"Ear Taxi Festival" and Interview with Co-curator Stephen Burns - An Upcoming Extravaganza of New Music





 Pianist Patricia Barber to premiere her own composition on opening night program, Wednesday, Oct. 5

Patricia Barber at piano; photo courtesy of Valerie Booth

  • International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) to perform with students from The People’s Music School, Thursday, Oct. 6
    • Live broadcast on WFMT-FM and wfmt.com featuring Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s assistant concertmaster YuanQing Yu and assistant principal cellist Kenneth Olsen, Friday, Oct. 7
    • 100+ festival musicians, led by conductor Cliff Colnot, to premiere a new work by Drew Baker, Saturday, Oct. 8
    • Weekend-long, 2-day “New Music Marathon” at Chicago Cultural Center, sponsored by the Sanford J. Grossman Charitable Trust, during Bank of America Chicago Marathon, featuring works by two Pulitzer Prize-winning composers (Shulamit Ran, Bernard Rands) and culminating in a “Blowout Party!” at Constellation, Sunday, Oct. 9
    • The festival will conclude by presenting MusicNow’s Season Opener, Monday, Oct. 1


International Contemporary Ensemble;photo courtesy of Armen Elliot


 CHICAGO, IL – 300+ musicians…88 composers…54 world premieres…25 ensembles…5 sound installations…2-day marathon… Ear Taxi Festival, a first-of-its-kind Chicago-centric large-scale contemporary classical music festival, proudly announces its complete lineup. Along with Patricia Barber, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) the impressive roster of Chicago’s new music heavy-hitters includes Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble Dal Niente, Chicago Harp Quartet, Arcomusical and Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music Contemporary Ensemble. No one performance overlaps with another, allowing festivalgoers to attend every Ear Taxi Festival event.

Chicago Harp Quartet; photo courtesy of Augusta Read Thomas


 Ear Taxi Festival will take place October 5-10, 2016 at multiple venues throughout Chicago, including the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago Cultural Center, Constellation and Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. Performances will be presented at over 30 festival events, scheduled in 30 – 90 minute sets. Single event tickets range from $5-$26 and multiple event passes start at $36. Festival passes and tickets are currently available at the Ear Taxi Festival website

Jennie Oh Brown; photo courtesy of Devon Cass

 In addition to adventuresome concert programming, Festival offerings include five unique sound art installations on display around the city; community partnerships,including public micro-performances; a series of “Meet the Artists” events, featuring moderated panel discussions and cocktails; and a “NewMusicBox LIVE!” event presented by New Music USA and focused on Chicago-based composers, streaming online for a national audience.

Chicago Academy for the Arts; photo courtesy of Karjaka Studios


Spearheaded by acclaimed composer and University of Chicago Professor Augusta Read Thomas, Ear Taxi Festival - October 5-10, 2016 - celebrates the vibrant and booming contemporary classical music scene in Chicago with concerts, lectures, marathons, webcasts and artist receptions. Co-curated by Thomas and conductor Stephen Burns alongside a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leading new music artists and intellectuals and managed by Reba Cafarelli, the festival will be a joyride through Chicago’s contemporary classical music scene.

Augusta Read Thomas; photo courtesy of Anthony Barlich


This reviewer had the opportunity to interview co-curator Stephen Burns, Artistic Director, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, (FPNMP) about FCMHP and his involvement with Ear Taxi. His cogent and enthusiastic remarks are paraphrased as follows:

Stephen Burns; photo courtesy of Saverio Truglia

-With reference to FPNMP, the “fulcrum point” is the leverage point, the tipping point, the point between tradition and innovation, the point at which balance and leverage occur. Tradition meets us in the present moment as we create the new.

-Music, art, theater, dance, film and poetry are all the various elements of society that are explored to create the sounds of new music; the second part of the equation is in the relationships between the art forms- that is, in essence, the leverage that is used in innovative composition and performance.

Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble; photo courtesy of Karjaka Studios

-3 years ago, Augusta Read Thomas invited Burns to work with her on what is now the first Ear Taxi Festival. There will be 28 groups performing, presenting the music of 88 composers, all celebrating the richness of talent in Chicago, which has become a center for musical excellence and innovation.

-Burns and Thomas put in 3 years of tireless work from the conception of the festival itself, to coordinating with the myriad of festival partners, to the structuring of the concerts and events; it was a mammoth undertaking.

Sixth University Carillonneur Joey Brink; photo courtesy of Eden Sabala

-In the next decade, FPNMP will continue the exploration and find the interaction between the various improvised and composed traditions. They will be focusing on concert work in certain smaller and more relaxed venues, such as clubs and museums. Their educational programs will be expanding from grammar schools to high schools and professional schools, tied together with a middle-school program including creative writing and social studies progrms.

-In essence, Burns sees the future of FPNMP as “the contextualization of New Music”, continuing to find fresh ways to expand past partnerships and embrace future relationships with festivals, foundations, individuals and groups.

Artists from Fulcrum Point New Music Project; photo courtesy of Elliot Mandel

Follow FPNMP at  their concert series with PUBLIC CHICAGO; for more information on FPNMP,  go to the fulcrum point website     

 For more information on the first-ever Ear Taxi Festival


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