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Eighth Blackbird is all about new music

We've all heard Mozart, and we've all heard Beethoven. But what about something a little edgy, something new? What do the Beethovens of today have to say, and who's playing their music?

Eighth Blackbird, for one.

The progressive sextet, which refers to its music as "so good it's dangerous," is hoping to shape the future of classical music, one concert at a time. The group will be performing in Libby Gardner Concert Hall on Tuesday.

Flautist Molly Barth said she feels that the fear and intimidation so many audiences have about new music stems from the performers. "If you present it in a very, very highbrow way, then people might get scared of it," Barth said during a telephone interview. "I think that another problem is that a lot of (performers) don't have the time to put a lot of rehearsal into a piece, so they don't have a very convincing interpretation when they get onstage with it. And if you're not going to be convincing in your interpretation, then the audience also is not going to quite get it. Those are two things that we focus on in our performances."

It probably doesn't hurt, either, that the group cops a fresh, hip attitude. Rather than turning a cold shoulder to pop music, Eighth Blackbird embraces its influence, folding it into the fabric of classical underpinnings. Of course, the trend, Barth noted, goes across the board. Many composers of today's younger generation — the crowd that grew up with rock — are incorporating its influences into their music.

Another secret to Eighth Blackbird's success is its style. Casting off the formal trappings of chamber music, the dress is relatively casual, and each member interacts with the audience. Further, Barth explained, the group memorizes most of its music, which allows freedom to move about the stage — or to get right down into the audience — as seems appropriate for the piece. Barth referred to this as "choreography," although she explained that it is much less formal than what dancers do. For example, she says that when the music features flute and piano, it feels most natural for her to walk over to the piano to play.

"We like to connect with the audiences by talking a little bit, and also the whole thing with choreography helps," Barth said. "But the basic thing that we're trying to do is rehearse music really well so that we can have a strong interpretation and an audience can get something out of it."

If you go . . .

What: Eighth Blackbird

Where: Kingsbury Hall

When: 7:30 p.m., March 11

Phone: 581-7100 or 355-2787 or 1-888-451-2787