Big Ears: A ReAnimation

Big Ears: A ReAnimation

Big Ears is a strange music festival held annually in Knoxville, Tennessee, that old hometown of Cormac McCarthy, who called the city “obscure and prismatic” in Suttree, in which he populated it with eccentrics, roughnecks, criminals, and squatters. Knoxville is the home of poet R. B. Morris, who has called it “the Bermuda Triangle of Appalachia,” a metaphor that might mean it’s a place that sucks you in, a place in which your navigational instruments don’t work like you expect them to, or a place where weird shit happens, which generally, in my experience living there off and on for fifteen years, seems to hold true. Lying just west of the Appalachians in the broad Tennessee Valley, Knoxville was the first capital of the Southwest Territory and has always been something of a frontier.

Since it began three years ago, Big Ears Festival has hosted some of the world’s great minimalist composers, including Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, along with artists like the dark-electronic-ambient genius Tim Hecker, the wild-minded harpist and lyricist Joanna Newsom, drone metal pioneers Earth and Stephen O’Malley of Sun O))), no wave/free jazz guitarist Marc Ribot, and a lot of other musicians you’ve probably never heard of. It’s an obscure and prismatic music festival in an obscure and prismatic city, catching the light from all different angles.

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{Still from Bill Morrison’s Spark of Being, Hypnotic Pictures}

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