Attending the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville is a delicious game of choice and chance, forcing you to pick between such things as overlapping performances by Rhiannon Giddens, Theo Bleckmann, and Joan La Barbara—and that’s just the first night! But with only a week to go until the kickoff of the 2019 edition of the festival (March 21-24), decisions will need to be made, so we’re combing through the schedule and getting excited to consume as much music as we can cram into our ears (and the hours available each day).
Meanwhile, we’ve been digging through our archives and revisiting the amazing conversations we’ve had with some of this year’s featured artists to get ready for what’s ahead.
The time Joan La Barbara gave us a masterclass in extended vocal techniques
These are things to play with; they’re just ways of experimenting. These are the beginning rudiments of extended vocal techniques. What I want to give to you and what I want to give to every singer is just to play with voice, just play with it and see what else it can do. There are all sorts of wonderful things and if you listen to the music of other cultures you’ll hear very, very different uses of the voice.
The time Gabriel Kahane told us the tale of the golf sweater, the crumpled letter, and the Tupperware container of chocolate chip cookies hidden in the back of the closet
The time Meredith Monk spent an hour sharing personal stories and trading ideas about music with Bjork
The time Wadada Leo Smith explained how to leave room for personal interpretation
I have all kinds of music, but I use the specific language that I have to experiment with instruments and people, sometime extracted from their history, sometime using their history as well. Most things that artists do will find this course.
The time Carl Stone showed us how to make music on a laptop using MAX (in the year 2000)
The time Alvin Lucier offered us some excellent advice on evaluating new music
I’m not interested in your opinions, but I’m interested in your perceptions.
With an admittedly overwhelming number of options to explore, last year I took festival founder Ashley Capps’s advice when selecting from among the myriad options:
The art of fully enjoying the festival experience is to “be here now” as they say, and once you make your decision, to go all in and be fully immersed in what that experience has to offer.
It was guidance that held up under the pressure of so many great performances in 2018. We’ll be reporting from the festival again live this year via our social channels if you want to follow along, or get a taste of what’s to come right now with our 2019 Big Ears Playlist.