New Artists and Programs for 2020!

As promised, we have some exciting end of the year treats to share with you this holiday season. Patti Smith is adding her acclaimed “Words and Music” program; a second world premiere from Meredith Monk with John Hollenbeck: ECM recording artists Anja Lechner and Sokratis SInapoulos join the line up; Marc Ribot and Ches Smith bring more of the spirit of Haiti to the festival; and very special solo sets from John Paul JonesAnssi KarttunenJason MoranKim MyhrZeena Parkins, Caroline Shaw, and Ingar Zach. A few more details below.

And, by the way, our Premier and Sonic Explorer VIP Weekend passes sold out this past weekend. We’re blown away by the enthusiasm and support from everyone. GA Weekend passes do still remain but are on target for an early sell out for the first time ever, so if you have friends who are interested, please let them know.

We hope you are enjoying the spirit of the season!


Anja Lechner

One of the world’s most acclaimed classical artists, cellist Anja Lechner embraces a vast spectrum of music, from the deep classical tradition to championing some of our finest contemporary composers and collaborating and improvising with others across cultures and traditions. She is at the heart of several of ECM’s most treasured recordings, including Ojos Negros with Argentine bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi; her interpretations of Gurdjieff – Chants, Hymns, and Dances – with Greek pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos; recordings with Francois Couturier and the Tarkovsky Quartet; and recordings of Franz Schubert, Tigran Mansurian and Valentin Silvestrov, among many others. In her solo performance at Big Ears, you can anticipate J. S. Bach, Silvestrov, and perhaps more.



Sokratis Sinapoulos

There’s an ancient, timeless beauty in the sound of the lyra when Sokratis Sinopoulos performs. It’s a sound that can stop you in your tracks (We know. It happened to us). His most recent recording for ECM, Metamodal, a work of stunning and transcendent beauty. The lyra is a bowed instrument which dates back to the Byzantine era and Sokratis Sinopoulos has been widely hailed as a contemporary master of the instruments.


Patti Smith: Words and Music

In addition to a performance with her legendary band, Patti Smith will present her beautiful program Words and Music, an intimate performance that includes poetry and readings from her acclaimed memoirs Just Kids, M Train, and Year of the Monkey, with acoustic performances spanning her career.



Caroline Shaw

Caroline Shaw, composer, singer, violinist, Pulitzer Prize winner and 2019 Grammy nominee, will perform solo, complementing her collaboration with Sō Percussion in a separate performance. She restlessly explores the connections between classical form, new ideas, and myriad regional traditions.



John Paul Jones – Solo 

John Paul Jones’ boundless musical creativity has defined his remarkable career – evident in his early pre-Zeppelin studio arrangements for British pop stars and, of course, in the continual expansion of Led Zeppelin’s musical palette (remember those dazzling epic solo keyboard showcases during live performances of “No Quarter?”) At Big Ears 2020, John Paul Jones will present a set of grand piano, mandolin and electronics, in an improvised solo performance responding only to the sounds and textures that emerge.



Meredith Monk & John Hollenbeck 

As if the world premiere performance of Memory Game with Bang On A Can All-Stars wasn’t enough, Meredith Monk will introduce another first at Big Ears: an intimate duo with composer John Hollenbeck that will use voice and percussion to dovetail and dance to present new work and new interpretations from Monk’s canon to illuminate one another in what is sure to be a very special performance.



Bang on a Can All-Stars: Renegade Heaven

Bang On A Can All-Stars themselves will offer a second program, revisiting highlights of their 1990s recording, Renegade Heaven, with a twist or two.  Works by Julius Eastman and Ornette Coleman, along with compositions by Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, will be performed.



Zeena Parkins

Harpist Zeena Parkins will perform as one third of the fearless and formidable improvising trio MZM, but we’re happy to have enticed her to perform solo as well. Parkins new solo harp project Captiva, features a set of pieces for the acoustic concert pedal harp that were conceived at the Rauchenberg Residency on Captiva Island in Florida, with choreographer Jennifer Monson.



Marc Ribot & Ches Smith present Haitian Celebration: Minwi Sonnen, We All Break, Frantz Casseus

Marc Ribot and Ches Smith will present Haitian Celebration: Minwi SonnenWe All BreakFrantz Casseus. Minwi Sonnen (Midnight Rings) is a traditional Haitian Rara band consisting of homemade PVC and Conch shell horns along with Haitian drums. With nearly 170 years of combined experience, the group’s members have dedicated their lives to the musical traditions of Rara, Vodou, and Rasin (roots music).  Drummer and composer Ches Smith formed We All Break with his longtime teachers Daniel Brevil and Markus Schwartz and frequent collaborator pianist Matt Mitchell as a platform to explore the intersection of Haitian Vodou drumming and creative music. Marc Ribot will perform program solo guitar works (a ground breaking blend of Haitian folk material with classical guitar music) by his former teacher and mentor, the late Frantz Casseus, the father of Haitian classical guitar.



Jason Moran – Solo

Jason Moran will perform a special solo piano concert, drawing deep inspiration from the world of art and our cultural history. With the Knoxville Museum of Art exhibit Through the Unusual Door: Beauford Delaney and James Baldwin on view during the festival, Moran will present a program of music inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and these two brilliant and iconic artist.



Chris Abrahams

Chris Abrahams will return to Big Ears for two performances with The Necks, but will add a special solo performance on the pipe organ at one of our church venues in downtown Knoxville.



Anssi Karttunen

In addition to his Sons of Chipotle concert with John Paul Jones, cellist Anssi Karttunen will be performing a solo set, with a depth that reaches to early baroque music and all the classics of the repertoire.



Ingar Zach

Ingar Zach’s solo performances defy description. An endlessly inventive drummer, he’ll be performing with two other percussionists, including The Necks’ Tony Buck, in Kim Myhr’s You | Me ensemble at Big Ears, as well as staging one of his totally unique solo explorations into sound and space.



Kim Myhr

Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr will perform a solo set. Drawing from both psychedelic 60s folk rock as well as classic minimalism, Myhr’s solo performances have been described as waves breaking over the audience, gradually sweeping them into an ocean of sound.

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.”