Theo Bleckmann & Joe Branciforte. Vocalist extraordinaire Theo Bleckmann — who will perform as part of Memory Game, Meredith Monk’s collaboration with Bang On A Can All-Stars — presents a duo performance with multi-instrumentalist Joe Branciforte for Big Ears at the Old City Performing Arts Center. If LP1, the duo’s 2019 recording, is an indication, we’ll be basking in improvisations of an otherworldly ambient variety.
Pedrito Martinez. Martinez is a master Cuban percussionist, drummer, singer, dancer, bandleader, and Santeria priest, regarded by many as the finest Latin percussionist in the world. NPR offered this appraisal: “The more you listen, the more you realize Martinez is, almost impossibly, both a cosmopolitan entertainer and an authentic folklorist.” Martinez and his band bring the big drums and all the good Cuban rhythms for a Big Ears’ dance party at the Mill & Mine.
Phill Niblock. A legendary figure on the New York scene, Niblock is a composer, filmmaker, videographer and convener of avant-gardists. Often associated with minimalism, Niblock’s music explores texture and tone, spanning long durations, and often accompanied by film. As a filmmaker, Niblock is best known for his series, The Movement of People Working, shot primarily in rural locations around the globe. His concert at Big Ears — slated for the Old City Performing Arts Center — will include footage from that series interspersed with live video by Katherine Liberovskaya.
Molly Tuttle. Tuttle is a vocalist, songwriter, banjo player and guitarist, noted for her flatpicking, clawhammer, and crosspicking guitar prowess. In 2017, Tuttle was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award. In 2018, she won the award again and was also honored as the Americana Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the Year. American Songwriter doled her out this praise: “Tuttle sings with the gentle authority of Gillian Welch, yet plays astoundingly fleet flat-picking guitar like Chet Atkins on superdrive.” Tuttle brings a top-shelf band to Big Ears where they’ll play tunes from her boundary-breaking debut release, When You’re Ready.
Damo Suzuki vs. Ceramic Dog. Best known for his work with the pioneering German group Can, Damo Suzuki is a vocalist and fearless improvisor whose creative wanderlust has taken him around the world, performing with a dizzying variety of collaborators. At Big Ears, Suzuki throws down for the first time with Ceramic Dog, guitarist Marc Ribot’s agit punk trio with bassist Shazhad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith. The Village Vanguard called Ceramic Dog Ribot’s “wildest project, full of music that snarls and snaps with self-awareness and righteous fury.” The Mill & Mine ought to be scorching when Damo and Ceramic Dog face off at Big Ears.
Spektral Quartet. In addition to Spektral’s collaboration with Nathalie Joachim at Big Ears, the ensemble reveals a major milestone for the string quartet repertoire: Enigma. A stunning collaboration between composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and video artist Sigurður Guðjónsson, Enigma flows with elemental power across an expansive soundscape in which the natural world collides with colossal, fantastical forces.
Included on Spektral’s set at St. Johns are two pieces also inspired by themes of wonder and awe: Tomàs Luis de Victoria 16th century motet O magnum mysterium (arranged by Spektral) and the mesmeric, time-warping first string quartet by American composer Eliza Brown.
Sō Percussion. And final addition — for today — Sō Percussion will give two standalone performances — alongside their collaboration with Caroline Shaw — they’ll play Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe’s Forbidden Love, a quartet for percussion played, literally, on the instruments of a string quartet. In addition, Sō will team with percussion students for the University of Tennessee to perform Amid the Noise, Jason Treuting’s twelve-part continuous suite which deftly blends the minimalist bent of Steve Reich with the sparer ambient landscapes of Brian Eno.