Eighth Blackbird is Chicago’s more than adequate answer to New York’s Bang on a Can and this album is solid proof of that. The liner notes tell us that this is “a collection inspired by a collection” and these 9 tracks are sonic impressions by the individual composers of an art exhibit. The end result is very much like the romantic/impressionistic Mussourgsky gem updated to the post-minimalist era.
It is well worth your time to check out the artwork which inspired this music (here) and this writer imagines that this piece could really work well as a film score, a DVD perhaps of these images. The music invokes various minimalist and post-minimalist composers and styles. It is almost a sonic tour of post-minimalism. And apparently there are plans for a multimedia tour of this piece as well. Sounds like a wonderful idea.
This album is the work of a composer’s collective called Sleeping Giant and consists of Timo Andres, Andrew Norman, Robert Honstein, Christopher Cerrone, Ted Hearne and Jacob Cooper. Each has chosen a selection of art to which they wrote a piece of music providing their musical impressions. The result is a remarkably coherent set of pieces which, while each different, seem to flow into a unity.
Casual listeners may be familiar with the names of Timo Andres or Andrew Norman but all these composers are basically new to these ears and it appears to be a talented lot that deserves some serious attention as they may very well be THE ones to watch/listen to in the coming years. They utilize a variety of techniques in their compositions but there is never a feeling of this being experimental or tentative. These are fully fleshed out works by master composers.
The music is appealing immediately upon first listen. One hears the influences of Terry Riley here, John Adams there, David Lang, etc. In short these pieces are informed by the preceding generations of minimalists much as they also address their debt and do honor to their mentors. It has some of the character of Lang’s “Child” in that this is essentially a suite of pieces of post-minimalist chamber music (though this music has an almost symphonic quality at times).
The recording is superb and up to the high standards of Cedille releases and the musicianship, as always, is superb. The liner notes by Sleeping Giant along with Tim Munro are lucid and the album design by Karl Jensen is eye-poppingly psychedelic. This project was funded by the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Andrew W. Mellon and the Texas Performing Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.