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Celebrated new-music sextet eighth blackbird, whose last three Cedille Records albums garnered Grammy awards, continues to soar with Filament, a selection of four world premiere recordings plus a concert performance of Philip Glass's influential Two Pages. Filament offers first recordings of Bryce Dessner's Murder Ballades, a fresh and surprisingly upbeat take on a macabre genre of folk music; Nico Muhly's Doublespeak, an homage to Glass and the insistent, propulsive repetitions of classic minimalism; and short pieces by Son Lux, To Love and This is my Line," creative remixes of sounds from other tracks on the CD. Dessner, on guitar, and Muhly, on organ, join eighth blackbird for Glass's Two Pages, recorded live-in-concert at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. A sextet of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano, eighth blackbird combines the finesse of a string quartet, the energy of a rock band, and the audacity of a storefront theater company.
"Filament's high point is a high octane and highly coordinated performance of Glass's Two Pages. A single, propulsive line that can be played by any combination of instruments: the elements couldn't be more minimalist in conception, but the execution is anything but."
--Christian Carey, Sequenza21.com, October 15, 2015
"Eighth Blackbird's Filament won Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and Augustin Hadelich's performance of Dutilleux's violin concerto L'arbre des songes took Best Classical Instrumental Solo."
--Jay Gabler, February 15, 2016
"Ensemble eighth blackbird received its fourth Grammy for best chamber music/small ensemble performance" --WQXR 2016 Classical Music Grammy Winners, February 16, 2016
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Grammy award-winning ensemble eighth blackbird performs music by four composers: Bryce Dessner (perhaps better known as the guitar player for Grammy award-winning band The National), Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, and Son Lux (given name Ryan Lott- check out the incredible album he wrote and recorded in the span of 28 days, “We Are Rising”).
With that stated project, and that lineup, this disc is irresistible. Luckily, its contents do not disappoint.
For me, Dessner’s “Murder Ballades” is the stand-out piece on the program. It has all the naive charm of folk tales and all the gravity of homicide. The piece ends leaving the listener with goosebumps and the desire to go back to the beginning and experience it all over again.
The interconnectedness of the rest of the album is mind-boggling. “Doublespeak” was written in honor of Glass’ 75th birthday, and his music makes an appearance. Muhly’s technique here, drawing from music written in the 1970’s, is perhaps inspired by the techniques of Son Lux. In turn, the two Son Lux tracks are made up almost exclusively of sounds on the other tracks of this album.
For someone interested in contemporary music, I cannot recommend this album highly enough.