5 Question to Nicholas Photinos (Eighth Blackbird)

On Friday, April 28, 2017, Eighth Blackbird will present a recital in Cornell University’s Barnes Hall as part of the Cornell Concert Series. The program features an eclectic mix of compositions, including works from their Grammy-Award winning album Filament (2015). We asked 5 questions to cellist Nicholas Photinos about the April 28th concert, the Blackbird Creative Lab, and their next album release.

Is this your first time playing at Barnes Hall?

This isn’t our first time at Cornell, with performances stretching back to 2002, but I’m unfortunately not sure about the hall.

What will you be presenting that night?

We will be presenting a concert featuring several pieces from our Grammy-winning album Filament, including Nico Muhly’s Doublespeak, Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion, and Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades. We’ll round out the concert with Tom Johnson’s Counting Duets, Timo Andres’s Crashing Through Fences, and a short except of a new work by David Lang, Composition as Explanation.

eighth blackbird

Eighth Blackbird

Eighth Blackbird performances invite the audience to think about music differently. One way is theatricality, I believe. Would Tom Johnson’s Counting Duets, on your program on the 28th, fit that category? How do audiences react to these pieces?

Counting Duets is certainly one of those pieces, and we often use it as an example in asking people the question: is this music? After all, all it is is two or more people reciting numbers. And yet the simple (yet mesmerizing) organizational principles involved, and the relatively black canvas it provides upon which to interpret, make it a highly convincing and malleable work of music, in my opinion. Audiences tend to eat these pieces up: they’re really funny!

Can you tell me more about the Blackbird Creative Lab?

This summer, in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, we launch a project we have been working on for several years and about which we are very proud and excited: the Blackbird Creative Lab. 30 fellows–24 performers and 6 composers–will join us for two weeks in beautiful Ojai, CA to work with us and a number of esteemed faculty and guest artists to produce and perform new works by the composer fellows and established works by modern masters, culminating in two nights of public performances on June 23rd and 24th.

Blackbird Creative Lab from Eighth Blackbird on Vimeo.

When can we expect a new album from Eighth Blackbird? Any hints of what it would be?

We’re very excited about our upcoming release this Fall on the Cedille label of Olagon, an evening-length song cycle based on mythic Irish folklore. It’s by composer Dan Trueman, featuring Dan on hardanger fiddle and traditional Irish sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, with a new text by Pultizer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. Earlier this month, we recorded the vocal parts for the piece (the entire ensemble sings on this one), so all the notes are in the can, now we just need to work on edits, mastering, and album art. The piece is fantastic and we can’t wait to tour it widely!


Apr 28, 2017
8:00 PM Cornell Concert Series
Klarman Hall Auditorium – Ithaca, NY

Apr 29, 2017
8:00 PM Malmgren Concert Series
Hendricks Chapel – Syracuse, NY

May 3, 2017
7:30 PM Portland’5 Center for the Arts with Will Oldham
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – Portland, OR

May 4, 2017
7:30 PM Seattle Theatre Group with Will Oldham
The Neptune Theatre – Seattle, WA

More information