eighth blackbird, ICE, and Timothy Weiss of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music
In conversation with
Frank J. Oteri
Video presentation by
Transcribed by Julia Lu
With additional transcription by Randy Nordschow and
Edited by Frank J. Oteri and
There are certain institutions that seem to turn up again and again in the CVs of denizens of the new music community. One of them is Oberlin Conservatory. For years I’ve been noticing that whenever something interesting is going on new music-wise, there’s a good chance that someone involved in it studied at Oberlin.
Perhaps the most celebrated among recent Oberlin alumni is the new music sextet eighth blackbird, which has charted a unique career path in the field of classical chamber music performance for more than a decade. Adamantly a new-music-only ensemble as well as adamantly a non-fractalizable whole, eighth blackbird has nurtured a new body of concert repertoire for the 21st century and has attained a level of success that most ensembles of any kind would envy: e.g. major touring engagements, high-profile management, a significant discography, and tons of media exposure including national television.
A younger group of Oberlin alumni, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) has also been shaking up the music scene in new and unusual ways. A fiercely D.I.Y. unit currently based in two major American cities that independently programs and produces most of its concerts, ICE encompasses and embraces everything from solos to chamber orchestra repertoire and has just released their first CD.
So what is it about Oberlin? After talking with the members of each of these ensembles, I had to go there and see for myself. Nestled in a small Ohio town 35 miles away from a major metropolis, Oberlin Conservatory is an oasis for alternative thinking about music and how it connects to other disciplines. And according to the director of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble Timothy Weiss, who has been a valuable mentor and a catalyst for both eighth blackbird and ICE, there’s a similar euphoria about new music among the next generation at Oberlin.