Eighth Blackbird and Music in the Making

Wow, just attended Eighth Blackbird’s performanceMusic in the Making.” This was a joint effort with the American Composer’s Forum in which a three composers were selected (from an initial respondent group of 504) to write a piece for Eighth Blackbird, then workshop it with them. At tonight’s concert, all three pieces were performed. After that, the group scurried offstage to make a selection, returning about 10 minutes later to announce an additional cash prize and promise of a concert performance to Andy Akiho.

Along the way in tonight’s event, each of the composers spoke some about their work and approach, and a Q&A session with Eighth Blackbird and the composers invited questions from the audience.

It was a really terrific glimpse into the process of creating new music. The composers talked some about the pressure of writing under deadline (it helps–otherwise pieces never get finished), about writing for specific performers (it’s better–you have a stronger sense of what’s possible) and the ensemble talked about the idea of “owning” a performance and of the drama and interest of live performance.

My own review – I very much liked Akiho’s piece, titled thE stReAm of conScious machinEry. In fact I realize now that I’m very much looking forward to hearing it again, since I just realized that some of the structural elements Akiho discussed went right past me during the performance. I am very interested to see if I can hear the erasure of the melody that takes place as the piece progresses.

Kurt Rohde‘s this bag is not a toy: a very short concerto for mixed ensemble without orchestra was my second favorite piece of the evening. He described the ending of the piece (before the performance) as having the quality of the sound you play in your mind after leaving a concert, and I agree that he pulled this off effectively.

I hate to say “least favorite” in describing Eric Lindsay‘s Town’s Gonna Talk because the word least has a connotation that the piece doesn’t deserve. It was a good piece; there’s no question it was written by someone who was a finalist in the competition. Separate from the music, I found Lindsay to be the least appealing of the composers while he was speaking. He had a smugness to his character that I found off-putting. Maybe it has something to do with being in the process of finishing one’s dissertation.

In contrast, Rohde was very entertainingly self-effacing. I thought he really hit on something when he said that being the composer was the most terrifying position to be in. As he put it, there’s nothing he can do once the notes are on the page, and if it doesn’t work everyone will blame him.

For the evening, nods go to Make Music (publishers of Finale) as well, for sponsoring.

Eighth Blackbird was given a champions of new music award by the American Composers Forum, and their picture on a box of Wheaties (courtesy of a General Mills executive who is on the ACF board). Oh, and they’ve also got three Grammy nominations. I should be so lucky to have the Chicago Bass Ensemble in such an admirable position . . . but it’s a great goal to have!

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