Big Ears 2017: Where Jeff Tweedy Is Noice Star, Symphony Plays on Floor

13.05.17, Rolling Stone

By: Christopher R. Weingarten
March 27, 2017

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"It would be presumptuous to call classical composers the new rock stars, but this weekend it was definitely hard not to see the edges of genre fraying, the worlds of classical music and popular music blurring, the pretentions of "high art" crumbling as beers clinked in the background. No moment showcased this better than festival highlight Drone Mass performed by Arrival composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Drone Mass – performed by Jóhannsson with string quartet ACME and vocal group Theater of Voices – seems designed to tug at modern heartstrings. It has the glacial drama of minimalism, the familiar harmonies of church music, the keening drama of pop, the deep digital rumble of modern cinema – all in movements that feel about the length of a rock song. Played to a standing crowd in rock club Mill & Mine, the piece made it difficult not to adhere to the unwritten, long-held orchestra rule of not applauding until the end. But after a movement where a vocal drone met a cello slide – the satisfying sound of a properly tuned guitar, an effect like a film coming into focus – the boundary was breached and torrents of applause followed."