During the last decade, Big Ears has emerged as the United States’ preeminent festival for exploratory music. This year, the festival honors a visionary international institution that has always operated with the same outlook—ECM Records, the border-erasing label launched by producer Manfred Eicher that has now spent half a century tirelessly pursuing new frontiers and standards of excellence in jazz and classical music.
At Big Ears 2019, some 20 concerts featuring legendary artists such as The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Meredith Monk, Carla Bley and Jack DeJohnette and a new generation of torch-bearing talents like Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Avishai Cohen, and Shai Maestro form the largest group of ECM acts under one banner in the United States (and one of the largest in the world) during this auspicious 50th year. View the lineup and read more here.
SUNDAY, MARCH 24 / 12am – 12pm
Free to Big Ears patrons, $10 for general public.
ALL NIGHT FLIGHT returns to Big Ears for its second edition with nearly two-dozen musicians and a team of four visual artists. Beginning when the clock ticks from Saturday, March 23, to Sunday, March 24, the drone will commence, one artist’s interpretation emptying directly into the next. Acoustic textures will meld and mix with electronic ones, international experimental stars co-mingling with regional upstarts from both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Learn more here.
The Pilot Light
For the sixth consecutive year, we are honored and excited to announce four completely free days of music at The Pilot Light, downtown Knoxville’s local and experimental music hub since 2000.
The Pilot Light’s history with Big Ears is long and intimate. When AC Entertainment first hatched the idea at the end of the last decade, The Pilot Light founder Jason Boardman joined the festival’s curatorial wing, helping to program a first year that was met with glowing international praise. The Pilot Light’s booking, after all, has always reflected an ethos similar to that of Big Ears, serving as an essential experimental outpost in the Southeast; in fact, several Big Ears performers have made and continue to make their Knoxville debuts at The Pilot Light.
As part of Big Ears 2019, these concerts—all booked by The Pilot Light’s Boardman—put our ideals about programming cutting-edge sound at play within the context of a thriving small club that happens to be, like the festival itself, a nonprofit enterprise. Mixing regional talent with several vital players from the United States’ musical frontiers, this year’s The Pilot Light programming is a compelling component of Big Ears 2019.
Mosaic Interactive is a suite of interdisciplinary works that explore our collective dreams, memories, and rituals through the lens of song and storytelling from around the globe. Big Ears 2019 is honored to welcome a team of artists from Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, Palestine, Lebanon, South Africa and the U.S. to present works that tell stories of what we as humans hold sacred, and how we pass this along to future generations. Learn more here.
Admission to this special Wednesday performance is not included with Big Ears Festival passes.
It is a long-running Shakespeare debate: Who is the “Dark Lady” he describes with such lust and longing in his sonnets? Various scholars have pursued the question over the years, whittling down the possibilities to select candidates of Mediterranean origin. But in her compelling 2015 collection of poetry called Lucy Negro, Redux, Nashville writer Caroline Randall Williams took a more literal (and, for some, more controversial) approach by identifying the Dark Lady as someone of African descent. She gave personality and meaning to Shakespeare’s muse, developing her as a person and not just as the bard’s spark.
In Lucy Negro Redux, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Carolina Chocolate Drops cofounder, Big Ears veteran, and Nashville and Broadway actress Rhiannon Giddens uses Williams’ work as the springboard for a full ballet that explores ideas of love and equality in a world that does not make them easy. A collaboration with Williams (who narrates the night), The Nashville Ballet, and artistic director Paul Vasterling, Lucy will make its world premiere in Nashville in February 2019. Its second performance happens in Knoxville for Big Ears 2019—fitting, as Giddens pursued the project after texting festival founder Ashley Capps a set of demos inspired by Williams’ book. She composed and will perform the score live with her recent collaborator, acclaimed Italian pianist and percussionist Francesco Turrisi. A testament to audacity and vision, Lucy Negro Redux seems destined to stand as a major work from Giddens, a major talent.
This production is recommended for adults due to explicit language and mature themes.