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Magritte and new music share the stage at LACMA

January 29, 2007|Lynne Heffley

Surrealism meets the new-music ensemble eighth blackbird in "Images: The Influence of Magritte," a concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theatre on Wednesday, presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images."

As a complementary musical component for artist John Baldessari's provocative installation of works by surrealist Rene Magritte and contemporary artists, the "very broad, eclectic, forward-thinking" Chicago-based eighth blackbird was first choice, said Mitch Glickman, LACMA's music program director.

Against a choreographed series of projections of works from the LACMA exhibition, the critically acclaimed sextet -- Tim Munro (flutes), Michael J. Maccaferri (clarinets), Matt Albert (violin and viola); Nicholas Photinos (cello), Lisa Kaplan (piano) and Matthew Duvall (percussion) -- will present commissioned works.

These include two West Coast premieres: "Rhiannon's Blackbirds," a myth-based chamber piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Joseph Schwantner, and Gordon Beeferman's "Reliquary."

Also on tap are Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez's "Luciernagas" (Fireflies), "Violence" by Gordon Fitzell, and "The Horse With the Lavender Eye" by Los Angeles-based Stephen Hartke.

A surrealistic theme is fitting, percussionist Duvall said. In Beeferman's work, for instance, "the composer imagined himself in someone else's dusty old basement, walking around and finding some curious object that you don't have any explanation for. And then you set it down and you find something else."

To help realize the "unusual sound world" that Beeferman requires, Duvall plays "a whole array of oddities, all kinds of small 'found' instruments, little funny bells and wood blocks and small gongs from different places in the world."

Aware that nontraditional music, like nontraditional art, often meets resistance, eighth blackbird connects with audiences through conversation and the memorization of its repertoire.

"We manage to be more communicative because we don't always have our heads buried in the music stands," Duvall said. "We're not so much being observed as kind of participating in the audience's experience and hoping we'll draw them into what we're doing."

No bowler hats or pipes, though.

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