And finally, here are our recaps of the final day of Big Ears 2014. Content by Gillian Levy, Harlynn Siler, and Ethan Simonoff.
Stephen O’Malley & Oren Ambarchi
12:00PM @ Knoxville Museum of Art
O’Malley and Ambarchi performed two tracks together specifically written for the duo by other composers. The first was “Criss-Cross,” by Alvin Lucier, which involved the two men creating single-note drone from their guitars which were lying on the table for about fifteen minutes. It was hypnotizing and bizarre, and the crowd sat silently in awe watching the masters work. The second piece was entitled “South Pole” and was written by Romanian composer Iancu Dumitrescu. Featuring tape sounds, guitar, and percussion by Tim Barnes (who stood at the opposite side of the room from Ambarchi & O’Malley), this second piece took us to deep zones and back and left us wanting more. The set was short and sweet. Too short, too sweet.
2:30PM @ Scruffy City Hall
We piled into the pitch black, already packed full, and already incredibly loud hall to catch the legendary Keiji Haino perform a solo set. His instrumentation and set were similar to his performance during Nazoranai’s set: heavy guitar riffs, harsh power electronics, screamed vocals from his magic book of words. He would lay down a noisy guitar riff into a loop, and then continue to play and improvise over that, stopping every so often to scream a few random phrases over the PA. Haino’s stage presence and visceral intensity is what makes him such a joy to watch. He exerts himself nearly to point of breathlessness and commands great attention as he wanders and wavers around the stage.
4:00PM @ Scruffy City Hall
Steve Reich & friends
Performances of “Clapping Music,” “Electric Counterpoint,” “Music for 18 Musicians,” and “Radio Rewrite”
7:30PM @ Tennessee Theater
The final show of the festival started with a brief performance of ‘Clapping Music’ performed by Steve Reich, among others. Following that was a performance of ‘Electric Counterpoint,’ with Jonny Greenwood playing the lead guitar part. After Greenwood shuffled off the stage, Steve Reich premiered his newest work, ‘Radio Rewrite.’ However, the real meat of the concert was an immaculate performance of ‘Music for 18 Musicians,’ arguably one of Reich’s most important and popular works. Hypnotic as ever, the pulsing xylophones, bells, and metallophones signaling new motifs, with phasing vocals, strings, and clarinets filled the auditorium. Musicians could be seen crossing the stage in sequence, as their respective parts gradually came up, and crossing back to their seats just off to the side from the rest of the ensemble as they inevitably came to pass. Following the final few pulses, a long pause, and the theatre erupted in applause. After about a minute, Reich came up to the stage, and led the group in a bow, before exiting the stage. The group was called out no fewer than four more times to appease the audience after approximately 5 minutes of applause. The theatre eventually died down, and everyone stumbled outside, no doubt satisfied with an extraordinary close to the festival and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.