STG Presents
Eighth Blackbird featuring Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy)
Eighth Blackbird featuring Will Oldham (aka Bonnie
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The Neptune Theatre
May 4, 2017
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The Neptune Theatre

1303 Northeast 45th Street

Seattle, WA 98105-4502


May 4, 2017

Doors at 6:30 pm

Show at 7:30 pm

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STG Presents Eighth Blackbird featuring Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) at The Neptune on May 4, 2017.

The centerpiece of the program by four-time Grammy Award®-winning sextet EIGHTH BLACKBIRD is “Murder Ballades,” a work by composer Bryce Dessner, best known for his work as the guitarist for the indie rock band The National.

Composer Bryce Dessner writes: “When EIGHTH BLACKBIRD asked me for a piece, I immediately knew what to do: let great American folk music inspire a great American new music ensemble. The ‘murder ballad’ has its roots in a European tradition, in which grisly details of bloody homicides are recounted through song. When this tradition came to America, it developed its own vernacular, with stories and songs being told and retold over the generations.

In “Murder Ballades” I re-examine several of these old songs, allowing them to inspire my own music. ‘Omie Wise,’ ‘Young Emily,’ and ‘Pretty Polly’ are classic murder ballads, tales of romantically-charged killings that are based on real events. ‘Dark Holler,’ my own composition, is loosely modeled on the clawhammer banjo style which would have accompanied many of these early folk songs. ‘Brushy Fork’ is a Civil War era murder ballad/fiddle tune, and ‘Wave the Sea’ and ‘Tears for Sister Polly’ are original compositions woven out of the depths of the many months I spent inhabiting the seductive music and violent stories of these murder ballads.”

Singer-songwriter Will Oldham’s music has been linked to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock, and Will himself has been described as an “Appalachian post¬punk solipsist” with a voice that is “a fragile sort¬of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition.”

WILL OLDHAM AKA BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY, joins the ensemble for Frederic Rzewski's “Coming Together,” inspired by a letter written by Sam Melville—convicted for bombing eight New York City buildings in 1969—months before the Attica prison riot that marked his death. EIGHTH BLACKBIRD joins BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY in several of his songs that he selected for the program.

Nico Muhly: Doublespeak (2012)

Bryce Dessner: Murder Ballades (2013, rev. 2015)

Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together (1971)
Will Oldham, speaker

Will Oldham: Songs (to be announced from the stage)
Will Oldham, voice and guitar

“Their ability to synchronize in absolute lockstep was, in a word, amazing.”— Chicago Tribune

“The sextet eighth blackbird is simply the most exciting force for new music on the concert stage today.” —

“…one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet.” — Chicago Tribune

“The blackbirds are examples of a new breed of super-musicians.” —Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times (2009)

“Stage animals as well as outstanding chamber players, Eighth Blackbird perform with a freedom almost unheard of in their technically demanding repertoire.” —The Sunday Telegraph (2009)

“Watching Eighth Blackbird in action, you envied a composer’s opportunity to challenge these versatile, expressive performers.” — Steve Smith, New York Times (2010)

“The blackbirds are examples of a new breed of super-musicians. They perform the bulk of their new music from memory. They have no need of a conductor, no matter how complex the rhythms or balances. They are […] stage animals, often in motion, enacting their scores as they play them. They are without stylistic allegiances. Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, experimentalism, New Romanticism, old Expressionism, rock, smooth jazz, not-so-smooth jazz all come easily and naturally.” — Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“Furthermore, anyone who ventures to declare in a public forum that “Inuksuit” was one of the most rapturous experiences of his listening life—that is how I felt, and I wasn’t the only one—might be suspected of harboring hippie-dippie tendencies.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker


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