20 QUESTIONS WITH: New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Classic Arts Features   20 QUESTIONS WITH: New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird
Contemporary music sextet eighth blackbird contribute to the latest installment of our Q&A series. The group has a busy itinerary planned for 2009, spanning the States from Princeton, New Jersey, to Ojai, California, with a brief stop-off in Berlin.

Described by the New Yorker as "friendly, unpretentious, idealistic, and highly skilled," the new-music sextet eighth blackbird promises _ and delivers _ provocative and engaging performances to its ever-growing audiences. Combining bracing virtuosity with a fresh and alluring sense of irreverence and panache, the sextet debunks the myth that contemporary music is only for a cerebral few.

With a Grammy Award recently tucked under its belt, the ensemble has a menu of offerings this season that includes debuts, premieres and high-class collaborations, including jamming with Wilco's drummer in Chicago; debuts in Australia, England, and Rotterdam; world premieres by Rzewski and Reich in New York's funky Kitchen, alongside the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble; and taking the reigns as Music Director at the Ojai Music Festival.

The group consists of Tim Munro (flutes), Michael J. Maccaferri (clarinets), Matt Albert (violin & viola), Nicholas Photinos (cello), Matthew Duvall (percussion) and Lisa Kaplan (piano).


1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

TIM: Gosh. Current obsessions: Sibelius symphonies and tone poems; Bach cantatas and passions; Mozart operas; Bruckner symphonies

MICHAEL: Mahler Fifth Symphony; Beethoven Sixth Symphony; Rite of Spring

MATT: Shostakovich Fifth Symphony; Mahler Sixth Symphony; Bach Sonata in C Major for solo violin

NICK: Rite of Spring; any Mahler symphony; Mendelssohn chamber music, John Adams A Flowering Tree

MATTHEW: "Goldberg" Variations. It's possible that I adore the piece as a direct result of Glenn Gould's performance on his 1955 recording. See #2.

LISA: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467; Bartok, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

TIM: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Handel Arias. There is no close second.

MICHAEL: Harold Wright and the Boston Chamber Players: Mozart and Brahms quintets

MATT: Emerson Quartet playing Bartok

NICK: Sibelius Second Symphony (Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw); Emerson Quartet playing Bartok String Quartets; Kronos Caravan; Randall Avers Vistas

MATTHEW: "Goldberg" Variations (Glenn Gould, 1955)

LISA: Barber piano sonata (Vladimir Horowitz); "Goldberg" Variations (Glenn Gould, both early and late recordings)

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

TIM: Andrew Bird, Beirut, New Pornographers

MICHAEL: Sara Evans, Julie Andrews

MATT: Eddie from Ohio, Looking Out the Fishbowl

NICK: Q-Tip, James Brown, Nelly, Curtis Mayfield, Snoop Dogg, Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliott, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Brad Mehldau, Chick Corea, Luciana Souza, Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers

MATTHEW: I've thought about this for three days, and it's way too overwhelming a question. Do you have any idea how much music there is out there?

LISA: Elliott Smith, self-titled album; Peter Gabriel, us; Radiohead, KidA; The Beatles, White Album

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

TIM: Mahler and Bruckner slow movements; anything by Beirut or Andrew Bird

MICHAEL: Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain soundtrack

MATT: Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain soundtrack

NICK: Sibelius Second Symphony; Mahler Second Symphony; Mahler Sixth Symphony, some Brazilian tunes

MATTHEW: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Helplessly Hoping

LISA: Peter Gabriel, The washing of the water; The Beatles, Blackbird

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

TIM: Any and all new classical music.

MICHAEL: Janacek

MATT: Stephen Hartke

NICK: Schoenberg (esp. Pierrot Lunaire), Mendelssohn, Aaron Kernis, Stephen Hartke

MATTHEW: Stephen Hartke

LISA: Almost all living composers are underrated.

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

TIM: Rimsky-Korsakov, Sheherazade

MICHAEL: Schumann. Definitely Schumann.

MATT: Bruckner

NICK: Orff, Grofe, Schumann

MATTHEW: Beethoven Ninth Symphony (a remarkable work of genius, but shouldn't be heard EVERY holiday season...c'mon already!)

LISA: Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

TIM: Philip Glass Satyagraha at the Met, 2008. I cried like a baby.

MICHAEL: I have forgotten.

MATT: Minnesota Orchestra, Sibelius Sixth Symphony, June 2008

NICK: Andor Toth Sr. (violin) and Andor Toth Jr. (cello) in a duo recital at Oberlin, OH, in the mid-1990s

MATTHEW: Ella Fitzgerald in an outdoor amphitheater. It started raining, so she improvised a transition into "Singing in the Rain" and her combo followed her lead; then it rained harder. It was pure magic.

LISA: Bob Dylan in the tiny main piazza in Lucca, Italy, July 1998; Bob Spano conducting the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, October 1992

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

TIM: No Country for Old Men; Man on Wire; Persepolis

MICHAEL: "Films"? I watch "movies." I LOVE sci-fi: The Matrix (only the first one); 2001: A Space Odyssey

MATT: Brokeback Mountain; Wall-E; Michael Clayton

NICK: Persepolis; Letters from Iwo Jima; Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

MATTHEW: From the Earth to the Moon (produced by Tom Hanks). In our current political climate, it's nice to be reminded that it's possible for a government to accomplish something truly remarkable.

LISA: No Country for Old Men; Ne le dit a personne; The Lives of Others; Talk to Her

9. A few films you consider classics:

TIM: The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover; Psycho; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

MICHAEL: 2001: A Space Odyssey

MATT: Babe; The American President; Aliens

NICK: Pulp Fiction; Amadeus; The Godfather; It's a Wonderful Life; Princess Bride; The Wizard of Oz

MATTHEW: Almost Famous (too recent to be a classic?); Raiders of the Lost Ark

LISA: To Kill A Mockingbird; Ferris Bueller's Day Off

10. A few books that are important to you (and why):

TIM: Galapogus, Kurt Vonnegut (it works like my mind does); Radical Chic, Tom Wolfe (journalism gone wild)

MICHAEL: The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil (It's terrifying and exciting. Kurzweil has been a fairly accurate predictor of the future of humans and technology which fascinates me.)

MATT: Consider the Lobster (loved the McCain and 9/11 essays); The Time Traveler's Wife (identified with the characters so deeply)

NICK: Jitterbug Perfume (Tom Robbins' use of language convinced me in my teens that a book could be funny, titillating, and masterful all at the same time); Lolita (also for the language. Arguably the best novel in English, and written by a guy for whom it was his second language. Unbelievable.)

MATTHEW: When I Grow Up I Want To Be Me, Sandra Magsamen (read this to your daughter and you'll understand)

LISA: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer; Upon the Head of a Goat, Aranka Siegel; The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

TIM: My curiosity and my job

MICHAEL: I own my own home and don't own a car.

MATT: Dependability

NICK: My marriage and my career

MATTHEW: My kids

LISA: my chutzpah; my forthrightness

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

TIM: The fact that I am very disorganized.

MICHAEL: I don't read for pleasure.

MATT: Tendency to obsess, inability to dance

NICK: My indecisiveness, my occasional shyness and/or mousyness, and that I don't have as much energy as I'd like

MATTHEW: I turn up the volume when I hear a song by Avril Lavigne.

LISA: Hmmmmm_ã_there's not much that embarrasses me_ã_

13. Three things you can't live without:

TIM: Bach, love, NPR

MICHAEL: My computer, beer, ear plugs.

MATT: schedules, ice cream, Spore

NICK: My wife, my career, and beer

MATTHEW: [Earnest:] My wife (yes, I realize that's only one thing); [Funny, but true:] My truck, sleeping pills, meat.

LISA: My family; music; good food

14. "When I want to get away from it all I_ã_"

TIM: _ã_grab my iPod and go for a long jog.

MICHAEL: _ã_lock the door and play World of Warcraft and/or watch HGTV.

MATT: _ã_play video games.

NICK: _ã_take a trip with my wife, to Thailand, Japan, Puerto Rico, or anywhere that isn't the US.

MATTHEW: _ã_don't check email.

LISA: _ã_shut off my cell phone, stop wearing my watch and go immerse myself in nature.

15. "People are surprised to find out that I_ã_"

TIM: _ã_watched two whole seasons of The Bachelor

MICHAEL: ...like camping.

MATT: _ã_play video games

NICK: _ã_am actually LESS messy than my wife

MATTHEW: _ã_ever check email

LISA: _ã_have climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

16. "My favorite cities are_ã_"

TIM: _ã_Melbourne, New York, London, Chicago.

MICHAEL: _ã_Chicago, Portland, Vancouver.

MATT: _ã_New York, San Francisco, Chicago.

NICK: _ã_Madrid, Florence, Paris, Amsterdam, Seattle, Chicago, sometimes New York.

MATTHEW: _ã_Passage Key, FL (its not so much a city as it is a secret...)

LISA: Florence, Italy; New York, NY.

17. "I have a secret crush on_ã_"

TIM: _ã_Juliane Banse, soprano.

MICHAEL: _ã_a New York-based double reed player. Shh, don't tell him.

MATT: _ã_Rene Russo.

NICK: _ã_Padma Lakshmi, the host of "Top Chef" on Bravo.

MATTHEW: _ã_Anne Boleyn, as portrayed by Natalie Dormer in "The Tudors." (This is really much more about my passion for historical fiction than it is about Ms. Dormer. No, really, I'm serious...)

LISA: _ã_an old fling from high school.

18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is_ã_"

TIM: _ã_buying CDs. Lots of CDs.

MICHAEL: _ã_World of Warcraft

MATT: _ã_mint chip ice cream.

NICK: _ã_watching "The World Series of Poker" on ESPN

MATTHEW: _ã_Rice Krispie Squares.

LISA: _ã_a lovely pedicure.

19. "I'd really love to meet_ã_"

TIM: _ã_Ron Elving and Ken Rudin.

MICHAEL: _ã_Ian McCartt.

MATT: _ã_Roger Federer.

NICK: _ã_Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Gustav Mahler, Salman Rushdie, Tom Robbins.

MATTHEW: _ã_Lynn Davis.

LISA: _ã_Rafael Nadal.

20. "I never understood why_ã_"

TIM: _ã_classical music became "old people music."

MICHAEL: _ã_things that taste so good need to be so bad for you.

MATT: _ã_people say they're going to do things and then don't.

NICK: _ã_people voted for George Bush, especially the second time.

MATTHEW: _ã_it's possible to arrive somewhere before you departed when traveling internationally. Time zones are not rational. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

LISA: _ã_any half-way intelligent person could ever believe in Creationism.


eighth blackbird Upcoming Engagements

Jan. 30 at 8 PM- Tallahassee, FL (Florida State University)
"The Only Moving Thing"

Feb. 7 at 8 PM- Kennesaw, GA (Kennesaw State University)
"The Only Moving Thing"

Feb. 10-13- Laramie, WY (University of Wyoming)

Feb. 19 at 7:30 PM- Chicago, IL (Harris Theater)
eighth blackbird with The Hilliard Ensemble

Feb. 23-March 1- Richmond, VA (Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond)
Richmond Residency (Week 4)

March 25 at 7:30 PM- Richmond, VA (Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond)
eighth blackbird with Glenn Kotche of Wilco

March 27 at 8 PM- Berlin (Theatre Haus der Berliner Festspiele)
"The Only Moving Thing"

For more information and full tour schedule, visit www.eighthblackbird.com

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor 

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs. 

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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