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eighth blackbird press reviews

July 8, 2010 features
Chicago Reader
Crowdsourcing for Composers

Say you make a business decision that blows up on you—a choice so misguided that the instant it's announced the world careens a little. Word spreads, Web comments mushroom, and before you know it a global dissection of your blunder is underway. Say also that you run an established cultural institution, and it finally dawns on you that this move runs contrary to everything it stands for. What can you do? The damage is done. The genie can't be pushed back into the bottle.

July 1, 2010 features
Chamber Music America
Social Skills

The concert had received scant press attention—a tiny listing in the New York Times, a passing mention in Opera News. But when bass-baritone Eric Owens made his 2009 New York recital debut at Weill Hall, the house was virtually sold out. Owens strode out on stage, looked out at the crowd and said, "I guess you Facebook people really do exist." Owens was referring to his Facebook page—a personal tool that had produced this unexpected minor phenomenon. Although he had originally signed up for Facebook just to keep up with people he knows, his personal page had morphed into a hub for a circle of fans 1,200 strong. A group of them made up a large part of the audience for the recital; some stayed after the concert to meet their Facebook "friend" in person.

June 13, 2010 features
Chicago Sun-Times
Big interest in small ensembles

Their names are hip — Third Coast Percussion, eighth blackbird, Fifth House Ensemble. The photos on their Web sites are hipper still. Striking an attitude in jeans and T-shirts beneath Chicago’s L tracks. Staring at the camera, eyes veiled by serious sunglasses. In their early days, Third Coast Percussion spent more time setting up and tearing down equipment than actually performing. Their performance venues are often the hippest yet — the Velvet Lounge, the Green Mill, S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston, Wicker Park’s Elastic Arts. It’s a whole new world for Chicago’s young, classically trained musicians. Small ensembles showcasing recent music school and conservatory grads are popping up like ghost voters on Election Day. They are figuring out how to find audiences for the informal, wide-ranging concerts they want to perform.

June 8, 2010 concert reviews
Philadelphia Inquirer
Jennifer Higdon premieres concerto 'On a Wire'

ATLANTA - Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon has perhaps never cast her net so wide. Always a seeker of extra-symphonic sounds, in the past she's trawled the aisles of Home Depot for trinkets that would give her orchestration an ethereal jingle.

But for On a Wire, her new concerto premiered and recorded last week by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, she frequented sporting-goods stores for fishing line to rub across the strings of a piano, experimenting at length in her Spruce Street studio.

June 4, 2010 concert reviews
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ASO scores two triumphs with a pair of world premieres

When the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs world premieres by its so-called “Atlanta school of composers,” the audience’s reactions are often as interesting as the works themselves. Conductor Robert Spano and the orchestra commissioned new music from Jennifer Higdon (who lives in Philadelphia) and Michael Gandolfi (from Boston) and played them side by side Thursday, finishing the evening with Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. Over recent years, Higdon and Gandolfi (and a couple of other composers) have enjoyed a regular presence in Symphony Hall, including commissions, well-rehearsed performances and recordings of their music.

June 1, 2010 features
Wall Street Journal
New Music With a Tonal Twist

All too often, music commissioned by symphony orchestras is as ephemeral as a shooting star, lighting up a concert program and quickly vanishing from view. Compare that to the rollout given "City Scape" by American composer Jennifer Higdon. After its premiere by Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2002, "City Scape" was performed on tour, recorded for Telarc and reprised in later concert seasons.

May 28, 2010 features
Atlanta Jounal-Consitution
Concert preview: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

It's sometimes said that Robert Shaw gave the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra a beating heart. Yoel Levi gave it discipline. Robert Spano, music director since 2001, has established a culture where ear-friendly living composers are regular guests — and often draw rapturous applause. Two of those distinguished voices headline ASO concerts this week in two world premieres: Jennifer Higdon's "On a Wire" and Michael Gandolfi's "Q.E.D.: Engaging Richard Feynman." Mozart's Symphony No. 39 fills out the program.

May 9, 2010 concert reviews
New York Times
Interactivity, Inside and Out, Creates Informal Feeling

Not so very long ago, when contemporary composers had to hustle and scratch for places to present their work, art galleries provided a crucial outlet. Even now that modern music is welcome in concert halls and nightclubs alike, galleries can still be particularly congenial spaces — a point made by the Look & Listen Festival, which opened at the Chelsea Art Museum on Friday night.

This lively annual event, inaugurated in 2002 by the composer David Gordon, presents jampacked concerts in Manhattan galleries; this year's series included concerts at the Chelsea Art Museum and at Gary Snyder/Project Space, also in Chelsea. Friday's performers — the Jack Quartet, the sextet Eighth Blackbird and the pianist Jade Simmons — were familiar names in new music circles, as were most of the composers involved.