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The Museum of Contemporary Art Is Now a Haven for Musicians

Illustration: Arthur Mount

Starting September 1, Grammy-winning new-music sextet Eighth Blackbird moves into the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago for 10 months as the organization’s first artists-in-residence who are musicians. “It’s a great opportunity for us to break down some of the veils, the mystique around the creative process,” says Peter Taub, the MCA’s director of performance programs. Here’s what to expect.

1 The Media Viewing Room: Watch a widescreen video of the ensemble performing David Lang’s These Broken Wings, filmed last spring by the videographer Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli. (Different footage from Lavatelli’s film, shot from six over-the-shoulder perspectives, will be projected on the walls of the studio as well; see number 3). At a series of iPad stations, you can also look at music clips that inspired the ensemble and read information about the group’s most memorable collaborations.

2 The Salon: In a room that the MCA’s design director, Dylan Fracareta, has dubbed the “engagement zone,” you can chat with the musicians when they’re around (check mcachicago.org for their availability) or perform Child of Tree, composer John Cage’s avant-garde piece written to be played on unorthodox instruments such as trees, seed pods, and logs. “You don’t need to be a bark-rubbing virtuoso to be able to do this,” percussionist Matthew Duvall says.

3 The Studio: Eighth Blackbird will rehearse here, in full public view, three to four hours on select days (visit mcachicago.org for dates), setting aside 15 minutes each hour to chat with visitors. Along the walls, Fracareta has strung six parallel fishing lines, evoking the musical staff, on which the musicians will hang scores and archival documents in celebration of Eighth Blackbird’s 20th anniversary in 2016. Whenever the group leaves to go on tour, “the studio won’t be cleaned up,” says Fracareta. “It should feel like it was just vacated.”

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