Music » Critics' Choices

Eighth Blackbird

Sunday, November 9, at 2 p.m. at the Lied Center.


The Beatles' "Blackbird" isn't actually ornithological in origin; rather, the "black bird" in question is a singer, and the lyrics pay obtuse tribute to the civil-rights movement. The contemporary chamber sextet Eighth Blackbird was more forthcoming about its moniker, revealing soon after its christening that its members were inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." In the eighth verse of that work, Stevens writes, "I know noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms," and this group, formed by Oberlin Conservatory students in 1996, displays expertise in both areas on 2003's Thirteen Ways. Complex, compelling arrangements share space with spoken poetry readings, as flutes, clarinets, violins, cello and piano generate gorgeous gothic tones. Plus, Eighth Blackbird deserves credit for reclaiming creative capitalization on behalf of the cutting-edge set after a disturbing streak of hopelessly unambitious bands had co-opted the effect.

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