The audience at the Eighth Blackbird concert last Sunday were promised a novel and exciting experience; they got it. If you were expecting four or five string musicians in their somber black suits and dresses performing the usual chamber music fare (16th, 17th and 18th Century composers with maybe a little 19th and 20th century thrown in for good measure), you were definitely surprised. Rather than the usual, San Antonio Chamber Music Society presented the unusual: six very talented musicians performing very modern music on roughly a dozen instruments.
This was “experiential music” as opposed to “expected music.” To explain: think about a painting by Georges Seurat, say “A Sunday Afternoon at the Island of the Grande Jatte,” a prime example of pointillism. The reason it fascinates is a bit of a trick it plays on the brain: you are deceived into believing you are looking at an ordinary Impressionist painting, but it is actually an impression of impressionism: thousands of tiny dots of paint, leading the brain to the experience of summer light and enjoyment. The genre-bending compositions performed by Eighth Blackbird accomplished a similar feat. They weren’t thematic in the usual sense – they were compositions by young composers and their fresh visions of classical music defy being shoved into a box. Just as in the Seurat painting, it would be useless to try to pick apart each tiny color. You simply have to take in the whole and just enjoy. (I did wonder if others in the audience felt as chilled as I did during “The Clarity of Cold Air” or experienced the rocks and water tumbling in “Eroding.”) The compositions crossed one genre line after another from jazz to blues to where-did-that-come-from to harmony to discord, from noise to barely perceptible whispers, from expected to totally amazing. These talented musicians also managed to express humor and pathos with their varied instruments; it was apparent they richly enjoyed what they were creating.
The compositions crossed one genre line after another from jazz to blues to where-did-that-come-from to harmony to discord, from noise to barely perceptible whispers, from expected to totally amazing.