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Strange Imaginary Animals (new music by Higdon, Fitzell, Mackey, Gordon, DeSantis), eighth blackbird (released on November 28, 2006)
The playing here is vivid and exciting, and most of the repertoire is worth the energy expended by eighth blackbird (see the group at work in these videos). Jennifer Higdon's Zaka is an edgy, rhythmic 12:50, with raw, percussive flute aspirations and prepared piano sounds. In several sections of differing styles, the piece held my attention over extended listening. My favorite piece here is Steven Mackey's Indigenous Instruments, the older piece re-examined. The composer's program notes describe the work as "vernacular music from a culture that doesn’t actually exist." Mackey's method was a sort of Dada collage of found sounds reimagined, leading him toward microtonal dissonance (the instruments are all mistuned or otherwise prepared) with Stravinsky-esque rhythmic shifts. The bends, whistling sounds, and Doppler effects (like sirens bleating) can make you a little seasick, the disorientation of a foreign land.
Steve Hicken (Sequenza 21)
For the final track, strange imaginary remix, Dennis DeSantis put together a house music sort of remix of the preceding five pieces, over a dance beat. Now that I am done reviewing this CD, I will probably delete this track from my MP3 player for good. Still, this CD has been rewarding listening many times. However, I do not recommend it for late at night. When I fell asleep with it on my MP3 player one night, I had very disturbing dreams. It could very easily be the soundtrack of one's nightmares.
Cedille CDR 90000 094
To catch eighth blackbird live in concert, Washingtonians will have to try to attend the concert scheduled for February 21, as part of the group's residency at the University of Richmond.