Eighth Blackbird at the National Gallery of Art

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National Gallery of Art

What a place to see one of my all time favorite contemporary music groups. Eighth Blackbird played the National Gallery 2.16.20, and the show was free. As always, the group featured brand new music from living composers, including: Nina Shekhar, Fjóla Evans, Andy Akiho, Holly Harrison, David Lang, Viet Cuong, Jonathan Bailey Holland, and Julius Eastman. This show included some ringers in for violin, flute, and clarinet.

Lisa Kaplan, fearless leader and director of eighth blackbird

My favorite set was the second, and my favorite piece was Viet Cuoug’s Electric Aroma (2017),

The most precious thing in the museum was Cora, of course.

Cora does contemporary

The setting (no pictures or recording during the show)

After the concert, there were a few minutes for art.

Then it was out and on the metro for cocktails and dinner at Baba.

Sundown on the mall

Smithsonian sculpture

Wholly Emily

Baba’s bar

Eighth Blackbird


I was snowed in. Art to the rescue. My business trip to Chicago included lots of art (really, lots) and the most moving music I have ever experienced outside of performing.

Other musicians will know that hard to describe feeling that sometimes comes in the midst performing. It happens to me most often when playing in a symphony orchestra, and on occasion when I am playing simpler music with Where’s Aubrey or the Bitter Liberals. When I heard Eighth Blackbird play their work Hand Eye in Chicago I experienced that feeling. But I was (obviously) not performing. Wow. Who knew?

So now I am a big fan. Just go see them perform.



I just saw a second Eighth Blackbord performance at the Kennedy Center which was, not surprisingly, incredibly good. But I am still trying to figure out which piece of theirs was the one that moved me in Chicago. At a small reception after the show I talked it over with Lisa and Nick.

I think it was pulse.

Lisa Kaplan, piano

Lisa Kaplan, piano

Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets

Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets

Nicholas Photinos, cello

Nicholas Photinos, cello

Nathalie Joachim, flutes

Nathalie Joachim, flutes

The performance:

David Lang diet coke
Ted Hearne By-By Huey
David Lang grind
David T. Little Ghostlight (Fortas commission) World Premiere

David T. Little

David T. Little

David Lang wed
Bryce Dessner Murder Ballades


Flying Birds.
Excellent Birds.
Watch them fly.
There they go.
Falling snow.
Excellent snow.
Here it comes.
Watch it fall.
Long words.
Excellent words.
I can hear them now.