Text by Paul Muldoon
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 8:00 pm
Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 8:00 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 8:00 pm
Olagón, a conflicted wail of both mourning and victory, stands as the central inspiration of this new evening-length collaboration between Eighth Blackbird, composer/fiddler Dan Trueman, vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird of the contemporary Irish supergroup The Gloaming, and Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon. Drawing from the legendary Irish tale Táin Bó Cúailnge, Olagón aims to tell a story of hardship in contemporary, post-recession Ireland while honoring traditional musics of Ireland, Norway, and America. Muldoon’s text – utilizing both English and Irish – is sung in the unique and highly ornamental vocal practice known as Sean Nós by Ó Lionáird. When coupled with Trueman’s diverse musical landscape, stage direction by Mark DiChiazza, and the virtuosity of Eighth Blackbird, a multi-cultural experience unlike any other is brought vividly life.
About the Artist:
Iarla Ó Lionáird has carved a long and unique career in music both internationally and in Ireland. From his iconic early recording of the vision song “Aisling Gheal” as a young boy to his ground breaking recordings with Dublin's Crash Ensemble and New York’s Alarm Will Sound, he has shown a breadth of artistic ambition that sets him apart in the Irish Music fraternity.
Preferring not to be categorized, his performances and recorded output follows an ambitious arc that challenges musical identity from Folk to Worldbeat, from New Classical to Opera. But there’s no doubt he is one of our most distinctive voices. Distinctive voices are always a welcome arrival, regardless of the orbits they choose, and Iarla Ó Lionáird’s is one that ventures far beyond the boundaries of any one genre: a defiantly unclassifiable sound.
He’s a child of traditional music, born and bred in Cúil Aodha, in the belly of the West Cork Gaeltacht, with Seán Ó Riada a neighbour and indisputable early influence. His great aunt, the traditional singer Elizabeth Cronin, had forged a reputation for rich interpretation before him, paving the way for the young Ó Lionáird to still audiences with his plaintive, textured voice at Mass, and later, in parlours, front rooms, snugs, town halls and concert halls. The truth is, it’s the individual sonic qualities of Iarla Ó Lionáird’s voice that define him. That voice, with all its midnight depth and soaring breadth, transcends anything that might box or classify him as one thing or another.
A twice Grammy nominated artist, Ó Lionáird has worked with a stellar cast of composers internationally including Donnacha Dennehy, Dan Trueman, Nico Muhly, Gavin Bryars and David Lang and he has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave, Robert Plant and Sinead O'Connor. His unique singing style has carried him to stages and concert halls all over the world, from New York's Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House and beyond.
Also an accomplished broadcaster, Ó Lionáird’s recent radio series “Vocal Chords” on the mysteries of the human voice, for Ireland’s National Classical Music Broadcaster, RTE Lyric FM, won both Gold and Silver Awards at the “New York Radio Festival” 2016.
His own voice has graced the silver screen also, with film credits extending from "The Gangs of New York" to "Hotel Rwanda" and most recently as featured singer in the film “Brooklyn” starring Saoirse Ronan. He is the vocalist with the critically acclaimed Irish/American band "The Gloaming." He holds a Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick where he is currently completing a PhD. Currently, as the recipient of a Belknap Fellowship, he is teaching in Princeton University.
Dan Trueman is a composer, fiddler, and electronic musician. He began studying violin at the age of 4, and decades later, after a chance encounter, fell in love with the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, an instrument and tradition that has deeply affected all of his work, whether as a fiddler, a composer, or musical explorer.
Dan's current projects include: a double-quartet for So Percussion and the JACK Quartet, commissioned by the Barlow Foundation; Olagón — an evening length work in collaboration with singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, poet Paul Muldoon, and eighth blackbird; the Prepared Digital Piano project; a collaborative dance project with choreographer Rebecca Lazier and scientist Naomi Leonard; ongoing collaborations with Irish fiddler Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and guitarist Monica Mugan (Trollstilt). His recent albums with Adam Sliwinski (Nostalgic Synchronic), Ó Raghallaigh (Laghdú) and So Percussion (neither Anvil nor Pulley) have met with wide acclaim.
His explorations have ranged from the oldest to the newest technologies; Dan co-founded the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, the first ensemble of its size and kind that has led to the formation of similarly inspired ensembles across the world, from Oslo to Dublin, to Stanford and Bangkok. Dan's compositional work reflects this complex and broad range of activities, exploring rhythmic connections between traditional dance music and machines, for instance, or engaging with the unusual phrasing, tuning and ornamentation of the traditional Norwegian music while trying to discover new music that is singularly inspired by, and only possible with, new digital instruments that he designs and constructs. His tools of the trade are the first-of-its-kind Hardanger d'Amore fiddle by Salve Hakedal (played with a beautiful baroque bow by Michel Jamonneau), and the ChucK music programming language by Ge Wang.
Dan's work has been recognized by fellowships, grants, commissions, and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, the Bessies, the Fulbright Commission, the American Composers Forum, the American Council of Learned Societies, Meet the Composer, among others. He is Professor of Music and Director of the Princeton Sound Kitchen at Princeton University, where he teaches counterpoint, electronic music, and composition.
Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet and professor of poetry, as well as an editor, critic, and translator. Born in 1951 in Portadown, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland, to Patrick Muldoon, a farm labourer and market gardener, and Brigid Regan, a schoolteacher, Paul Muldoon was brought up near a village called The Moy on the border of Counties Armagh and Tyrone. He is the oldest of three children. After studying at Queen’s University, Belfast, where Seamus Heaney was a tutor and where he met other Belfast Group poets such as Michael Longley, he published his first book, New Weather (Faber) in 1972, at the age of 21. From 1973 he worked as a producer for the BBC in Belfast until, in the mid-1980’s, he gave up his job to become a freelance writer and moved to the United States with his second wife, the American novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz. He now lives in New York City. Muldoon is the author of twelve major collections of poetry. He has also published innumerable smaller collections, works of criticism, opera libretti, books for children, song lyrics and radio and television drama. His poetry has been translated into twenty languages. Muldoon served as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University from 1999 to 2004. He has taught at Princeton University since 1987 and currently occupies the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 chair in the Humanities. He has been poetry editor of The New Yorker since 2007. He is lyricist for, and member of, the Princeton-based music collective Wayside Shrines and occasionally appears with a spoken word backing group, Rogue Oliphant. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, he has received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature, the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2005 Aspen Prize for Poetry, and the 2006 European Prize for Poetry. He has been described by The Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the second World War.”
Eighth Blackbird is “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune). Launched by six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory undergraduates in 1996, this Chicago-based super-group has earned its status as “a brand-name…defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality….known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers and even puppetry artists” (Detroit Free Press).
Eighth Blackbird first gained wide recognition in 1998 as winners of the Concert Artists Guild Competition. Over the following two decades, Eighth Blackbird has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers such as David Lang, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli, and Steve Reich, whose Double Sextet went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. A long-term relationship with Chicago’s Cedille Records has produced seven acclaimed recordings and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. Hand Eye, their most recent recording released in March 2016 and featuring the music of composer collective Sleeping Giant, was hailed as “dazzling” and “vigorously, flawlessly performed” (WQXR).
Eighth Blackbird kicked off its 20th anniversary in 2016, quickly garnering a fourth GRAMMY Award as well as the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, followed by Chamber Music America’s inaugural Visionary Award, and Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year (2017). Anniversary celebrations continue throughout the 2016-17 season with tours of music from Filament and Hand Eye, as well as keystone performances celebrating Steve Reich’s 80th birthday, a fresh round of raucous shows with “Appalachian post-punk solipsist” (The Wanderer) Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy), and world premieres by Holly Harrison, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang, and Ned McGowan. This season marks debuts in Paris, at Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner’s (The National) Eaux Claires Festival, with the San Francisco Symphony, and also includes a three-week return to Australia.
Eighth Blackbird’s mission—to move music forward through innovative performance, advocate for new music by living composers, and create a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians —extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education. The ensemble served as Music Director of the 2009 Ojai Music Festival, has held residencies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at the University of Chicago, and holds an ongoing Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Richmond. The 2015-16 season featured a pioneering residency at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art: a living installation with open rehearsals, performances, guest artists, and public talks. Eighth Blackbird launches its most ambitious educational venture yet in June 2017: The Blackbird Creative Lab, an annual tuition-free two-week intensive for emerging artists at the Besant Hill School in Ojai, California.
Eighth Blackbird’s members hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, imagistic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: “I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.” Eighth Blackbird is managed by David Lieberman Artists.