Big Ears Festival is proud to announce that rock icon, writer, poet, photographer Patti Smith will make her Big Ears festival debut March 26-29, 2020 in Knoxville, TN, where she’ll perform with her band as well as present a literary program / conversation during the weekend.


Cited by Rolling Stone in 2010 as one of our 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Smith galvanized the New York punk scene in 1975 with the release of her debut album, Horses.  She is now a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as well as a Commander of the French Ministry of Culture’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  She received the National Book Award in 2010 for her memoir, Just Kids, which chronicles her friendship and journey in art with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. She has since published several other acclaimed collections of poetry and prose, including the recently released The Year of the Monkey.

The Big Ears lineup has expanded to include the 100th anniversary of the invention of the Theremin, where Theremin master Rob Schwimmer will lead a trio featuring pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman in a concert marking the 20th anniversary and recent release of their collaboration, Theremin Noir.

Montreal’s post-rock chamber ensemble Bell Orchestre, featuring Arcade Fire members Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry, will make their Big Ears debut on the heels of a long-awaited new recording. Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran’s A Winged Victory for the Sullen return to Big Ears with a stunningly beautiful new recording, The Undivided Five, inspired by the mystic Swedish painter, Hilma af Klint.

Chicago’s groundbreaking chamber group Ensemble Dal Niente will be joined by saxophone virtuoso Ken Vandermark, performing music written for them by Roscoe Mitchell, along with works by Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, and others contemporary composers. Dal Niente and Vandermark are also planning a kaleidoscopic array of performances at the Knoxville Museum of Art during the festival weekend.

Fennesz, whose richly textured guitar and electronics dazzled the very first Big Ears audience on opening night back in 2009, returns to the festival at long last. His latest release, Agora, was cited as one of the best recordings of the year in Pitchfork, which described it has having “a cumulative force that is unlike anything he’s done in years.”

Nivhek is the name of a new project from Big Ears alum, Liz Harris (Grouper), also cited by Pitchfork as one of the finest records of 2019, “…her music remains in an enigmatic class of its own.”

Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard will bring his evocative and mysterious explorations of the world that surrounds us, with both installations and live performance.

New additions include Pakistani singer / composer Arooj Aftab and the Vulture Prince Ensemble, with Gyan Riley, Maeve Gilchrest, Shahzad Ismaily, and Greg Fox; the mysterious mezzo-soprano folk singer Josephine Foster channeling Harry Smith’s “old weird America;” composer / percussionist extraordinaire John Hollenbeck’s minimalist/maximalist post-jazz ensemble, The Claudia Quintet; Chicago’s adventurous, boundary-pushing composer / cornet player Ben LaMar Gay and his band; an evocative solo performance from Múm’s cellist and singer Gyda Valtysdottir; saxophonist Sam Gendel’s haunting reimagining of jazz standards; the spirited Argentine / Mexican / North Carolina string band wizardry of Che Apalache; composer/performer Astrid Sonne, who explores perception and its accompanying emotional states through her viola and electronics; Sonja LaBianca, whose solo saxophone performances create poetic, minimalist soundscapes; cellist D. Scot Williams performs solo music by Hindemith, Crumb, and Overall.

Additional artists and special performances will be announced, along with information about the film and literary programs, talks and discussions, and other facets of the Big Ears experience. Stay tuned.

Knoxville, TN · USA



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