Big Ears celebrates its first decade in just more than two months in Knoxville, Tenn., with a roster that already includes 90 of the world’s most legendary composers and performers, cutting-edge musicians and bands, and multiple projects that you won’t see anywhere else during the same long weekend. Today, we are thrilled to announce several additions to this year’s festival that help confirm 2019’s status as the broadest but deepest Big Ears yet.
Big Ears 2019 will also include the world premiere of an incredible new band, Absînt. New Orleans saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer Aurora Nealand learned the lingua franca of the city’s vintage jazz past (including an extended exploration of the Sidney Bichet songbook at Preservation Hall) before unapologetically pushing it ahead. For the first time, she will join a loaded ensemble of Bill Frisell, David Torn, and Tim Berne (who brought this possibility to our attention) for this special occasion, which you’ll only see at Big Ears 2019.
One of our favorite exceptional young solo instrumentalists, the drummer Ian Chang will do more than join Rafiq Bhatia’s incredible trio at Big Ears 2019. Chang has played with the likes of Matthew Dear and Moses Sumney, but he recently began writing his own music using a cutting-edge system that allows him to trigger and manipulate samples simply by playing the drums. His compositions, animated by an intoxicating light show, are kinetic and considered, punching you in the chest as they compel you to ponder the drum’s digital past and future.
The harpist Mary Lattimore, on the heels of releasing two of 2018’s most lauded albums, will perform her first proper Big Ears solo set after appearing as a special guest in the past. With her harp, Lattimore creates brilliant vistas, which seem to hover just above the surface of the earth. NPR called her recent album, Hundreds of Days, “a collective testament to the power of the beginner’s mind, or of allowing what you don’t know to reinvigorate the possibilities of what you’re known for.” Her subsequent collaboration with guitarist Meg Baird made a New Yorker list of the 10 best albums of 2018.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS WITH LIVE SCORE BY MERCURY REV’S CLEAR LIGHT ENSEMBLE
In addition to their own full performance, Mercury Rev will make a rare stateside appearance with one of its multiple alter egos—the Clear Light Ensemble—to provide a live score for the 1962 cult-horror favorite, Carnival of Souls. On occasion during this decade, the band has incorporated favorite collaborators into their textural expanser to offer new sounds for forgotten silent or avant-garde films. In Knoxville, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, the Bad Seeds’ Jim Sclavunos, Hugo Largo’s Mimi Goese, mutantrumpet pioneer Ben Neill, saxophonist Tim Berne, Jesse Chandler, Jonathan and Grasshopper will round out this all-star Mercury Rev permutation.
MIMI GOESE & BEN NEILL
Goese and Neill won’t only be joining Mercury Rev. Though they come from seemingly different musical worlds—she from the art-rock of Hugo Largo, he from the experimental intersection of jazz and electronics—they connected at the start of this century and began building Persephone, a multimedia concert of dream-pop songs and near-symphonic abstraction. With her beguiling voice at the fore and his “mutantrumpet” wrapped around it like surreal lace, they shape gorgeous songs that, these days, use raw environmental data as the input for new tunes.
TIM STORY presents THE ROEDELIUS CELLS
Composer Tim Story will bring his installation, The Roedelius Cells, to the festival, too. After decades of work with Cluster and Harmonia co-founder (and longtime Brian Eno collaborator) Hans-Joachim Röedelius, Story edited and manipulated slivers of effortless piano vamps from the krautrock master, splitting the results across a circle of eight speakers. The audience moves within the sound field, allowing their perception to shift with their perspective in this awesome feat of meta-musical imagination.
ST JOHN’s CHOIR presents ARVO PÄRT’S PASSIO
And the St. John’s Cathedral Choir of Knoxville returns to Big Ears for a full Sunday afternoon performance of Arvo Pärt’s 1980s masterpiece, Passio. This seamless 70-minute passion exquisitely renders the arrest, sentencing, and crucifixion of Jesus in a powerful dramatic arc. First recorded by the Hilliard Ensemble for ECM’s New Series, it is a fitting work for ECM’s 50th anniversary.
ADDITIONS TO TRANCE MAP+
And, finally, drummer Mark Nauseef, perhaps familiar from collaborations with the likes of the Velvet Underground and Steve Swallow, and acclaimed double bassist Adam Linson will join Evan Parker and Matt Wright’s immersive project, Trance Map+, at Big Ears 2019. These additions come on the heels of last week’s announcement of MOSAIC Interactive , a world premiere that puts musicians from the Muslim world in collaboration with several Western musicians, and the second edition of All Night Flight, our 12-hour drone concert.
Look for additional announcements—workshops, artist talks, panels, and more—in the weeks to come. Tickets are available for Big Ears 2019 at bigearsfestival.org/tickets.