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New Music Ensemble eighth blackbird Collaborates With Collective Sleeping Giant

Hartford Courant | Michael Hamadeighthblackbird

The boundaries between composer and performer crumble with each passing year. Or maybe they were fictional all along.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, eighth blackbird, one of the world's premier new-music ensembles, performs "Hand Eye," a six-movement work by Brooklyn-based composer collective Sleeping Giant. The concert takes place at Yale University's Morse Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. (All six members of Sleeping Giant — Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, Ted Hearne, Robert Honstein, Andrew Norman — have ties to the Yale School of Music.)

For "Hand Eye," each Sleeping Giant composer chose one member, or instrument, of eighth blackbird — former flutist Tim Munro ( Nathalie Joachim has since joined the group), clarinetist Michael J. Maccaferri, violinist/violist Yvonne Lam, cellist Nicholas Photinos, percussionist Matthew Duvall and pianist Lisa Kaplan — to be the catalyst for his piece.

"It's pretty apparent when you hear all six pieces at once," Kaplan says. "They didn't all interpret what it would mean in the same way, which I think is great. It gave us each a moment to clearly be noticed."

The two groups collaborated at every step, and that's to be expected: Only in rare situations, Kaplan said, would eighth blackbird commission a piece from a composer and then have it delivered without feedback.

The groups also happen to be close friends.

Composer "Ted Hearne would call me and say, 'I'm sending you some piano stuff. See what you think of it,'" Kaplan says. "I'd take a look at it. Then he'd say, 'Oh, yeah, I hate all of that. Tear it up.'"

"Hand Eye" isn't eighth blackbird's first collaboration with a composer collective; listen, for example, to "singing in the dead of night," a 45-minute collaboration with Bang on a Can composers Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon and David Lang. But this is the first time, Kaplan says, that the group has found itself in a one-to-one match-up with six different composers.