When a symphony sets the tone for an eclectic music festival

Posted on: April 4, 2016

“At the Big Ears Festival over the weekend here, I heard a great array of music, created by orchestras and groups of electric guitars and single flutes and hard drives,” writes Ben Ratliff in Sunday’s (4/3) New York Times about the wide-ranging music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. “If Big Ears were a series of concentric circles, music informed by the classical tradition would sit at the center, its lessons and suggestions radiating outward. Each year the festival spotlights a composer whose work is presented by many different ensembles and in different situations, and this year the composer in residence was John Luther Adams. During the weekend, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra performed Mr. Adams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 45-minute work, ‘Become Ocean.’ ” Other groups performed Adams’s chamber music, two six-hour electronic works, and the percussion piece Inuksuit was staged at a nature center. “Several years ago, I thought that for the festival to give marquee billing to a living composer from the world of orchestras and notated music and Pulitzers was purely practical: an express lane to legitimacy and capital.… But I don’t think that anymore. I think it’s kind of mystical.”

Posted April 4, 2016

Pictured: The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, led by Steven Schick, performed music by John Luther Adams (shaking hands with Schick in photo), Bryce Dessner, and Philip Glass at the Big Ears Festival in Tennessee.