eighth blackbird, a Chicago-based music ensemble, takes up residence in the MCA galleries. For the first time, the Grammy Award–winning group brings its private rehearsal work into the public arena, preparing new compositions live in the galleries. When the musicians are away, video and audio provide viewers with inside access to their process of making music.
Founded in 1996 at Oberlin College, eighth blackbird has developed a style of music that is sometimes called “new music” or “contemporary classical.” It can also be described as notated music, performed by classically trained musicians who draw on varied influences ranging from indie rock to medieval music to African drumming. eighth blackbird commissions composers to write new music, then prepares, rehearses, curates, and presents that music for audiences. Unique to their approach is the desire to create visually compelling shows by working with both visual and performance artists to create innovative musical experiences.
For the eighth blackbird residency, the museum’s third-floor galleries are divided into two distinct areas: a rehearsal room and a space for visitor engagement. When the musicians are rehearsing, visitors can witness their creative process in real time. When the eighth blackbird musicians are away, a video projection covers the walls, providing visitors an intimate look into a rehearsal of David Lang’s these broken wings. In addition to the video, an audio recording captures studio preparations and discussions during the group’s rehearsals and forthcoming concerts. Instruments and scores also inhabit the space when the artists are not on site.
The adjacent gallery is transformed into a space for visitors to explore how to listen to and engage with new music. It features an installation that highlights eighth blackbird’s production Colombine’s Paradise Theater, illustrating their unique method of working, which synthesizes music, dance, performance, and scenic design to break down preconceived notions of chamber music. Visitors are encouraged to play handmade instruments and ponder the question: What does it mean to make music? Additionally, videos from Colombine and other projects such as Olagon and Hand Eye are available in the gallery to show the different forms of eighth blackbird's approach.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website