Decidedly new music will be on the program when the Grammy Award-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird arrives in Princeton for a week-long residency from Tuesday, February 20, through Monday, February 26, as part of the Princeton Sound Kitchen (PSK) on the Princeton University campus.
The 22-year-old Chicago-based ensemble is known for both its musical prowess and its commitment to performing music by contemporary composers. Past commissions include those from celebrated American composer and Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Reich, Pulitzer Prize winner and Institute for Advanced Study artist-in-residence David Lang, Princeton University instructor Steven Mackey, Princeton University composer and PSK director Dan Trueman, and others.
The Chicago Tribune called the MacArthur Award-winning Eighth Blackbird “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” and the Detroit Free Press said the group’s work was “defined by adventure, vibrancy, and quality” and for “employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers, and even puppetry artists.”
Its members include Nathalie Joachim, flutes; Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets; Yvonne Lam, violin and viola; Nick Photinos, cello; Matthew Duvall, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, piano. Its title comes from the eighth section of 20th century American poet Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” where the poet writes of “noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms.”
The residency features various workshops and performances of new works by Princeton University graduate and faculty composers. All events are open to the public, some free and some ticketed.
The residency opens with a free multimedia performance on Tuesday, February 20, at 8 p.m., in Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall. The program includes Eighth Blackbird founding member and co-artistic director Photinos performing works for solo cello, electronics, and video from his debut solo album, “Petits Artefacts.”
It will be followed Thursday through Saturday, February 22 through 24, with repeat presentations of an evening-length work combining music, poetry, and stage: “Olagon: A Cantata in Doublespeak.” Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton professor Paul Muldoon created the poetic text that mixes a mythic and tragic Irish battle between bonded warriors and current-day hardships (Olagon is the Celtic word for lament). Dan Trueman wrote the music combining Celtic, pop, contemporary, and classical music.
And Eighth Blackbird, Trueman, and Princeton University Global Scholar and recognized sean-nos (traditional Irish) singer Iarla O Lionaird perform. The February 22, 23, and 24 performances are at 8 p.m. at the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts complex by the train station. Tickets are $15 available at music.princeton.edu. Additionally, Muldoon will read from “Olagon” and other works at a free event at the Wallace Theater on Friday, February 23, at 4:30 p.m.
The residency culminates on Monday, February 26, at 8 p.m. with Eighth Blackbird performing new works by Princeton University graduate composers Alyssa Weinberg, Jenny Beck, Annika Socolofsky, Pascal Le Boeuf, Chris Douthitt, Yuri Boguinia, and Jason Treuting of So Percussion, the university’s department of music’s ensemble-in-residence. No tickets are required for this concert.
Princeton Sound Kitchen emerged from the Composers Ensemble of Princeton and calls itself “a vital forum for the creation of new music.” The entity presents music by participating graduate composers and guests and has featured performances by such well known ensembles as the Brentano String Quartet, New Millennium Ensemble, So Percussion, Now Ensemble, Newspeak, Crash Ensemble, Janus Trio, Roomful of Teeth, and many others.
For more information, visit www.princetonsoundkitchen.org.