Press Room

eighth blackbird curates 2009 Ojai Music Festival

The Ojai
Music Festival’s 2009 music director, eighth blackbird, collaborating with OMF’s artistic
director, Thomas W. Morris, has announced the final programs for this year’s
Festival, which takes place between Thursday, June 11 and Sunday, June 14 in
Ojai, about 40 miles east of Santa Barbara, and 75 miles northwest of Los

Founded in
1947, the Ojai Music Festival boasts a dazzling history of artistic
leadership.  eighth blackbird joins
a list of music directors that includes Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Pierre
Boulez, Lukas Foss, John Adams, and Oliver Knussen, but only one other ensemble
in over 60 years – the Emerson String Quartet; eighth blackbird’s curatorship
is almost unprecedented because conductors and pianists usually occupy the top

This season,
the four-day Ojai Music Festival – famous since its founding for intrepid new
music and unique musical personalities – pushes the envelope once more, with
artists and repertoire testifying to the individuality that put eighth
blackbird on the international new-music map.  With its genre-defying variety and its collaborative and
visually dramatic presentations, eighth blackbird has cut the edge between
“cutting-edge” and intercontinental acceptance. 

blackbird has made important international debuts this season, and is
consistently hailed from coast to coast and in between.  The Los Angeles Times says the sextet gives “A really
good, rocking, rollicking performance,” and reports that “The young ensemble is
widely admired for keeping new music alive, kicking, and also approachable –
minus compromise.”  In the Chicago
, John von
Rhein calls eighth blackbird, “The city’s most intrepid band of contemporary
music explorers.”  Last season, the
New York Times
stated: “eighth blackbird offered an aural feast for the imagination … .  The performances bristled with energy
and conviction,” while the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote:

“‘New’ or
‘contemporary’ music, we’re often told, appeals almost exclusively to a narrow,
specialist audience.  But eighth
blackbird, the dazzling Chicago-based sextet
, clearly
hasn’t gotten the memo.  Neither
had the listeners, school-kids and octogenarians among them, who filled a hall
at Macalester College last Friday.”

Thegroup’s UK debut at Liverpool’s
Cornerstone Festival was covered by the nation’s revered Guardian newspaper; critic Tim Ashley wrote
in November 2008: 

“eighth blackbird’s lineup –
percussion, piano, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet – is unusual, and the
shifting sonorities are by turns strikingly beautiful and abrasive.  A virtuoso group, they sustain the
ferocious complexity of Reich’s counterpoint [in Double Sextet] with almost nonchalant ease.”

Among the
artists performing at the Ojai concerts and other events in June are 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 – along with many others.  Ojai’s website describes the June 11
opening night concert – at which members of eighth blackbird are joined by
pianist Jeremy Denk and the three percussionists – as:

“… an ode to nature and music – how
nature inspires the creation of beautiful music.  [John Luther] Adams’s titanic Dark Waves will sweep us away with its glacial
majestic beauty, followed by the serenity of Takemitsu’s Rain Tree and Crumb’s magical Music for a
Summer Evening.
  To perk up our ears for these
contemplative moments, we’ll first dive in with the energizing Musique de
by [Thierry] de Mey.”

The next
evening, eighth blackbird performs the
eagerly-awaited world premiere of Steven
Slide, with Rinde Eckert as narrator/singer.  This work, “a labor of love for
eighth blackbird
,” is the centerpiece of Ojai 2009, a piece the authors portray as:

“An audacious yet accessible night
of concert theater … a poignant tale of love, human frailty, the desire for
control, and eventually the tragic consequences once we have attained it.  The central metaphor of the work is a
slide from a fabled experiment, which defines every element in this complex
drama set with music, movement, and theater.”

Tim Munro,
eighth blackbird’s flutist, separates from the group for a free bonus event on
June 13 with Alexis Kenny, principal flute of Australia’s Queensland Orchestra,
in a concert of music by Helena Tulve, Brett Dean, and Steve Reich.  Later that day, the sextet plays the
second of its three big concerts, opening with David
M. Gordon’s Quasi Sinfonia, and
performing, in the second half, its now-famous production of Schoenberg’s Pierrot
with Lucy Shelton.

On Sunday,
June 14, the ensemble pulls out all the stops to achieve its central aim for Ojai
2009, by “performing amazing, ground-breaking chamber music.”  In the morning, there’s Steve Reich’s Music
for 18 Musicians
with the group joined by hand-picked virtuosos.  Ojai’s “Marathon-Finale” tunes up at 4pm: over the next four
hours, audiences will hear from virtually every artist on the 2009 roster.  eighth blackbird will play some of its
hits from the past season: Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile, and Louis Andriessen’s
Workers Union, among others. 
And then it’s on to the 2009-10 season!

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