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Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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May 9, 2006

Happy Accidents

Read Noble Accents from a past visit by eighth blackbird

However freely the six members of eighth blackbird stretch and blur musical boundaries (or dispense with them altogether), for me the exhilaration in the risks they take springs less from the performers’ irreverence than from their sheer confidence in charting new territory. It’s as mesmerizing as travel, not least because we know that the craft and crew conveying us are wonderfully sound.

This week’s program introduces another variable into eighth blackbird’s already wide-ranging ventures. The second work the sextet plays, Frederic Rzewski's Les Moutons des Panurge, composes itself anew with each performance by the accretion of single notes into ever longer, more intricate lines—a process of mimicry and repetition so increasingly complex that error becomes inevitable.

That’s when the fun begins.

Once the performers find themselves out of synch, just a little, it gives them license to play with freshly evolving patterns and to maximize the options those present. With the earlier line still intact in our ears, the unraveling that follows is all the more delicious, especially when explored with musicians as deeply responsive as eighth blackbird. At some point, a certain euphoria takes over—perhaps akin to the kind jazz and Baroque artists know well—and Molly, Matt, Michael, Nick, Lisa, and Matthew take us into zones never entered before nor to be entered again.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at May 9, 2006 5:06 PM



The video of eighth blackbird is very cool! Are you going to do more of this in the future? A Saint Paul Sunday video channel perhaps? Keep up the great work.

By Bob Jones at May 15, 2006 3:14 PM


Dear Mr. McGlaughlin:
Your Sunday, May 14th program with The Eighth Blackbird ought to be required listening for every WFMT music programmer/host on that station who believes --as the station believes, that no one who listens to "The Classical Music Experience" can possibly LEARN to love contemporary music. You showed just how false that assumption is, and how easy it is, with a little help from a skilled musician/musicologist, like you, to fall in love with music one has never heard before.
Listening, with you as guide to the EB's program on Sunday, was like hearing Mozart or Schubert for the first time.
Lee Haupt

By Lee Haupt at May 17, 2006 11:15 AM


Bob: Thanks for listening (and watching!). We do hope to offer more video of the performers who come through our studio, and plan to put a viewer on our site in the next few months to make that process easier.
Lee: I love your comparison of 8th blackbird's selections to Mozart and Schubert. How true.

By Vaughn Ormseth at May 17, 2006 2:38 PM


After listening to Eighth Blackbird a third time I want to thank you for having them back. I can't imagine a better description of the whirlwind sheep piece than you provide above. Only musicians like these 8 could have pulled off the fun AND the wildness of that piece. But one quibble - I could not find the video. It took my eleven yr old daughter to do that. Thanks again. Todd Kelly

By Todd Kelly at May 19, 2006 7:52 AM