Just Charles & Cello in the Romantic Chord

Just Charles & Cello in the Romantic Chord

In a setting of Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals in Dream Light

Thu   Mar   21   2024 - 5:00 PM Old City PAC Sat   Mar   23   2024 - 10:00 AM Old City PAC

Just Charles & Cello in The Romantic Chord in a setting of Abstract #1 from Quadrilateral Phase Angle Traversals in Dream Light, composed by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela for cellist Charles Curtis in 2003, is a monumental essay in sustained sound and gradually shifting light projection, centered on the voice of Curtis’s cello-playing, improvising within the rigorous formal framework of Young’s composition. Composed in just intonation, which Young describes as “that system of tuning in which every frequency is related to every other frequency as the numerator or denominator of some whole number fraction,” Just Charles mobilizes Curtis’s capacity for exact tonal precision as he intones pitches and melodic figures over pre-recorded cello drones.

Compositionally, the work expands on the “Romantic Chord” section of Young’s evolving improvisational magnum opus The Well-Tuned Piano, translating material written for Young’s specially-tuned Bösendorfer Imperial Grand into the realm of the sustaining cello. Curtis describes playing the piece as a “realtime acoustical investigation” during which the constant inflection of pitch becomes performative material, as he searches for the frequencies, intervals, and overtones that define the intonational structure. Just Charles can be seen as a bridge between The Well-Tuned Piano and Young’s works with sustained tones such as The Four Dreams of China and Trio for Strings

This year, Big Ears has the opportunity to present two very special programs multiple times during the festival weekend. Due to the unique nature of these performances in our smaller, more intimate venues, a separate, add-on ticket will be required and only available to Big Ears Festival pass holders. A limited allotment will first be available to VIP and Premier passholders beginning Thursday, February 29 at 9:00am ET. Remaining passes will be available to 4-Day Weekend and all Single-Day pass holders on Friday, March 1 beginning at 9:00am ET.

Festival-goers must have secured a pass by Wednesday, February 28 at 12:00pm ET to qualify for the initial on-sale. Passholders will receive an email from Big Ears at the address associated with their purchase the evening of Wednesday, March 28 with detailed instructions to secure passes to these special events. 

Knoxville, TN · USA



Explore the lineup of upcoming Big Ears performances.


Discover travel, lodging, & dining options to enhance your festival experience.


Big Ears is made possible by the passion & generosity of our supporters.


Learn more about what The New York Times calls “one of the world’s greatest music bashes.”