The drone has forever been an enduring component of Big Ears’ musical vision. From that first year, when the prophet of deep listening Pauline Oliveros held court in the Knoxville Museum of Art, to the moment nearly a decade later when Sunn O))) turned the historic Tennessee Theatre into a vortex of heavy metal hum, sustained tones in all forms and timbres have been key to our programming mission. Fitting, we think, for one of the oldest and most cross-cultural musical models in the world.
Last year, we took that enthusiasm to a higher plane with All Night Flight, a 12-hour concert that stretched from Sunday at midnight until noon, when the congregants stepped outside into the sunlight as if they had borne witness to an extended church service. In an uninterrupted string of sets, performers including Steve Gunn, Susan Alcorn, Eli Keszler, and a posse of Tennessee improvisers offered their interpretation of drone before turning over the stage to the next musician in line. It was an essential addition to the Big Ears spirit, an overnight party of deep listening and suggested languor.
All Night Flight returns to Big Ears for its second edition with nearly two-dozen musicians and a team of four visual artists. Again, when the clock ticks from Saturday, March 23, to Sunday, March 24, the performance will begin, one version of drone emptying directly into the next. Acoustic textures will alternate with electronic ones, international experimental stars commingling with regional upstarts from both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Many of the performers come from the ranks of Big Ears 2019 itself—Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, radical guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, ingenious electronic explorer Kara-Lis Coverdale, and computer music legend Carl Stone, just to sample. Others represent the best of the Southeast’s teeming experimental scene, from Asheville ambient sculptor Ross Gentry to non-binary Nashville electronic collective Hyasynth House. And several international performers from the just-announced world premiere of Mosaic will play, too, including Morocco gnawa master Mehdi Nassouli and Indonesian composer and vocalist Peni Candra Rini. The visual artists— Labrys Light Show, Marcus Sisk, Jonathan Turner, and Andy Vinson—will use techniques such as projection mapping to complement the sounds in real-time.
This is not a formal concert, requiring those in attendance to stand, sit, remain completely silent, or even stay the entire time. Come and go as you please. Stretch out a sleeping bag or a yoga mat on the floor. Relax. Listen. Read a book in the corner. Doze off, and return as you like into a space consumed by continual sound.
All Night Flight: Dreams of the Whirlwind begins at midnight, Sunday, March 24, 2019, at The Standard. Admission is free for Big Ears attendees or $10 otherwise.