5 Questions to Nathalie Joachim (eighth blackbird, Flutronix)

Flutist and composer Nathalie Joachim, perhaps best known as half of the funky genre-blurring duo Flutronix, has just joined the multiple Grammy winning Chicago-based sextet eighth blackbird. We caught up with Nathalie just after her first official 8bb rehearsal to find out more.

How did you become the new flutist in eighth blackbird?

If you had told me a year ago that I’d become a member of Chicago’s super group, I wouldn’t have believed it, and when Lisa Kaplan reached out to me last fall, I was stunned. I was recommended to eighth blackbird by mutual friend and composer Bryce Dessner (who wrote the featured Murder Ballades on our upcoming album, Filament on Cedille Records, out on September 11, 2015). I had been a fan of the group for years, and knew this audition was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I couldn’t pass up. At the time, I felt fulfilled as an educator through Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program and as a creator through Flutronix, but I found myself longing for a chamber music home. There is a connection that a chamber music setting provides that is truly unique, and for me is the real bread and butter of performance. eighth blackbird captures that like no other ensemble in my opinion, so I jumped at the chance. A few audition rounds and countless hours of practice later, I had landed the gig! I am admittedly still pinching myself to confirm that it’s not all a dream.

What can you tell us about the upcoming 8bb residency at MCA Chicago?

So many people attend an eighth blackbird concert and think “how do they do that?!” This season’s residency at the MCA will reveal what’s behind the curtain, so to speak. We will literally be on display as a living art installation in an exhibit space divided into two areas: a studio and a salon. Beginning September 1, MCA visitors can come to the studio gallery to observe our rehearsals and creative process first hand. When we are not there rehearsing, patrons can see our music-making process through our eyes, thanks to an immersive, multi-screen video experience made in collaboration with the MCA staff. The adjacent salon gallery will be home to an interactive installation of John Cage’s Child of Tree, also developed in collaboration with the MCA staff. To further invite visitors into our process, we will be hosting a series of public performance events and workshops throughout the season featuring composers we are currently working with, including David T. Little, Bryce Dessner, and Dan Trueman. I am truly excited about this residency being a part of my first season with eighth blackbird, and as a new Chicagoan, I should mention that admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays!

eighth blackbird (photo credit: Luke Ratray)

eighth blackbird (photo credit: Luke Ratray)

How is the Hand Eye project with Sleeping Giant composers unfolding?

The centerpiece of eighth blackbird’s touring season is Hand Eye, a concert-length production with music by Sleeping Giant – a superstar composer collective featuring Andrew Norman, Ted Hearne, Chris Cerrone, Timo Andres, Jacob Cooper, and Robert Honstein. The work was co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, so I am looking forward to heading back to my home town for the New York premiere on January 18 at Zankel Hall, followed by the premiere in my new home base on January 23-24 as part of our MCA residency. The collaboration with Sleeping Giant is a cool one, as there are six of us and six of them, so it allowed each composer to highlight the intricacies of our instruments individually and to work closely with every player in exploration of that. Each piece was inspired by a work of visual art, and thus evokes a lot of visual imagery for the listener. We wanted to showcase that, so we paired up with stage designer Deborah Johnson, aka CandyStations, to create some unique visual elements for this production. It is truly an immersive experience, and we can’t wait to bring it to stages across the country this season.

What are the latest developments in your own composition work?

In addition to performing with eighth blackbird, I will remain active as a composer. Last spring, I premiered an electroacoustic work as part of Park Avenue Armory’s Under Construction series, in collaboration with Ulysses Owens (jazz drummer, Christian McBride Trio). Other projects coming this season include Caribou, commissioned by Helen Simoneau Danse, premiering regionally at the University of North Carolina in March 2016, and nationally at the Bates Dance Festival in July 2016, and an electroacoustic work for solo cello commissioned by Amanda Gookin of New York’s PUBLIQuartet.

And finally, what’s up with Flutronix?

I’m happy to report that Flutronix will continue on! We recently released a new EP, City of Breath, which includes some remakes from our sophomore album, 2.0, a tribute to master flutist Carol Wincenc, and Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint. We’ve also partnered with Carl Fischer Music to publish the score of Flock, our acoustic quintet for flutes and alto flute, available online and in stores nationwide. Balancing my new life will take some adjusting of course, but Allison (Loggins-Hull) and I are fully committed to Flutronix, and if there’s one thing our fans know, it’s that we won’t miss a beat!