Big Ears Festival Announces Artist Conversations with Ann Powers, Nate Chinen

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The 2024 Big Ears Festival is next week, taking place in venues throughout downtown Knoxville, TN, March 21–24, with more than a dozen Nonesuch artists past, present, and future performing as part of the label's 60th anniversary celebrations. In addition to all of the music and film offerings, Big Ears also hosts a number of artist conversations with music journalists Ann Powers and Nate Chinen, including talks with Sam Amidon, Laurie Anderson, Darcy James Argue, Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Halvorson, Robin Holcomb, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Brad Mehldau, Davóne Tines, and Yasmin Williams.

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The 2024 Big Ears Festival is next week, taking place in venues throughout downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, March 21–24, with more than a dozen Nonesuch artists past, present, and future performing as part of the label's 60th anniversary celebrations. In addition to all of the music and film offerings, Big Ears also hosts a number of artist conversations with music journalists Ann Powers and Nate Chinen, including talks with Sam Amidon, Laurie Anderson, Darcy James Argue, Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Halvorson, Robin Holcomb, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Brad Mehldau, Davóne Tines, and Yasmin Williams.

Laurie Anderson kicks things off with a one-on-one conversation about her career with Ann Powers at the Regal Riviera Cinema 2 on Friday, March 22, at 1pm. Anderson performs with Sexmob at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium that night, and on Saturday, her 1986 film Home of the Brave will be shown at the Regal Riviera at 11:30am.

Also on Friday, Darcy James Argue, Brad Mehldau, and flutist and tenor saxophonist Anna Webber join Nate Chinen for a talk titled Composure, in Regas Square at 2pm. Their conversation explores what it means to bring an improviser’s instinct and understanding to the table as a composer, and how, then, a compositional mindset informs the improviser’s art. Argue leads his Secret Society ensemble in performing music from their new album, Dynamic Maximum Tension, at the Bijou Theatre Friday night, while Mehldau plays a solo set at the Tennessee Theatre that night and a duo set with Christian McBride at the Tennessee on Saturday.

The conversations continue on Saturday as well, with Robin Holcomb, Sam Amidon, and Hurray for the Riff Raff (aka Alynda Segarra) joining Ann Powers for The Song, Root, Weed, and Flower at Visit Knoxville Visitors Center at 10am. In this panel, these three song creators discuss how they find songs both within themselves and from throughout music’s landscape, revealing what working within song forms means to them. Holcomb performs at St. John's Cathedral that evening, Amidon will have done so at The Standard Friday afternoon, and Hurray for the Riff Raff at Mill & Mine on Friday.

Also Saturday morning, Mary Halvorson and Yasmin Williams join fellow guitarist Anthony Pirog for Guitar Radicals, hosted by Nate Chinen, in Regas Square at 11:30am. They discuss their instrument, the variability it allows, and the unique personal touch each of them brings to it. Halvorson has a busy Big Ears schedule, performing from her albums Amaryllis, Belladonna, and Cloudward with her Amaryllis sextet at the Tennessee Theatre Thursday night, with Trevor Dunn's Trio at the Bijou Friday at noon, with Tomeka Reid Quartet at The Point Friday night, Myra Melford's Fire & Water at the Bijou Saturday afternoon, while Williams performs at The Standard Friday at noon.

Finally, Rhiannon Giddens and Davóne Tines join Nate Chinen for Voices and Visions at Visit Knoxville Visitors Center on Sunday at 3:15pm. The topic is the voice as an instrument and a catalyst, and the ways in which Tines and Giddens keep challenging every category they inhabit. Giddens is also up for a busy Big Ears, performing music from hew new album, You're the One, and more at the Tennessee Theatre Friday night, joining Christian McBride and Francesco Turrisi at the Tennessee Saturday night, and Silkroad Ensemble, of which she is Artistic Director, at Mill & Mine Sunday at 1pm, when Tines has his own set with The Truth at the Tennessee Theatre.

Among the other Nonesuch artists past, present, and future performing at the 2024 Big Ears Festival are Tyondai Braxton, Wayne Horvitz, Kronos Quartet, Ringdown (Caroline Shaw and Danni Lee), and Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway. You can hear a playlist featuring all of them here.

For more on all of the above and the complete festival schedule, visit bigearsfestival.org.

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Big Ears 2024 conversations

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