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Eighth Blackbird’s Upcoming Release Pushes Boundaries


Eighth Blackbird, the four-time Grammy-winning sextet, has been pushing the interpretative boundaries of chamber music since its first choreographed program in 1996. So far, the organization has created seven full-evening-length staged productions. What began as an experiment has become a repertoire that Pulitzer Prize and Grammy-winning composer David Lang calls “Super Chamber Music.”

This still-unofficial genre, which falls in the cracks between music and theater, has been a conundrum for marketing professionals for over two decades. Nonetheless, this playground between disciplines is an inevitable extension of Eighth Blackbird’s inner workings. It is both the guts and the bones of their artistry.

composition as explanation continues Eighth Blackbird’s exploration of performance as art. The work takes its name from Gertrude Stein’s seminal 1926 lecture in which she discussed her approach to writing. Through her use of language, Stein blurs the relationship between content, form, and performance. David Lang’s work of the same name replicates this by incorporating theatrical elements with the reading of the speech, woven into the composition itself. This pushes the boundaries of what one expects from a classically-trained chamber ensemble while, in the spirit of Stein’s speech, commenting on what it means to make art. The audio recording will capture the essence of this experiment and share Lang’s and the ensemble’s artistry with worldwide audiences.

In a recent Musical America review of a live performance of the work, Hannah Edgar writes: “composition as explanation has legs — long ones. Lang’s setting is every bit as witty, circular, and self-referential as Stein’s own prose; it’s rare, not to mention utterly satisfying, to hear a work that so completely embodies its text. To invoke Stein, one suspects composition as explanation will be a work of our time for many times to come.”

The album, recorded in September 2023, is scheduled for July 2024 release.


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