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Artist Engagement Residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In addition to offering stellar performances and open-form conversations, eighth blackbird rehearses in a public gallery all year long

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Eighth Blackbird in the galleries

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Eighth Blackbird

Eighth Blackbird performing in its gallery space at the MCA, September 2015.

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Hand Eye at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Eighth Blackbird
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As part of its residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Eighth Blackbird presented two major programs on the MCA Stage series in 2016. In January, the ‘birds presented the Chicago premiere of Hand Eye by the stellar composer collective Sleeping Giant.

Eighth Blackbird presents an interview with Third Coast Percussion

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Eighth Blackbird
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When Eighth Blackbird is away from Chicago, the sextet invites other artists to use their residency space, opening the world of Chicago new music to guests at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Third Coast Percussion and composer Danny Clay spoke with eighth blackbird intern Robert Eric Shoemaker about their collaboration on a new composition involving play, games, and percussion face-offs.


This season, eighth blackbird celebrates its legacy of leadership at the vanguard of the field as artists-in-residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The appointment of eighth blackbird to the MCA’s Annual Audience Engagement Residency represents several firsts—eighth blackbird is the first Chicago artist, the first performing artist, and the first ensemble to hold the position.

Literally at home in the museum, the ensemble installed its rehearsal studio in a public gallery, effectively exposing its creative process all season. When the ensemble is away from Chicago, the gallery engages visitors in unexpected ways, offering opportunities to touch the scores, instruments, and materials, and presenting media from the ensemble’s archives.

eighth blackbird curates monthly discussions on Tuesdays—the MCA’s community day—taking advantage of the museum’s extended hours and free admission. These open-form residency activities investigate the intersection of music, visual art, and the world of ideas.

While in the public eye, eighth blackbird takes advantage of the time and space to bring a number of long-term projects to their culmination during the residency:

Hand Eye. In January, the ‘birds present the Chicago premiere of Hand Eye, an evening-long work written by the superstar collective Sleeping Giant. Commissioned by recognized art collectors and philanthropists Maxine and Stuart Frankel, Hand Eye challenges each composer (Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Ted Hearne, Robert Honstein, and Andrew Norman) to express his distinct interpretation of a work of art in the Frankel’s collection while contributing to the arc of the program. eighth blackbird performs Hand Eye from memory on the MCA Stage series January 23 and 24, 2016 with an immersive video design by Deborah Johnson.

Ghostlight and Murder Ballades. March 25 and 26, eighth blackbird presents a second acoustic concert at the museum featuring Ghostlight, a new work by David T. Little, and an expanded version of Bryce Dessner’s popular Murder Ballades. Premiered in Chicago in April 2016, Little’s new work is commissioned by the Kennedy Center and premiered there earlier in the season.

Ólagon. All season, the ensemble develops Ólagon with composer Dan Trueman and singer Iarla Ó Lionáird through workshops and rehearsals at the museum. Inspired by the ancient Irish notion of olagón—a deep, conflicted cry—Trueman, Ó Lionáird, and eighth blackbird will devise the work together, with all artists taking creative roles for this evening-long staged work. Premiering in Ireland in October 2017, Ólagon is commissioned by the National Concert Hall of Dublin.

The company’s residency at the MCA stands to dramatically increase the number of patrons eighth blackbird reaches (annually estimated at 25,000), as the museum’s 300,000 annual visitors will have unprecedented access to the sextet’s rehearsals, materials, and archive. eighth blackbird’s activities at the MCA are an integral part of the museum’s educational programming during the current season, and stand to reach tens of thousands of school children. Furthermore, the MCA’s suggested donation policy makes the ‘birds more available to Chicagoans than ever before, inviting easy, everyday interactions with audiences of all kinds.

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Hand Eye
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eighth blackbird presents an evening-long work by the composer collective Sleeping Giant at the MCA during its residency. The work is commissioned by the Frankel Foundation for the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall. Visual arts production elements made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Texas Performing Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. This film by Maren Celest shows rehearsal footage and interviews during a workshop at eighth blackbird’s Chicago studio in December 2014.


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Features: Eighth Blackbird

eighth blackbird rehearses and workshops Olagón during its MCA Residency, inviting some of the museum’s 300,000 annual visitors to witness the compositional process in an up-close-and-personal forum. This film by Maren Celest shares footage from similar workshops staged at the eighth blackbird studios in summer 2015.

Tears for Sister Polly from Murder Ballades
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As part of the proposed project, eighth blackbird presents the premiere of an expanded version of Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades at the MCA, March 25 and 26. Dessner’s 2013 version of the piece is on eighth blackbird’s new record, Filament, released on Cedille September 11, 2015. (http://www.cedillerecords.org/albums/filament)

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Chicago, Illinois

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Last update on April 18, 2016

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Chicago, Illinois
“One of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune), Eighth Blackbird began in 1996 as a group of six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory students and quickly became “a brand-name defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality” (Detroit Free Press). Over the course of two decades, Eighth Blackbird (originally “eighth blackbird”) has presented…

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The United States of America, New York


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