2017 Initial Music Lineup Revealed!

Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American, the Big Ears Festival will return to Knoxville, Tennessee’s historic downtown for the weekend of March 23 – 26, 2017, expanding to 4 days and new venues, including two beautiful downtown churches, with nearly 100 performances from over 60 of the world’s most extraordinary musical creators – coming from classical music, jazz, rock, electronica, folk, bluegrass, and beyond.

GA and VIP Weekend Passes, along with the newly announced “Premier Weekend Pass,” are on sale now. There will be more solo performances, collaborations, permutations and surprises. Plus, there’ll be more musical additions, an extraordinary film program plus installations, exhibitions, talks, discussions, interactive experiences, food, wine, beer and countless surprises to share in the coming weeks. We look forward to you joining us in 2017!


Several of the most highly regarded and influential artists of the past half-century will perform: jazz pianist / composer Carla Bley (performing twice, once with her trio and once with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra); British composer Gavin Bryars (astonishingly performing for the first time ever in the USA with his own ensemble); the great jazz bassist Henry Grimes with his quartet; eccentric American folksinger Michael Hurley; “magician of the voice”Meredith Monk with her ensemble; Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski, andRichard Teitelbaum, performing together in their almost mythic improvisational group Musica Elettronica Viva as well as presenting their own individual performances; plus composer / reedman Henry Threadgill (winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music) with his band, Zooid.

Wilco will hold down the alt-rock foundation while Stephin Merritt & the Magnetic Fields will perform Merritt’s new 50 Song Memoir over two evenings; Icelandic composer (and Golden Globe winner) Jóhann Jóhannssonwill present Drone Mass; Blonde Redhead will perform their classic Misery Is a Butterfly; the “cello goddess” Maya Beiser will return with two new programs, including David Lang’s powerful World to Come; composer / pianist Rachel Grimes premieres her new “folk opera” The Way Forth, with Joan Shelley andNathan Salsburg; composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s beautiful song cycle Unremembered will be sung by Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), Padme Newsome (Clogs, The National) and DM Stith; saxophonist Colin Stetson(Arcade Fire, Bon Iver) will present Sorrow, his “reimagining” of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony; saxophonist / composer Steve Lehman will bring his international jazz / hip hop project, Sélébéyone; Junun, the extraordinary collaboration featuring Israeli composer / singer Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express, will perform; the groundbreaking choral group, The Crossing, will perform David Lang’s stunning The Little Match Girl Passion (which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music) in a second concert, in addition to Gavin Bryars’ choral meditation, The Fifth Century.

Two other special projects will showcase the work of two late composers, whose influence on contemporary music continues to grow. Matmos will perform their staging of three key sections of the late Robert Ashley’s “opera for television” Perfect Lives (Private Parts) for the first time in the US, and producer Jace Clayton (DJ/rupture) will present his engaging Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner, celebrating the troubled and neglected African-American composer Julius Eastman, whose legacy grows stronger than ever a quarter of a century after his tragic death.

Norway’s improvisational supergroup Supersilent will give their first US concert since 2004, with master trumpeter / vocalist Arve Henriksen and keyboardistStåle Storløkken performing separate concerts. Helge Sten will also deliver a rare Deathprod performance. In addition, Norwegian hardanger fiddle masterNils Økland will give his first concert ever in the US, performing with his band as well as in a more intimate setting. Also from Norway, the accordion virtuosoFrode Haltli will present his powerful piece The Border Woods, weaving traditional Scandinavian folk traditions with Middle Eastern influences.

There’s so much more: indie heavy hitters like Deerhoof, Læticia Sadier(Stereolab), Colleen, Dave Harrington (Darkside), My Brightest Diamond, Xiu Xiu and Tortoise; international voices like Ukraine’s DhakaBrahka, Chinese guzheng master Wu Fei, and African urban Tuareg band Imarhan; groundbreaking contemporary classical artists like cellist Oliver Coates(deemed Radiohead’s “secret weapon” on their latest record); pianist Lisa Moore; percussionist (and Wilco drummer) Glenn Kotche; flutist and music entrepreneur Claire Chase; composer and producer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith; vocalist Theo Bleckmann; ensembles American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) and Theatre of Voices; underground legendsAhleuchatistas, Rangda, Sir Richard Bishop, Six Organs of Admittance, and turntablist Philip Jeck; Baltimore rockers Horse Lords; young jazz guitar wizardJulian Lage with Punch Brothers’ picker Chris “Critter” Eldridge; plus folk singers Aoife O’Donovan and Joan Shelley.

This year’s lineup is a rich and diverse musical feast. Dive in.