Big Ears is excited to announce that composer Ellen Reid — 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Music winner and Oak Ridge native — will create a version of her signature work, SOUNDWALK, at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville. The work consists of music composed by Reid specifically for the project — recorded by her own all-star ensemble, as well as the renowned Kronos Quartet. Accessible on your smart phone by downloading a free app, the work uses GPS to unfold and transform as a listener wearing headphones walks through Ijams’ network of trails.
Conceived to be installed in multiple cities simultaneously, Reid launched her initial SOUNDWALK in September of 2020, in conjunction with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, mapping the entirety of New York’s Central Park. Other presentations of SOUNDWALK have now been offered in Los Angeles at Griffith Park and in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park, among other locations. Now, Reid is excited to bring a SOUNDWALK to her native East Tennessee.
“SOUNDWALK is an intimate project,” says Reid. “It’s about introspection and taking time alone with your thoughts while connecting with nature. This special installation for Big Ears features one of my favorite ensembles, the Kronos Quartet — I’ve been inspired by them since I was a teenager, so this is truly a homecoming on many levels, and a celebration of the natural beauty of East Tennessee that was the backdrop of my childhood.”
SOUNDWALK consists of musical cells, carefully crafted by the composer to harmonize with the surrounding landscape, with surprises — musical “Easter eggs” — hidden within to accentuate some of the special features of the nature center. The choice of paths and the pace at which they are explored determine the music each listener hears, ensuring that no two visits are ever quite the same.
“We’ve presented some of Ellen’s music previously at Big Ears, and have continued to discuss further ideas with her,” says Big Ears’ Executive Director, Ashley Capps. “When we first learned about SOUNDWALK, when it was launched last September in Central Park, it struck us as especially perfect in connecting Big Ears’ musical vision with the natural beauty here in our community. We asked Ellen if she would bring this special project back home, and it turned out that she was already thinking about that as well. We’re thrilled to help make it happen.”
“Ijams Nature Center is proud to partner with Big Ears to encourage its visitors to experience the natural world in a new, creative way,” says Amber Parker, Ijams Executive Director. “Ijams hosted John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit as part of the 2016 Big Ears Festival, and it was wonderful. We love the idea of having Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK here and can’t wait to see how people respond.”
SOUNDWALK at Ijams Nature Center will launch in September of 2021, in conjunction with the announcement of the lineup for Big Ears 2022, scheduled for March 24-27. SOUNDWALK will be at Ijams for one year.