Augusta Read Thomas speaks about The "Ear Taxi Festival" Preview- A Great Composer Helps Create a Great Music Festival





Augusta Read Thomas’ impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker Magazine called her"a true virtuoso composer."She has had the distinction of having her work performed more frequently in 2013-2014 than any other living ASCAP composer, according to statistics from the performing rights organization. Music critic Edward Reichel has stated, "Augusta Read Thomas has secured for herself a permanent place in the pantheon of American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. She is without question one of the best and most important composers that this country has today.

Augusta Read Thomas; photo courtesy of Anthony Barlich

 Former Chairperson of the American Music Center, Augusta Read is a generous citizen in the profession at large and, according to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “has become one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music.” She is the longest-running composer-in-residence (1997-2006) for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). During her tenure, she founded, started, fundraised for, programmed and hosted the CSO’s MusicNOW contemporary music series which is still thriving today. In addition to her central role envisioning and leading Ear Taxi Festival, she is currently working to create a Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago and she is a tireless advocate for the works of other composers and the music of our time.

 At the Ear Taxi Preview concert, also the penultimate Rush Hour concert, on August 23, Ms. Thomas opened the program, “Here and Now II”, and gave an extraordinarily eloquent introduction to Ear Taxi as well. Subsequently, this reviewer had the opportunity to interview the composer and tireless champion for New Music. Her inspired and inspiring remarks, focused on the personal as well as the universal nature of the creative experience are paraphrased below:

Chicago is home to a wealth of great contemporary classical music, to “an extraordinary crop of ensembles and a vibrant landscape of composers” creating different sounds and working in different styles. Imagine 10 taxicabs coming out of the ears of the wonderfully sculptured famous bust of Beethoven’s head, each moving in a different direction from their source. Ear Taxi will take the listener on an aural journey, each ride “fresh, fun, engaging, and unique.” The music that will be heard will be “played by a huge array of world-class musicians’.

Augusta Read Thomas; photo courtesy of Anthony Barlich

 The music which will be performed at Ear Taxi has all been composed within the last 12 months, indeed, much of it even within the last 5 months. “No one composer or musical style or school of thought and practice or historical period can claim a monopoly on music’s truths”. However, it is a universal truth that “the history of civilization is written in art”, which is common to all peoples “across continents and languages and is, at the same time, intensely personal”. Excellent composers seek to express themselves in this deeply personal way. They “respond faithfully to their inner promptings and musical instincts and invite the listener to do likewise.” Similarly, ‘the musicians play the music of our time with exceptional virtuosity, their performance allied to a personal vision which guides and inspires their tireless and generous efforts”.

 Civilization confers citizenship on the individual. The concept of citizenship is an important one to Thomas. “Giving back to the professional community and supporting the work of colleagues is a privilege and a serious responsibility”. She sincerely hopes that the whole community will come to the Ear Taxi Festival, to “join in it’s celebration of creativity and community”. Those who attend “will feel casual and comfortable”. Everyone in Chicagoland is invited to experience “the diversity and richness of our city’s creative musical minds”. All are encouraged to “Chat and have a drink with the musicians, composers and other music lovers”.

Augusta Read Thomas; photo courtesy of Anthony Barlich

                                      EAR TAXI FESTIVAL DAY TO DAY SCHEDULE 


Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Street


Harris Theater


Stephen Burns and musicians from Fulcrum Point New Music Project; photo courtesy of Elliot Mandel


Rockefeller Chapel (University of Chicago), 5850 S. Woodlawn Avenue


Harris Theater

  • 6:30 p.m., $5: “Meet the Artists: New Music, Old Problems” moderated by Seth Brodsky with participants Michael Lewanski and Katherine Young
  • 7:30 p.m., $20/$10: International Contemporary Ensemble/ICE with students from The People’s Music School (*Divertimento Concertante by Marcos Balter
  • 8:45 p.m., part of 7:30 p.m. show: Northwestern University Contemporary Ensemble and Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble



Live on WFMT from PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue

  • 12:00 p.m., $5: Ear Taxi Festival musicians, featuring the CSO’s assistant concertmaster Yuan‐Qing Yu and assistant principal cellist Kenneth Olsen

Erina Yashima; photo courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

Curtiss Hall, 410 S. Michigan Avenue


Harris Theater

  • 3:30 p.m., $5: Colloquium by George E.Lewis (Lewis presenting his music)
  • 5:30 p.m., $15/$5: Latino Music Festival and Avalon Quartet
  • 6:30 p.m., $5: “Meet the Artists: IN BETWEEN TIME – Sound*Image*Word” moderated by Steve Everett with composers Peter Gena, Marlena Novak, Christopher Preissing, Jay Alan Yim
  • 7:30 p.m., $20/$10: Spektral Quartet
  • 8:45 p.m., part of 7:30 p.m. show: Ensemble Dal Niente (*stutter-step the concept by Chris Fisher-Lochhead; *To Paint Their Madness by Pierce Gradone; *Water on Glass by Jeff Parker)

Avalon String Quartet; photo courtesy of the Latino Music Festival


Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street


Winston Choi; photo courtesy of Chad Johnston

Harris Theater



Chicago Cultural Center


Third Coast Percussion; photo courtesy of Saverio Truglia

Constellation, 3111 N. Western Avenue

  • 8:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m., $15/$10: Third Coast Percussion, Mary Stopler (flute) and Kuang-Hao Huang (piano), MAVerick Ensemble, Fonema Consort and Spektral Quartet



Harris Theater

  • 7:00 p.m., $26^/$15: MusicNOW presented by Ear Taxi Festival with musicians of the CSO, led by conductor Cliff Colnot, and guest artist Manual Cinema
    ^Note: MusicNOW admission available via VIP Pass or Festival Pass regardless of the date on which you buy a Pass; Single tickets for MusicNOW go on-sale August 12, 2016.

Spektral Quartet; photo courtesy of Drew Reynolds

Spearheaded by GRAMMY®-winning composer Augusta Read Thomas, Ear Taxi Festival showcases Chicago’s vital new music scene and celebrates the differing styles of new music today with performances from Chicago’s top chamber music ensembles and soloists. True to the collaborative nature of Chicago’s new music scene, Ear Taxi Festival is co-curated by Thomas and conductor Stephen Burns alongside a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leading new music artists and intellectuals: Michelle Boone, Drew Baker, John Bierbusse, Seth Boustead, Teddy Dean Boys, Seth Brodsky, Matthew Duvall, Steve Everett, Amy Iwano, Michael Lewanski, Peter Margasak, Bill Michel, Liz Pesnel, David Skidmore, Michael Tiknis, Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg, Austin Wulliman and Angel Ysagui. 

For information, tickets and passes to Ear Taxi, go to Ear Taxi website or call 312 334 7777



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