Since our usual (ahem) blogger has writer’s cramp/block/etc, I just wanted to shout out a Happy Holidays to all our readers. If we have any left, that is. (cricket)

There are many stories, various and sundry from the past few months. Keep our RSS active, I promise it will come to life. Soon (ish.)

We’re going on holiday vacation for a bit, but we’ll be back in the new year with some crazy-fun new projects, winsome antics, and good times for all!

Today I had the pleasure of driving with Tim from Easton, PA to Dulles International Airport. Overall the drive was uneventful. Tim surfed for NPR broadcasts and eventually ended up playing “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” podcasts from his iPod.

For those of you just tuning into “Thirteen Ways” I feel compelled to reiterate that Tim is a self-proclaimed classical music tragic. Classical music is the egg in his omelette, the coal in his locomotive, etc. His love for the genre is so all consuming I have found little evidence that he has any idea that other types of music even exist.

Before settling into the podcasts, we happened upon a local classical radio station which was fading in and out of service. The announcer prepared us to listen to a Telemann overture for harpsichord at which point I made a snarky comment about my apathy towards the Baroque period in general. This fell upon deaf ears as Tim listened intently to the recording.

After a few moments passed he said something which both shocked and delighted me. I leave it to you, our esteemed readers to conjecture.

[UPDATE: Of course, the answer is bedpans and self-flagellation.  On ya!)

[poll id=”5″]

The poll closes on Friday September 19th at 11:59 PM.

I’ll be flying back to Chicago after a visit with my family out in southeastern MA.  After breezing through I-93 traffic to Logan, my flight has been delayed twice.  Since I figured I’ve really got nowhere to be, I volunteered to be bumped to an even later flight in exchange for a free round trip voucher (which sadly I can’t apply to my already booked trip to Santa Cruz in a week.)

What better to do when stuck at an airport on holiday than find the nearest microbrewpub and have a few cold (or room temperature) ones.

There has been a tremendous heat wave out here on the Cape this weekend and I’m ready for a brew or two.

My first is the Buckeye Oatmeal Stout from Boston Beer Works.  Served at just the right temperature with a rich and frothy head, expertly poured by my bartender, Mike.  Hopefully my garden burger with smoked gouda will live up to expectations as well.

Next the Boston Common.  “Created by a unique brewing process.” Pretty un-unique if you ask me.  Coppery and a bit sweeter than I had hoped.  Alas.

Tangentially…today as I was working on setting up a new computer network for my Mom’s family business, I met a young man named Scotty McKeowen who works as a carpenter for my sister’s husband’s construction company.  (They were preparing my Mom’s house to be re-shingled.)  Scotty introduced himself and asked if I “was the guy who had a piece written by Steve Reich.” In this context I was caught completely by surpise.  I told him yes, that’s me.  Apparently, he was at the Bang on a Can Marathon earlier this summer and had a chance to meet Steve Reich.  I didn’t have a chance to chat much with him (they were quite busy with the construction) but it gave me that “Huh, what a small world” thought.  As it turns out, he figured out a way to perform Steve’s “Piano Phase” in an arrangement for himself playing 2 bass guitars.  As I sit here reflecting on it, I realize I’ve missed out on quite an opportunity!  On my next trip out east, I’ll be sure to track him down to hear what he’s come up with! If you’re reading, thanks for the Dunkin’ coffee, Scotty!

Tim, you forgot to mention the writer’s comparision of you and the famed Ian Anderson.  How modest, really…

The flute part uses especially effective features such as singing and/or humming simultaneously while playing — something that Ian Anderson of the rock group Jethro Tull would later use to amass quite a fortune.

I cannot take credit for the idea, you have JCGIII to thank for that. I simply provided the digital handiwork.

I didn’t intentionally send a mole (he’s really more of an otter) into the audience of our recent performance at the resplendent Duke University, but it happened. Putting his iPhone to good use, he captured a few really charming comments by a handful of the evening’s concertgoers. Names and faces have been changed to protect the innocent.

Southern guy with heavy accent, to his wife while walking to his seat:

“This looks scary with all those drums up there.”

Guy behind me to his wife:

“I hope the laptop guy has his batteries charged.”

Someone walking in the isle, after the Crumb:

“Would you suppose that’s a humpback or a sperm whale?”

Guy behind me, to his wife, in reference to the Crumb:

“I thought I had heard this 35 years ago at NC State, but I was wrong.”

Mature gay couple, walking outside during intermission, regarding the

“It was rather dated…and those masks!”

During intermission between a man and woman, in this exact fashion:

woman: “I was sitting next to a harp professor and she asked me how they were doing. I’m not into atonal music but the second [piece] was better.”

man: “They were imitating whales, weren’t they?”

I am the usual grumpy Joe who posts to complain about the state of air travel in the US. Today something so off-putting happened during my TSA screening process I think I may have shed a tear of joy, though it was hard to tell through my haze of bewilderment.

To set the scene, I was on my way to the gate for my flight home to Chicago from Richmond. The line at screening was unexpectedly long for a Sunday afternoon in Richmond, but I had plenty of time so I wasn’t too panicked. When I got to the agent at the scanning machine and laid out all my stuff (properly separated, no liquid, shoes directly on the belt, laptop in its own bin) Michael (the agent) inquired:

“How are you today?”

“Doing well thanks, going home for a few days.”

“Do you have any liquids in your carry-ons?”

“No Sir.”

“What is in this case?” he asked, pointing to my Wiseman triple case.

“Musical instruments.”

“Okay, I’m going to hold this back until the machine is clear and send it through by itself so it doesn’t crash into anything on the other side.”

“Uhh…Thanks!” (as if a small moon had fallen on my head)

On the other side, a different agent took my case out by hand so it wouldn’t shoot down the ejection ramp and gingerly carried it to a table at the exit.

Perhaps this is new policy for TSA or maybe it was an isolated incident by a few gentle souls. My theory is that I likely overdid it with the Axe body spray this morning.

In a cab heading from the Financial District of Manhattan to LaGuardia. Stopped on FDR Drive in unnecessarily hideous traffic. 25 minutes left before we miss our check-in time.

Michael: We’re screwed. We’re only at 30th Street.

Tim: Ahh, you mean we’re already at 30th Street.

Matt: I love spin.

For those of you Brooklyn cognoscenti this will probably not be funny, but I found this perfectly amusing as well as practical.

While I was having dinner with my friend Becky and new acquaintance Ellen, Becky remarked how much she enjoyed Ellen’s new shoes and poked fun, inquiring “Did you get them on the street?”

My first thought, and not much of a thought really, was that she must have bought them from a vendor which line many a NYC street from time to time. Indeed, I thought wrong.

Apparently, when you have gently used items you wish to discard, it is appropriate to place said items along the sidewalk in front of your home so passersby might rummage through and walk away with a bargain.



After our last incredibly fun Studio Concert (which I feel we should find a new name for, since it is about 1/4 performance and 3/4 happy hour) I snapped this photo of our dear friend Erica Mott lounging around in the dark with my pal friend Edna.

I know that Erica has had her eye on Edna’s voluptuous curves and soft touch for quite some time now. She has even started dressing like her, sporting her own red velvet top.

Hands off, Mott. She’s all mine!

This is another old Net-toon, introduced to us by Gustavo Santaolalla while we were all on tour with a production of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre. There is nothing quite like hearing Schgustaiffo (as he came to be known) recite the opening with his adorable Argentinian accent.


By Brian McCreath
National Public Radio original link to full article

Best Classical CDs of 2006, from WGBH

Brian McCreath is host of Classical Weekend — a mix of recorded classical music, live performances, interviews and news — on Boston-based NPR station WGBH. Here, he compiles a list of the five best classical CDs to emerge this year, ranging from the complete Mozart to the works of contemporary composer Paul Moravec.

2. Paul Moravec: The Time Gallery, Protean Fantasy, Ariel Fantasy

Paul Moravec, the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner for music, collaborated with crack new music ensemble eighth blackbird to create a riveting, fascinating, and downright fun exploration of time and our relationship to it.

Copyright © 2006

Purchase this CD in our store…

David Weininger, Globe Correspondent
The Boston Globe original link

A contemporary ensemble doesn’t follow the flock

Eighth blackbird wears its virtuosity lightly. Everything about this enterprising new-music ensemble bespeaks lightness and dynamism. In its 10 years, the Chicago-based sextet has won a reputation for playing demanding contemporary scores in a way that makes them both intense and inviting. That describes eighth blackbird’s stage presence, too: The musicians play largely from memory, which gives them the freedom to dance, wander, and tramp around the stage in choreography that matches the music’s contours.

Matt Albert (violin), Molly Barth (piano), Matthew Duvall (percussion), Lisa Kaplan (piano), Michael Maccaferri (clarinet), and Nicholas Photinos (cello) met at the Oberlin College Conservatory. They bring their 10th-anniversary program — titled ”lucid, inescapable rhythms,” with three Boston premieres — to Sanders Theatre on Sunday, marking their Celebrity Series debut.

Photinos and Albert recently spoke by phone from Photinos’s home in Chicago.

Q. Do you remember your first gig as eighth blackbird?

Albert: I remember a trip to Chicago, where we played for the Chicago Composers’ Consortium.
Photinos: I think that was our first paid gig.
Albert: Yeah, I think so. We went to the ATM afterwards and the guy took out, I don’t know, 90 dollars.
Photinos: And we slept on church pews.
Albert: I did sleep on a church pew that somebody had in their apartment. I don’t think there was even a mattress pad or anything.

Q. When did you know that the six of you had something that clicked?

Albert: We entered this competition, the Fischoff, in the spring of 1996. And because a couple of people were going on to grad school and doing different things, it was going to be the end of our short-lived career. And we got first prize in our division. And we just couldn’t believe it. We had breakfast at this truck stop, Mary’s, outside of Oberlin. I think Matthew [Duvall] had biscuits and gravy. I was like, ‘Wow, that is some white gravy right there.’ And we sat around and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And everyone said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this for a career.’

Q. As new-music groups go, you guys are pretty hot. What do you attribute that to?

Albert: It’s important that we connect with audiences. We talk to audiences from the stage, we try to be charming and have fun.
Photinos: We’ve always had fun doing this, and that’s why we want to do it. We’re not on a mission, like, ‘You should listen to new music because it’s good for you.’ It’s always been, ‘We really like this piece, check it out.’ And to share that enthusiasm and get the audience excited about it — that’s really at the core of what we do.

Q. What didn’t work, what did you struggle with early on as a group?

Albert: I think it’s hard for any group early on to get known — get the name out there and get gigs. And I think that when we started, touring with a percussionist was a ton of logistics that most of us had never considered. When I was practicing violin for my degree, I didn’t think I’d have to learn to put together a vibraphone as part of my job. But I learned pretty quickly.
Photinos: Early on we did a tour where we were on the road for eight weeks at a time. And we kind of learned that that’s a bad idea. We really try to limit that now.

Q. So how much time do you all spend with one another?

Photinos: I don’t know, as little as we can? (laughs) No, quite a lot. We’re on the road, I think, about a third of the year. But even when we’re in Chicago, a lot of the time we’re rehearsing, doing other stuff — meeting up for phone interviews, that sort of thing.
Albert: But technically we’re not in the same room now, so I don’t know if this counts.

Q. That’s better, I assume?
Oh yeah, much better.

Q. Does it feel strange to make your living as a new-music group? Not just in terms of music careers, but in the larger world?
Albert: Yes, it does. You get this response a lot: ‘Oh, you can get paid to do that?’ (laughs)
Photinos: On any given day we might be required to saw wood or bark like a dog for a piece. And it’s great. And also pack up percussion and less savory things that we have to do. But all of that feels like it’s worth it. You also meet the best people along the way.

Q. You also have to meet journalists, which is kind of the downside.
Photinos: Yeah, that’s one of those less savory things.

Q. You took your name from Wallace Stevens’s ”Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Why?
Albert: Well, first of all, I love the poem and suggested the name to the group. And I think we all like the idea of an ensemble being called something that did not immediately describe it as an ensemble.
Photinos: I feel like bands get great names.
Albert: Blink-182. Photinos: Yeah, Fall Out Boy, matchbox twenty. They have these fantastically creative and diverse names.

Q. Whereas in classical music you get the Stradivarius String Quartet or something.
Albert: Exactly. And why is that? Does having a name like that help them to be a better string quartet than if they were called Fall Out Boy? I don’t know. In what we do, it seemed like it was only going to help us stand out having a name like eighth blackbird.

Bank of America Celebrity Series presents eighth blackbird Sunday at Sanders Theatre. 617-496-2222,

Copyright © 2006 Globe Newspaper Company