Learn more at TheBigEarsFilm.org.
Trailer Music by: Steve Reich (performed by Ensemble Signal from "Music for 18 Musicians" - signalensemble.org), Glenn Kotche, Hailu Mergia, Rachel Grimes, and John Cale. Produced by: Rock Fish Stew (rockfishstew.org)
Knoxville, Tennessee, a city of less than 200,000, is known primarily for college football, country music and bluegrass. While the historic downtown may seem an unlikely venue for experimental music, The Big Ears Festival (bigearsfestival.com) has been drawing an eclectic range of artists since 2009: Laurie Anderson, Earth, tUnE-yArDs, Shabazz Palaces, John Luther Adams, Kamasi Washington, Holly Herndon, The National, Keiji Haino and many others. The music’s common thread is that it requires careful listening—“Big Ears."
The upcoming documentary on “Big Ears,” made by Durham-based Rock Fish Stew (rockfishstew.org), will immerse viewers in the sounds and sights of this festival. Visions of contemporary Knoxville will be blended with archival material from the city’s music and artistic past. Like the festival, the film detaches music from notions of star power, career trajectories or personal demons. It captures performers at work on the road—unloading gear, setting up shows, sound checking—while exploring the sublime art of listening.
“Music’s a fantastic way to explore the world,” Big Ears’ founder and director Ashley Capps said. “And what’s the fun of exploring, if you don’t share what you find?”