The mission of BIG EARS is to offer an exciting and dynamic platform of musical and artistic discovery, presenting a variety of adventurous, exploratory concerts and performances, installations, discussions, and interactive experiences by artists possessed of singular and unique visions that stand apart from the mainstream.
Antony and the Johnsons present a chamber cabaret of the darkest blue. Compared to such iconic singers as Nina Simone and Lotte Lenya, Antony’s unmistakable voice is haunting and evocative, framed and supported by the lush yet minimal orchestral settings of the Johnsons.
British experimental musician David Tibet of Current 93 heard a demo and offered to release Antony's music through his Durtro label. The debut album, Antony and the Johnsons, was released in 2000. In 2001, Antony released a short follow-up EP, “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy,” which, in addition to the title track, included a cover of Mysteries of Love, a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song.
Producer Hal Willner heard the EP and played it to Lou Reed, who immediately recruited him for his project “The Raven.” Now gaining more attention, Antony signed to US-based record label Secretly Canadian, and released another EP, “The Lake,” with Lou Reed guest-performing on one of the tracks. Secretly Canadian also re-released Antony's debut album in the United States to wider distribution in 2004.
Antony's second full-length album, “I am a Bird Now,” was greeted with positive reviews and significantly more mainstream attention, winning the Mercury Music Prize for the best album of 2005.
In November 2006 Antony and the Johnsons performed a successful European tour of 'Turning', a multimedia collaboration with video producer Charles Atlas, which focused on themes of transformation and metamorphosis.
Antony gave a break-out performance in the 2006 concert documentary, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, a star-studded tribute to Leonard Cohen that was later released on DVD along with an accompanying soundtrack. Antony's interpretation of If it Be Your Will was considered one of the highlights of the show.
The 5-song “Another World” EP was released on October 7, 2008. Antony and the Johnsons' third album, “The Crying Light,” is anticipated on January 21, 2009. Additional details have yet to be made known, but Antony has described the theme of the album as being "about landscape and the future".
“He is compelling… an androgynous, goth-haired, gentle man-boy giant who arrived with a starry siblinghood of disciples - Wainwright himself, Lou Reed ('When I first heard Antony I knew I was in the presence of an angel'), Björk, Boy George, arty pranksters Devendra Banhart and Yoko Ono all smitten collaborators…His intimate, radiant songs may be autobiographical… but they also speak more generally of struggle, suggest less specific sorts of hope. They have the core self-belief of devotional music - psalm-like sometimes, but more often gospelly and soulful, capturing the spirit of Nina Simone…even, somehow, her moral authority. If Hegarty is not the light, he seems at least to have seen it….sublime.”
-The Guardian (UK)
C. Spencer Yeh was born in Taipei, Taiwan 1975, moved to the US in
1980; studied radio/television/film at Northwestern University, and is
now based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Yeh is active both as a solo and
ensemble artist, as well as with his primary 'organized sound'
project, Burning Star Core. As an improviser, Yeh has focused on
developing a personal vocabulary using violin, voice, and electronics.
As a sound organizer/composer, Yeh works with all aspects available
surrounding a work, aurally and physically, as elements key to the
cumulative experience. He is concerned not only with the sensual
aspects of sound, but the gestural qualities as well.
Yeh has performed alongside and collaborated with a deep and ever-growing list of artists and groups including Tony Conrad, Evan Parker, Thurston Moore, The New Humans with Vito Acconci, Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano, John Wiese, Lee Ranaldo, JP Feliciano, Rafael Toral, John Edwards, Matthew Bower, Aaron Dilloway, John Olson, Amy Granat, Jutta Koether, LaDonna Smith, Carlos Giffoni, Okkyung Lee, Greg Kelley, Christine Sehnaoui, Helena Espvall, Peter Jacquemyn, Atsuhiro Ito, Matthew Bower, Audrey Chen, Nate Wooley, Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio All-Stars, Damo Suzuki's Network, Comets on Fire, The Graveyards, Six Organs of Admittance, Smegma, Carla Bozulich's Evangelista, and many others, and has performed across the U.S.A. and Europe in a variety of settings and festivals.
Most recently he participated in the 24 Hour Drone People project in Stockholm, alongside artists such as CM Von Hauswolff, Mika Vainio, Joachim Nordwall, BJ Nilsen, Hildur Gudnadottir, and Mark Wastell. Other 2008 plans included a residency at STEIM in Amsterdam NL, the Sound Forest Festival in Riga Latvia, the Open Circuits: Interact Festival in Hasselt, Belgium, the Floating Points festival at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY, a tour as The New Monuments (with Don Dietrich of Borbetomagus and Ben Hall of The Graveyards), an invitation to back Jandek at the Wexner Center in Columbus OH, and a performance with Burning Star Core at the NADA Art Fair in Miami FL. He has also had visual art and video works presented internationally.
New York born and raised, Nicolas Collins studied composition with Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan University, worked for many years with David Tudor, and has collaborated with numerous soloist and ensembles around the world. He lived most of the 1990s in Europe, where he was Visiting Artistic Director of Stichting STEIM (Amsterdam), and a DAAD composer-in-residence in Berlin. Since 1997 he has been editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Music Journal. He is currently Chair of the Department of Sound at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent recordings are available on PlateLunch, Periplum and Apestaartje. He has led hacking workshops around the world, from Beijing to Brussels, and has worked with John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Tudor,
and many other masters of modern music.
His recent book "Handmade Electronic Music" introduces the basic principles behind electronic circuits and presents ideas for creatively cannibalizing them. This kind of work (also referred to as "Circuit Bending") is often done by transforming a simple toy or game into a new kind of instrument.
As a part of Big Ears 2009, Nicolas Collins, author of "Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking" (Routledge 2006), will lead an open hardware hacking workshop and work with Big Ears participants to build their own electronic instruments.
Have you heard the raw, minimal howl that rises from the late-night, backwoods campfires at Table of the Elements? If so, you know the work of David Daniell—even if you don't yet recognize the name. Daniell is the head of both of composer Rhys Chatham's current ensembles; he's the lead guitarist in Jonathan Kane's rollicking band, February; he performs regularly in a duo with Tortoise's Doug McCombs; he has collaborated with a Who's Who of today's finest, including Tim Barnes, Thurston Moore and Loren Connors; and his guitar work with his own band, San Agustin, is the stuff of which fleeting blues-drone dreams are made.
"With his slow-moving, understated music, David Daniell makes a fine spokesman for the notion that anything worth doing is worth doing for a long, long time. Whether he's contributing moody strums and sculpted E-Bow drones to the guitar trio San Agustin or stringing computer-generated pings and bumps across gulfs of silence on Sem, his solo debut on his own Antiopic label, he develops his material patiently, the better to let you observe the sounds from every angle." —Bill Meyer, Chicago Reader
Deacon is a classically
trained composer with a Masters degree in electro-acoustic
composition. He has released 7 albums from 2003 to 2006, but those
self-produced recordings do not contain the vocal based experimental
pop that he has fine-tuned in live performance.
Dan Deacon has garnered a reputation in the underground as an intense performer and classic showman. The table top full of pedals, sine wave generator, vocoder and casio blasting through the PA, joined by a makeshift light board with various bulbs and green skull strobe light, make his all out dance-til-you-drop performance a complete experience. The shows he performs in his native Baltimore, namely those at Wham City, (the live-in artists collective and DIY venue/theater that he calls home), are especially notorious for its frenzied crowds.
In addition to his numerous hyperactive performances with the likes of Lightning Bolt, Girl Talk, Matmos, and Ecstatic Sunshine, Deacon has been composing and performing works for various ensembles at notable museums and galleries including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore, Anthology Film Archives and White Box Gallery in New York.
Dan Deacon’s Big Ears performance will be part of a Baltimore Round Robin, where he and and a hand-picked host of exciting electro and rock performance bands from the Baltimore area line the walls, each taking a turn one song at a time to propel the dancing crowd within.
From 2002 to the present, Tim Harbeson has employed Fence Kitchen as both alter-ego and vehicle for exploring his interest in multi-disciplinary solo performance. This perpetual work in progress at times involves puppetry and ambient setting and lighting with original music played live and/or as recorded soundtrack, while at other times, is presented as a purely musical performance. As the music is the impetus and context for Fence Kitchen-- an integral component of the mesmerizing dreamscape of objects and created environment and an extractable, stand-alone export of the world it infuses-- Beading The Rook is both a document, and a continuance, of this ongoing flight of fancy.
Christian Fennesz has been creating gorgeous soundscapes with guitar and laptop since the late 90’s. Melodies shimmer underneath layer upon layer of sound- ambient drones, electronic glitch, classical composition, folk melodies- all are present in Vienna based Fennesz’s creations.
A meticulous laptop conceptualist, he weaves tangible melodies and glowing guitars through dense, symphonic electronica, His lush and luminant compositions are anything but the sterile computer experiments often associated with electronic music.
Fennesz's career has come a long way since "Instrument", his debut for Mego in 1995, and his first solo album "Hotel Paral.lel" which followed in 1998. "Endless Summer" brought him to a much wider audience and “Venice” underlined his mastery of melody and dissonance. His songs embody the skilful application and manipulation of dense sonic textures with a genuine feel for the live, and real time - for the organic.
“Black Sea”, his most recent record, features guitars that rarely sound like guitars; the instrument is transformed into an orchestra. Fennesz lists the elements used to make the compositions: "Acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers, electronics, computers and live-improvising software loop." Fennesz is pushing his work into a more classical domain, preferring the slow reveal to Venice’s and endless Summers more song-based structures.
For the first time, this collaboration between Christian Fennesz , Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) and Scott Minor (Sparklehorse) will occur on US soil. Originally sprouted from mutual admiration, the three began collaborating in the early 2000’s while Sparklehorse was touring in Europe. Sparklehorse’s damaged pop songs and Fennesz’s guitar and laptop explorations might at first seem strange bedfellows, though upon further listen each artists interest in melody and aesthetic starts to seem much less distant. Lying dormant for years- this not to be missed live event will occur only at Big Ears 09.
In addition to his musical career, Michael Gira is the founder and operator of Young God Records. Originally intended as a vehicle for Swans releases, the label has grown to harbor the likes of Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family, Calla, Lisa Germano, Mi and L'au, Windsor for
the Derby and many others.
In 1982 Michael Gira formed the now legendary band Swans with, as he states, "no musical skills whatsoever, just instinct and a need to make something happen." What followed was a 15 year progression from a heavy and brutal minimalist rock assault to a deeply textured, intense and beautiful orchestration of experimental pop and soundscape. Through dozens of releases and many membership changes their unmistakable tone was carried by Gira's powerful vocal sound and often bleak and desperate songwriting.
Immediately after the dissolution of the Swans, Gira began the Angels of Light. A departure from the "sonic overload" aesthetic of the Swans, the new effort exemplified a more folk music approach to song craft. After writing the songs primarily on guitar, Gira gathers an ensemble cast of collaborators with wide ranging instrumentation to fully realize each piece. The visceral intensity of the Swans is still present, but guided more gently and masterfully from his years at the plow.
His Big Ears appearance will be a solo performance with acoustic guitar, a style he's been drawn to more and more in recent years. Even in this most essential form his powerful intensity remains. As one reviewer (Jordan N. Mamone, Time Out NY) aptly states: "Armed with only an acoustic guitar and a commanding baritone, Michael Gira could make mincemeat out of the most 'extreme' metal and punk bands."
Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.
The operas – “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha,” “Akhnaten,” and “The Voyage,” among many others – play throughout the world’s leading houses, and rarely to an empty seat. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” while “Koyaanisqatsi,” his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since “Fantasia.” His associations, personal and professional, with leading rock, pop and world music artists date back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music -- simultaneously.
He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.
There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
At Big Ears, Glass will perform solo piano pieces as well as duets with cellist Wendy Sutter. Ms. Sutter will also perform Glass’ piece, “Songs and Poems for Solo Cello,” which he wrote specifically for her.
“Grimm sounds at various times wild-eyed and placid, witchy and innocent… she is best when she submits to her many eccentricities, manifested through bodily fixated lyrics and hair-raising singing that could spook a hardened cult leader… “ – Time Out NY
Larkin Grimm was born 26 years ago in Memphis TN to hippie devotees of the religious cult The Holy Order Of MANS. Larkin spent her early years in this communal environment, raised by several parents at once. When the cult disbanded Larkin was 6, and her nuclear family moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia and quickly grew to include 5 siblings. Larkin says she ran wild in the mountains and was “raised by the family dog.” Larkin got the taste of music in her from her fiddler and singer father and her folksinger mother. She dropped out of school at 10 and didn’t return until 12. At 13 she was sent to boarding school (courtesy of Georgia’s Coca Cola, which funds the school with the intent of helping gifted Appalachian children). Larkin excelled, and she won a full scholarship to Yale to study art. She spent a while there then freaked out at the elitism of the place. She left and returned several times, somehow along the way managing to find herself in Thailand, where she studied Thai healing massage and “befriended strippers and watched them being humiliated and abused by sex tourists”, bumm around Guatemala, and also hitchhiked around southern Alaska by herself, until she found a place “so beautiful I couldn’t leave, camped out there in my tent for about 2 months with the plan to starve to death, get eaten, or get enlightened.”
Back at Yale for the last time (eventually “graduating” with one credit left to go) Larkin met Dave Longstreth and became a member of Dirty Projectors for a time. When she left that band she joined up with the Providence RI Noise/Art scene, and was active in arranging gigs and festivals there, as well as working on her own music. Larkin soon made 3 self-recorded albums of freeform, improvisational songs (or “acoustic noise” as she calls it), 2 of which were released by Secret Eye (Harpoon, and The Last Tree). She books her own tours, travels constantly, and has by her own force of will, itinerant nature, and sense of reckless adventure managed to build a supportive network of friends and fans around Europe and the US/Canada. Larkin has shared bills with Devendra Banhart, Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Espers, Mi and L'au, Brightblack Morning Light, Entrance, Viking Moses, the Microphones, and Old Time Relijun. She has no permanent address (and doesn’t want one), but in the warm summer months can usually be found living in a tent in the woods.
"A brilliantly awful persona of an old-school, C-list funnyman‹the
kind with an ill-fitting tuxedo and an enormous, greasy combover‹on a
very bad night.
Neil Hamburger toys with an audience¹s expectations (and patience),
and indeed his act is a kind of rude commentary on stand-up comedy
altogether." --New York Times
America¹s Funnyman Neil Hamburger is the hardest working comedian in existence, performing up to 399 shows a year to critical acclaim and audience bewilderment. He tours non-stop across America and in Australia, Canada, and the UK. He has released 8 full-length CDs, 2 DVDs (mainly on the Drag City label), and his internet TV work with Tom Green has made him the toast of the ³global village². Recently, Neil¹s frequent appearances on Fox News¹ ³Red Eye² program have exposed Neil¹s diseased comedy stylings to disgruntled right-wingers. Neil can be seen in the motion picture ³Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny², and toured extensively with Tenacious D, including a memorable gig at New York¹s Madison Square Garden. Neil appears on Comedy Central CD ³Comedy Death Ray², and recently released an album of country and western songs, backed by members of The Tubes and Todd Rundgren¹s band.
Lesser known is Neil Hamburger's wealth of fascinating knowledge on the history of downtown Knoxville. In addition to his acceptable stage performances, be sure to join him for a special historical walking tour highlighting the marvels of our downtown landmarks.
"Almost all of the musicians I meet at the moment seem to regard Jon Hassell as one of the God-like geniuses of contemporary music."
D a v i d T o o p , T h e W i r e
Composer/Trumpeter Jon Hassell is the visionary creator of a style of music he describes as Fourth World, a mysterious, unique hybrid of music both ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western. In the last two decades, his connoisseur recordings, built around a completely unique vocal trumpet style (developed in studies with Indian vocal master, Pandit Pran Nath) have inspired a generation of collaborators like Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Kronos Quartet and Ry Cooder. His trumpet performances show up on records of world stars like Björk, Baaba Maal, and Ibrahim Ferrer. Film and theater credits include scores for Wim Wenders (Million Dollar Hotel, with Bono), The Netherlands Dance Theater (Lurch), Peter Sellars (Zangezi), and the theme for the hit TV show, The Practice.
His 1999 acoustic audiophile recording, “Fascinoma,” produced by Ry Cooder, with bansri flute master, Ronu Majumdar and jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson, inspired a new generation of European trumpet players like Arve Henriksen, Erik Truffaz, Paolo Fresu and Nils Petter Molvaer, who have all acknowledged Hassell’s influence as leading beyond the gravitational pull of Miles Davis.
Montreal, Milan, and Paris concerts became the raw material for magical transformation in the 2005 release, “Maarifa Street / Magic Realism 2,” another difficult-to-define musical fantasy stretched across geography and time, as was its 1983 namesake, Ka-Darbari-Java/Magic Realism.
In 2005, Hassell began touring with a new band, which he named Maarifa Street, playing to new European audiences from Norway to Madrid to Rome to Berlin who were astonished at the discovery of this atmospheric music which defies category: in France, Playboy writes, “this celestial jazz is amazing;” about his performance at the Vienna Kunsthalle, the cathedral of classical, Der Standard raves, “the concert of the year.”
In early 2009, a reconnection with the prestigious ECM label resulted in a new CD release and a “Return to USA” tour—from New York’s Zankel Hall to Royce Hall in Los Angeles—signaling the growing awareness of a master musician and a music without borders whose freshness increasingly comes into focus as time passes.
Jon Hassell’s performance at Big Ears will mark his first ever in his home state of Tennessee.
“It's difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence. ...there's no doubt that Jon Hassell has had an effect on contemporary music as important as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground." THE WIRE
Romanian gypsy melodies, punk frenzy, salty tangos, hard-rocking klezmer, haunting Balkan harmony, hip-hop beats and Appalachian fiddle, all eaten and spit out by two violins, resophonic guitar, bullhorn harmonica and bass.
The members of the Orchestrii come from different scenes in New York City, yet come together through their love of Balkan and Gypsy music. Sxip Shirey is an international circus composer, Sarah Alden is an old-time fiddle player, Rima Fand is an experimental theater composer, and Benjy Fox-Rosen is a free-jazz bassist. It is not uncommon to see Rima composing music for a Lorca puppet show, Benjy schlepping his bass to a jazz gig, or Sarah fiddling away at some all-night old-time session.
Since 2002, when the band was formed, the Luminescent Orchestrii has toured the East Coast, England, Scotland, and Germany, and have traveled to Romania, Macedonia, Turkey and Serbia for inspiration. They most recently returned from Serbia's Trumpet Festival, a 47-year-old festival that takes place in the small town of Guca, where hordes of competing gypsy brass bands take to the streets and restaurants.
The Luminescent Orchestrii has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (UK), The Spitz (UK), The Blue Note (Germany) , Malzhauz (Germany), The Trowbridge Festival (UK), The Orkney Islands (UK), The Penn State Arts Festival (USA), The Lake Eden Arts Festival (USA), The Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival (USA), The Knitting Factory (NYC), Joe's Pub (NYC), The DUMBO Arts Festival (NYC), The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and many underground parties in New York City.
The Luminescent Orchestrii formed in 2002 as a quintet, which included Kaia Wong playing fiddle and singing, and Aaron Goldsmith playing guitarron. Both Kaia and Aaron can be heard singing and playing on the live CD and on Too Hot to Sleep. Kaia is currently performing with Mixel Pixel, and Aaron is currently playing with Chad Parks and the Near Death Experience. Also included on Too Hot to Sleep is Julianne Carney, who spent a year with the Luminescent Orchestrii as a third violin.
Matmos is M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel. Originally based in San Francisco and now residing in Baltimore (where Daniel teaches at Johns Hopkins University) the duo have been at the forefront of American electronic music since the 90’s, bridging the gap between Indie Rock (releasing their records on Matador) and Electronica (in the vein of Aphex/Autechre/Warp Records). They have collaborated with an interesting array of contemporary artists, from Bjork (on her albums Medulla and Vespertine- as well as being part of her touring band) to fellow Big Ears performer Anthony (from Anthony and the Johnsons) whom sang a track on their album The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast.
In their recordings and live performances over their career, Matmos uses the sounds of amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of bibles turning, a bowed five string banjo, slowed down whistles and kisses, water hitting copper plates, the runout groove of a vinyl record, a $J5.00 electric guitar, liposuction surgery, cameras and VCRs, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, violins, rat cages, tanks of helium, violas, human skulls, cellos, peck horns, tubas, cards shuffling, field recordings of conversations in hot tubs, frequency response tests for defective hearing aids, a steel guitar recorded in a sewer, electrical interference generated by laser eye surgery, whoopee cushions and balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones on a dinner plate, Polish trains, insects, ukelele, aspirin tablets hitting a drum kit from across the room, dogs barking, people reading aloud, life support systems and inflatable blankets, records chosen by the roll of dice, an acupuncture point detector conducting electrical current through human skin, rock salt crunching underfoot, solid gold coins spinning on bars of solid silver, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, a five gallon bucket of oatmeal.
Their most recent album, “Supreme Balloon” finds Matmos taking a holiday from conceptual responsibility, skipping the outré sampling antics in favor of a lighthearted "cosmic pop" record made entirely out of synthesizers. Leave it to Matmos to invent a hard and fast rule that they have to follow even when they're just having fun: the creative restriction this time around is that Supreme Balloon is an ALL synthesizer album and no microphones were used at any point.
One of the world’s great cult bands, this Australian trio has been spinning its musical web for 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down or running short of creativity and inspiration. With Chris Abrahams on piano, Tony Buck on drums, and Lloyd Swanton on bass, the Necks create a musical chemistry that defies description.
Neither jazz nor rock, not avant-garde, minimalist, nor ambient, they pursued a singular vision that stands as uniquely their own. Some critics have compared them to Krautrock groups like Can and Faust, while others find similarities in the works of minimalist composers like LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass.
As Pitchfork wrote, the Necks “...draw your attention to the music instead of the means: you never get the idea that they're playing for an hour to prove that they can do it, or to showcase a glut of ideas, but simply to give you the pleasure of focusing on music in extreme detail."
In concert, their lengthy pieces begin with simple melodic fragments and rhythmic figures, which slowly unfold in the most intoxicating fashion, usually underpinned by a deep and insistent groove. With no two performances alike, every concert by the Necks rewards the attentive listener with a rich bounty of musical surprises.
At Big Ears 2009, Negativland will perform "It's All In Your Head FM",
a live broadcast that plays with the idea of religion and the
supernatural. This live two-hour audio smashup, best described as a
"documentary collage", is an extension of the "Over the Edge" radio
series. We will consider sticky theological concepts as presented in
Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and beyond with our host Dr. Oslo
Negativland defined the "culture jamming" movement in the 1980s, with their weekly radio show "Over the Edge." Their albums, including "Escape from Noise," "Dispepsi," "Helter Stupid," and "U2," have inspired a new generation of sonic samplers, mashers, and hackers.
The album "U2" became a critical example of artist / copyright conflict when Island Records sued Negativland for violations of copyright and trademark law. Their music has consistently re-examined culture, and expanded the way public frequencies can be pirated and subverted for independent communication.
"Through Pauline Oliveros and Deep Listening I finally know what
harmony is....It's about the pleasure of making music." -- John Cage,
For her Big Ears performance, Oliveros will use an accordion which has been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation in addition to electronics to alter the sound of the accordion and to explore the individual characteristics of the performance space. In addition to her performance, Pauline Oliveros will also be conducting a Deep Listening workshop.
Pauline Oliveros, composer, performer and humanitarian is an important pioneer in American Music. Acclaimed internationally, for four decades she has explored sound -- forging new ground for herself and others.
Her origins in electronic composition trace back to the earliest days of the craft. Beginning with tape experiments in the mid 1950s in California, she soon began making classical studio electronic music and was among the first composers (along with Terry Riley and Steve Reich) to be part of Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender's San Francisco Tape Music Center. This influential center went on to become the Center of Contemporary Music, with Oliveros serving as it's first director.
Throughout, Oliveros has remained a constant live performer. Her musical explorations eventually led her to define a concept which she coined "Deep Listening". Through Deep Listening Pieces and earlier Sonic Meditations Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into musical performance. Her Deep Listening Band has realized this idea with performances in highly resonant spaces such as cathedrals and a large underground cistern to explore their sonic properties. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational skills, which are the hallmarks of Oliveros' form.
"[San Agustin] works in suspended slow-motion patterns that revolve around simple resonating phrases, like a rock trio stripped of all content—just leaving a bare skeleton of tone traces behind. The beauty is in its strict restraint; unlike many improvising trios, the group never heads off into chaos, with every piece a tamed and trimmed exercise in controlled feedback and subtle cymbal chimes. Bridging post-rock and avant-garde on one axis, and on the other retaining a strict adherence to rock tradition, the feel is of a familiar austerity that calls to mind the chilling moments of Sonic Youth's first album."
—The All Music Guide
San Agustin's improvisations—or, more properly, "spontaneous compositions"— demonstrate an incredible range, drawing from the band's roots in minimalism, free jazz, metal, folk, blues and beyond, creating a flowing, dynamic stream-of- consciousness song form. They effortlessly summon haunting moments of introspection, enveloped in clouds of bluesy guitar notes, then sweep it all away with great electric gales; drones rumble and shimmer in the aftermath. This is a tremendous ensemble, creating a genre-defying yet archetypically American music.
Since the band's inception in 1996, Georgia natives San Agustin (electric guitarists David Daniell and Andrew Burnes, drummer Bryan Fielden) have performed with a multitude of notables from the improvised and minimalist communities, including Loren Connors, Thurston Moore, Rhys Chatham, and many others. The trio has released two albums, a three-CD box set (2003's The Expanding Sea), and several EPs and collaboration releases, all drawn from live performance recordings.
Ecstatic melody unimaginable sounds and deep sexy beats created on Industrial Flutes, Bullhorn Harmonica, Regurgitated Music Box, Triple Extended Pennywhistles, Miniature Hand Bell Choir, Obnoxiophone, Glass Bowls With Red Marbles and a clutch of curious objects.
A confusion of novelty, experimental and electronics, wild and entertaining.
As a solo artist Sxip has toured the U.S. as support act for the Dresden Dolls and performed at their two days festival at the Round House in London England. Had a hit show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia. Performs regularly at Joe's Pub in New York City. Has also performed at The Knitting Factory, Tonic, Makor and many underground parties in Brooklyn.
Sxip Shirey came to New York City when he joined The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus in the year 2000, This started him in a circus/theater direction and he composed music for Anti-Gravity and for the pyro-technic clowns of the Daredevil Opera Company, performing, composing and appearing at The New Victory Theater on Broadway, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House. His gypsy-tango-klezmer-punk band The Luminescent Orchestrii tours internationally and is part of the wild Balkan scene in New York City, their track "Amaritzi" is featured on the new Putumayo compilation "Balkan Groove". Recently as a solo artist he toured as host and support act for The Dresden Dolls for their fall 2006 US tour and at their two day DVD at The Round House in London. In New York City he performs and curates a high powered variety night called "Sxip's Hour of Charm" at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. Last winter he composed music for "Marsupial Girl" by Lisa D'Amour for The Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis in a project developed with New Dramatists in NYC. He has also composed for works at the Ohio Theater, HERE, the Southern Theater and Inter-Media Arts in Minneapolis and has toured East Coast Colleges with the puppet theater piece "Savage Nursery" by Erin Orr developed through a grant from the Henson Foundation.
Acclaimed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications, Wendy Sutter is one of the leading cellists of her generation. Holding an unrivaled mastery of the classical repertoire, Sutter's stunning performances provide a heartfelt intensity, garnering overwhelming praise from critics, and adoration from audiences around the world.
She has performed with many leading international ensembles, and in recent years her reputation as soloist has continued to grow, giving major performances with the Shanghai Symphony, the La Jolla Symphony, the Shenzhen Symphony, and the Seattle Symphony.
After studying at the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, Ms.Sutter made her professional solo debut at Avery Fisher Hall in 1990 with the New York premiere of “Kaddish” for cello and orchestra by the late David Diamond, and under the direction of Gerard Schwartz. Incredible debut performances soon followed at New York's Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and demand for her playing quickly rose.
In 1994 she accepted an invitation from Mikhail Baryshnikov to premiere “A Suite of Dances,” a pas de deux for instrumentalist and dancer centered on Bach’s compositions for solo cello, choreographed by the legendary Jerome Robbins. Sutter and Baryshnikov presented the work throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia on tour with the White Oak Dance Project. Sutter balanced her solo work by continuing to perform in top ensembles, with crowning performances at Marlboro Music, Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood, Spoleto, and many other festivals and concert halls.
In 2000, Sutter took a leave of absence from the classical repertoire to join the avant-garde ensemble, Bang on a Can. As a member of the ensemble’s All-Stars, she premiered works by many top modern composers including Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Ornette Coleman and Meredith Monk.
Sutter’s most recent project, “Songs and Poems for Solo Cello,” written for her by Philip Glass, is a work that draws deeply from the wellsprings of musical tradition. The piece has collected impressive cd and download sales, and as Greg Sandow put it in the Wall Street Journal, “Sutter throws herself into the music with something like ferocity, playing each repetition as an intensification of the one before. Or maybe she's just so intense that everything feels new. And so the music never stands still..."
Sutter plays on “the Ex Vatican Strad,” a viola da gamba built in Cremona in 1620 by the great luthier Nicolò Amati and adapted to a cello by the master and his most famous student, Antonio Stradivari. The instrument is gifted with an extraordinary presence
Lyrics are not sung, but spoken in tongues, dissonant noises fire like stray bullets, and an intense chemistry oozes from every stuttering sound. They do not resemble any conventional take on pop or rock music, nor is it a discernable breed of jazz or noise for the sake of noise. There are few acts comparable to the SRL's operating anywhere around the world, so wrapping your head around the group's sound is not easily done. They give a distinctively Southern accent to improv that defies the urbane angst of free jazz in favor of a deranged rural lurch. -Chad Radford, Georgia Music Magazine
The Shaking Ray Levis (founded in 1986) is an ongoing collaboration of musicians with a common interest in improvisation. The project was conceived by Dennis Palmer and Bob Stagner. They use synthesizers (analog & digital), MoogerFoogers, samplers, vocals and percussion to achieve their Ole' Timey Avant-Garde sound.
They are the first American group to have recorded for Incus Records, the record label of the legendary British guitarist Derke Bailey.
Additionally, they have performed and recorded with Reverend Howard Finster, MIN TANAKA, DAVID GREENBERGER, FRED FRITH, AMY DENIO, JOHN ZORN, BORBETOMAGUS, TOM CORA, STEVE BERESFORD, J.D. PARRAN, FRANK PAHL, LADONNA SMITH, DAVEY WILLIAMS, GINO ROBAIR, ROGER TURNER, EUGENE CHADBOURNE, TONY OXLEY and DEREK BAILEY, as well as with many other critically acclaimed artists.
Dennis Palmer Music
Ned Rothenberg composes and performs on saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (an end blown Japanese bamboo flute). He has been internationally acclaimed for his solo music which he has presented for the past 25 years in hundreds of concerts throughout North and South America, Europe and Japan. He has lead the ensembles Double Band, Power Lines and Sync (his most recent assemblage with Jerome Harris, acoustic guitar & acoustic bass guitar and Samir Chaterjee, tabla) and was a founding member of the cooperative group New Winds (now with Robert Dick, flutes and Herb Robertson, Trumpet). He has worked in other projects with Paul Dresher, Yuji Takahashi, Sainkho Namchylak, Masahiko Sato, Elliott Sharp, Samm Bennett, John Zorn, Katsuya Yokoyama, Evan Parker and Marc Ribot. He's lived and worked in New York City since 1978.
He leads the trio Sync, with Jerome Harris, guitars and Samir Chatterjee, tabla. Recent recordings include Sync's Harbinger, Intervals, a double-cd of solo work,Live at Roulette with Evan Parker and Are You Be, by R.U.B. (Rothenberg/Kazuhisa Uchihashi/Samm Bennett) on Rothenberg’s Animul label. Chamber music releases include Inner Diaspora and Ghost Stories, on Tzadik and Power Lines on New World, along with The Fell Clutch on Animul. Other collaborators have included Sainkho Namchylak, Paul Dresher, John Zorn, Marc Ribot and Yuji Takahashi.