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composition as explanation

Directed by Anne Bogart
Music by David Lang

Sep 28, 2023 — Sep 30, 2023

“Closely attuned to the needs of musicians and audiences today, David Lang, Anne Bogart, and Eighth Blackbird created a performance that was extraordinary, inventive, and deserving of constant reinvention.”  – Cultural Voice of North Carolina

Join us from September 28 – 30 for a one-of-a-kind experience from acclaimed ensemble, Eighth Blackbird!

Eighth Blackbird (8BB) has been pushing the interpretative boundaries of chamber music since its first choreographed program in 1996. So far, the organization has created seven full evening-length staged productions. What began as an experiment has become a repertoire coined as “Super Chamber Music” by composer David Lang. This still-unofficial genre falls in the cracks between music and theater and has been a conundrum for marketing professionals for two decades. Nonetheless, 8BB does it anyway. This playground between disciplines is an inevitable extension of Eighth Blackbird’s inner workings. It is the guts and it is the bones of their artistry. 

composition as explanation is 8BB’s next foray into uncharted aesthetic territories. This time the evening is composed by David Lang and directed by Anne Bogart, though the true hero of the evening is Gertrude Stein. Her essay (by the same name) is the heart and breath of this work. 

How should 8BB bring an audience into the repetitive and plainspoken and circular format of Stein’s writing? She has blurred the relationship between her content, her form, and her performance. 8BB follows her lead and blurs performance distinctions between instrumental virtuosity, chamber ensemble dexterity, acting, singing, costume, lighting, audio, and staging.

Is this work really all about Stein though? No. Her writing is the catalyst, but what the audience leaves with is a new point of inquiry regarding how they absorb art. Any art. By lifting Stein’s enigmatic oration from the printed page, 8BB creates layers of interpretation and reveals the human relationship with art from an entirely unprecedented perspective. A perspective that is experienced, rather than erudite, as thoughtful, clever, humorous, intuitive, insightful, and joyful. 

Download PDF Program

Presented in partnership with UChicago Presents.

composition as explanation was co-commissioned for Eighth Blackbird by the Arts Club of Chicago on the occasion of its centennial, and by Duke Performances at Duke University, with additional commissioning support from Richard Replin and Elissa Stein, and from the Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond. Support for the recording provided by Çedille Records.

Photo of Eighth Blackbird ensemble by Alex Boerner.

Artistic Team


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