guess.

“The results are as one might expect: the slight delay in
recognition in the first phase becomes exaggerated in the second and greatly
exaggerated in the third – when the subject feels called to defend his/her
guesses.  It is an experiment that
is a cogent illustration of our all too human nature.”

the skill of Mackey’s musical writing and execution, Eckert’s declamation and
acting, and eighth blackbird’s extraordinary and time-honored terpsichorean
musical execution, Slide will convey a remarkable story through music-theater, much
as Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire or a medieval passion play might be performed.

their collaborative history, Steven Mackey and Rinde Eckert have had great
success using unusual ensemble combinations.  Their 1998 work, Ravenshead – a monodrama for
tenor/actor and electro-acoustic band/ensemble, was named “Best New Opera of
1998” by USA Today.  It has been
performed nearly 100 times, and is available on the Min/Max label.  Working with Eckert and eighth
blackbird was a natural fit for Mackey and his music.  As he explains, “I’ve spent most of my life immersed in two
performance practices that evolved in the 20th century.  One is the mixed chamber ensemble, like
eighth blackbird (a.k.a. Pierrot Ensemble) and the other is the rock band.”

performing in the premiere of Slide, Mackey will also participate in Ojai’s “Marathon Finale” on June 14 at
4pm, playing guitar in a performance of his chamber work Heavy Light.  This special four-hour concert will feature all the artists
due to appear this summer, making a fitting close to the 2009 Ojai Music

performance of Slide will be the second world premiere of Mackey’s music this
season, after the incredibly well-received premiere of his new violin concerto,
Beautiful Passing, by violinist Leila Josefowicz and the BBC Philharmonic in
England in October 2008.  Reviewing the world premiere in
London’s Daily Telegraph, David Fanning described the work:

contends, asserts, floats, and flickers, but entirely on Mackey’s own stylistic
terms.  The piece is all the
stronger for the negativity it grapples with, and maybe that will prove to be
so of his work as a whole.  Some
starry composers have produced violin concertos in recent years – Adams and
Adès to name but two.  Given the
choice, Mackey’s is the one whose acquaintance I would most like to renew.”

Friday, June 12, 8pm

SLIDE: World Premiere

Ojai Music Festival (Libbey Bowl)

Tin Hat: selections, t.b.a.

Mackey/Eckert: Slide (semi-staged version)

eighth blackbird

Rinde Eckert, singer/actor

Steven Mackey, electric guitar

Tin Hat (contemporary ensemble)

#          #          #

Return to Press Room