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eighth blackbird Plays Music of Wilco Drummer Glenn Kotche and Other Bad Boys of New Music at Free Chicago Concert

By Louise Burton on Aug 27, 2013 12:40 AM EDT

You can still hear eighth blackbird before they fly their Chicago coop.

The Grammy-winning new music ensemble will present a program dominated by Chicago-area composers on Wednesday, August 28 at Millennium Park--including a new piece by Glenn Kotche, a composer more widely known as the drummer from rock band Wilco.

Three works by Kotche are on the program, including the world première of The Haunted, a work he wrote with eighth blackbird in mind.

Kotche, himself, is a rare bird, a musician who straddles both rock and classical genres. He has written music for the Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, among other notable contemporary music groups.

eighth blackbird's name comes from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." The Chicago-based sextet recently recorded Meanwhile, which won Grammys for Best Small Ensemble Performance and Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

The group will migrate to the east coast in September, and this free program in downtown Chicago--part of Millennium Park's "Loops and Variations" series--is their last concert in the area for several months.

Wednesday's program also features works by John Cage, Tristan Perich and eighth blackbird pianist Lisa Kaplan, who wrote a piece for piano, four hands called whirligig.

"I wrote whirligig on a dare from my friend Nico Muhly," Kaplan told Classicalite. "We were going to be performing together and were looking for some kind of four-hand piano piece to play. We went back and forth with suggestions for a long time, and finally he said, 'You should just write something.'"

Muhly is a pianist and composer whose opera, Two Boys, will be performed by the Metropolitan Opera later this fall.

"There's something about four-hand music, it's very intimate. You are sharing a bench and a keyboard. It's something I only want to do with people I'm really good friends with," Kaplan explained.

"I was inspired to write something where the two pianists keep getting in each other's way--where they have to play on the same part of the keyboard," she said.

Kaplan describes her piece as "octopuss-y," with lines that overlap so often it's almost impossible to tell whose hands are playing what. Working out the complex choreography of four hands, will prove to be a real pianistic feat.

Lisa Kaplan will be performing the three-movement piece with three pianist friends, each pianist sitting in to play one movement.

But will they be of three minds, like a tree in which three blackbirds are perched?

Find out at Chicago's Millennium Park this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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TagsLouise Burton, eighth blackbird, Wilco, Glenn Kotche, The Haunted, Millennium Park, Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can, Lisa Kaplan, whirligig, Nico Muhly, Two Boys, John Cage, Tristan Perich