The National, CSO, Sufjan Stevens & more at MusicNOW

KP Photography

The tenth anniversary of Cincinnati's MusicNOW Festival is nothing short of amazing. This year the festival will feature The National, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Caroline Shaw, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Daníel Bjarnason, Will Butler, So Percussion, Mina Tindle, Perfume Genius, The Lone Bellow, Ragnar Kjartansson and more! The festival will take place March 11-15 in various venues including Cincinnati Music Hall, The Woodward Theater, Memorial Hall, and the Contemporary Arts Center.  

We sat down with Bryce Dessner of The National prior to the 2014 MusicNOW Festival.

MusicNOW was founded in 2006 by Cincinnati born Bryce Dessner of The National with the mission to present the best in contemporary music, offer artists an opportunity to take risks and commission new work. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of this very special collaborative event. The five-day series will feature The National, who will be joined by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and will also see performances by Perfume Genius, So Percussion and The Lone Bellow.

Photos from MusicNOW 2014: FRI | SAT
Photos from MusicNOW 2013: FRI | SAT
Photos from MusicNOW 2012

Throughout the weekend, “A Lot of Sorrow”, Ragner Kjartansson’s video documenting The National’s MoMA PS1 performance in which they played their song “Sorrow” for six hours straight in front of a live audience will be installed at the Contemporary Arts Center. In keeping with the spirit and mission of MusicNOW, the festival has commissioned pieces last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason. Full schedule below. Tickets and information at

“Each Note Secure” said of the festival, “MusicNOW is a special event. It’s the best weekend of music you can experience. Each night, it’s not just another touring set from a band halfway through a 15-city trek. It’s not a musician playing the same set list they have dragged across the country for six months. No, MusicNOW is a unique experience. Amazing, unique, only here, only now. That right there could be a tagline for the festival.”

“Looking through the last decade of MusicNOW, I realize that the curatorial instinct seems to be governed like a large family — a core group of people who are always there, presenting new work, and then cousins, in-laws, new friends, strange couples and thrupples, arriving from unimagined parts of the globe,” said composer and frequent MusicNOW performer Nico Muhly. “I’ve played a bunch of times myself, both as a collaborator and as a solo artist, and each time, have presented things that were not just new to Cincinnati, but new to me: pieces with the ink still drying, or pieces in desperate need of a set of ears other than my own. What has been extraordinary to watch is how Cincinnatians have embraced this odd festival, which offers only the most oblique hints of what might happen when you arrive at the show.” 

"Many of my most significant memories as a musician have taken place in Cincinnati during the MusicNOW Festival over the last 10 years,” says founder Bryce Dessner.  “When we started, we were driven to create an intimate music festival that was as much a creative refuge for the artists as it is for the audience to partake in intimate and rare performances. We have celebrated works in progress and new commissions, new collaborations, and detailed music of all kinds regardless of genre or popularity." 

“The CSO’s first collaboration with MusicNOW last year was one of the highlights of my career,” said CSO Music Director Louis Langrée. “Bryce is an immensely talented musician who brings fascinating ideas to the table. The fusion of MusicNOW and the full Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is an experiment nothing short of extraordinary.”

MusicNOW headliner Richard Reed Perry of Arcade Fire said, “MusicNOW is my favorite festival anywhere. It is my favorite place to perform, and my favorite place to see music, and I have been there almost every year since it's inception.  It happens in the most spectacularly beautiful yet cozy and intimate venue you're ever likely to find and seems to attract the most wonderful people; I count many of the artists and musicians I've met there amongst my most kindred friends and collaborators, and the festival has acted as an important catalyst and jumping off point for so many of my musical endeavors that I can hardly imagine what my last 10 years would have been like without it.”  

MusicNOW has played host to sold out audiences experiencing contemporary chamber music, world premiere commissions, indie rock performances and visual art installations. ”I have always been really inspired by visual artists. Many of my projects have been collaborations with artists and I often find it really inspiring to speak with visual artists about music. It’s amazing to read about Merce, Cage and Rauschenberg working together at a young age and the ways they influenced one another and the larger community around them,” said Dessner. It is in that spirit that MusicNOW has and continues to curate its performances and collaborations. Over the course of the last decade, the festival has showcased experimental performances by Bonnie Prince Billy, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Glen Hansard and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Robin Pecknold, So Percussion, Nico Muhly, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and many other remarkable luminaries.


Wednesday, March 11th
The Woodward Theater - 1404 Main St, Cincinnati, OH
Will Butler 

Thursday, March 12th
The Woodward Theater - 1404 Main St, Cincinnati, OH
concert:nova with Jeff Zeigler 

Friday, March 13th
Cincinnati Music Hall - 1241 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The National with the CSO and new commission by Caroline Shaw 

Saturday, March 14th
Cincinnati Music Hall - 1241 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Songs from Planetarium featuring Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly & Bryce Dessner with the CSO, new commission by Daníel Bjarnason and So Percussion

Sunday, March 15th
Memorial Hall - 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH
Perfume Genius, The Lone Bellow, Mina Tindle 

March 11th-20th
Contemporary Arts Center- 404 E. 6th St, Cincinnati, OH
A Lot Of Sorrow – by Ragner Kjartansson featuring The National
An ongoing Installation 


  • Interview

Bryce Dessner Interview - MusicNOW 2014 

MusicNOW Festival kicks off its ninth annual weekend of music this Friday March 20th at 8 PM in the historic Music Hall. This year’s festival features a convergence of classical music and contemporary music with performances and collaborations by Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, David Lang, Louis...