Strange Imaginary Animals / Eighth Blackbird

Album Summary

>Higdon, Jennifer : Zaka
>Fitzell, Gordon : Violence, for chamber ensemble
>Mackey, Steven : Indigenous Instruments, for ensemble
>Gordon, David M. : Friction Systems, for chamber ensemble
>Fitzell, Gordon : Evanescence, for chamber ensemble
>Desantis, Dennis : Strange Imaginary Remix, for chamber ensemble
Ensemble Composers

Notes & Reviews:

"The six performers that comprise Eighth Blackbird play with such breathtaking virtuosity that it's very tempting to sit back and simply gasp in admiration. This is particularly the case when, as here, the program is so interesting and intelligently designed. All of the music on this disc exploits a vast range of timbral effects while taking in a very wide stylistic range from one composer to the next. Perhaps the most inventive pieces are Jennifer Higdon's Zaka, Steven Mackey's three-movement Indigenous Instruments, and David M. Gordon's Friction Systems. All three mix traditional tonal with more obviously avant-garde elements, but in a way that's consistently ear-catching and approachable. Dennis DeSantis' Strange Imaginary Remix not surprisingly includes some pop music rhythmic elements, and it brings the program to a satisfying conclusion. My only reservations concern the two pieces by Gordon Fitzell: Violence and Evanescence. These two musical "soundscapes" strike me as heavy on timbral effects and light on musical substance. You may find yourself enjoying them the first time through but questioning their staying-power. Time will tell, of course, but one thing's certain: there are few groups out there that put together contemporary music programs as rewarding as Eighth Blackbird, and this one receives stunning attention from Cedille's engineers. In sum, this is an adventure, but in the best sense of the term." -Classics Today

"The new-music group eighth blackbird (the lower-case spelling apparently an ee cummings take on Wallace Stevens’s "Thirteen Ways ") have clearly become one of the stars of contemporary composition. Like the Kronos Quartet, the Bang on a Can All-Stars or, more recently, the string quartet Ethel, they’re among the few ensembles who remain instantly identifiable in whatever they’re playing, almost like a rock band that’s developed a distinctive sound and stuck with it. This is all the more remarkable given the range of the composers here and what they require in their music. Jennifer Higdon’s Zaka (2003) is by turns rhythmically ear-catching and momentarily reflective. Gordon Fitzell’s violence (2001), true to its title, offers edgier timbres, paving the way brilliantly for Steve Mackey’s three movement Indigenous Instruments (1989), an evocative blanket of jagged rhythms and alternative tunings that the composer likens to "vernacular music from a culture that doesn’t exist".

The toy pianos, break drums and prepared keyboards of David M Gordon’s Friction Systems (2002, rev 2005), on the other hand, come from a culture that very much exists, namely New York’s Downtown avant-garde. Much like their names, Gordon’s piece segues smoothly into Fitzell’s evanescence (2006), an equally fearless soundscape of timbres tempered with electronics. The techno bent continues with Dennis DeSantis’s strange imaginary remix (2006), which culls sounds from the earlier pieces on the disc and spins them into a thoroughly satisfying ending. This collection is one of those rare programmes where the pieces come together into something larger than its parts." -Gramophone



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Works Details

>Higdon, Jennifer : Zaka
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 12 min. 54 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2003

>Fitzell, Gordon : Violence, for chamber ensemble
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 9 min. 54 sec.
  • Written: 2001

>Mackey, Steven : Indigenous Instruments, for ensemble
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 17 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1989

>Gordon, David M. : Friction Systems, for chamber ensemble
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 38 sec.
  • Written: 2002

>Fitzell, Gordon : Evanescence, for chamber ensemble
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 18 sec.
  • Written: 2006

>Desantis, Dennis : Strange Imaginary Remix, for chamber ensemble
  • Ensemble: eighth blackbird
  • Notes: Ball State University, Muncie, IN (08/15/2005-08/18/2005)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006