Pulitzer Prize for Music Awarded to Native American Composer Raven Chacon

(Photograph credit score: Adolphe Pierre-Louis)


Diné composer, performer, and set up artist Raven Chacon is a member of the Navajo Nation and is at the moment based mostly out of Albuquerque.

In the course of the peak of the COVID-19 lockdowns, Chacon began writing the 16-minute work “Unvoiced Mass” for pipe organ accompanied by strings, winds, and percussion. The work was co-commissioned by the Milwaukee modern music group Current Music, the Wisconsin Convention of the United Church of Christ, and Plymouth Church within the United Church of Christ. The piece acquired its world premiere in Milwaukee in November 2021 on the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist — which housed the pipe organ the piece was particularly written for.

Exploring themes of energy and oppression, the Pulitzer Prize group wrote that the piece is “a mesmerizing, unique work for organ and ensemble that evokes the load of historical past in a church setting, a concentrated and highly effective musical expression with a haunting visceral impression.”

“This work considers the areas through which we collect, the historical past of entry of those areas, and the land upon which these buildings sit,” the indigenous composer wrote within the prize’s entry questionnaire. “Although ‘mass’ is referenced within the title, the piece comprises no audible singing voices, as an alternative utilizing the openness of the massive area to intone the constricted intervals of the wind and string devices. In exploiting the structure of the cathedral, Unvoiced Mass considers the futility of giving voice to the unvoiced, when ceding area isn’t an possibility for these in energy.”

The piece is one in all a lot of Chacon’s tasks that explores the struggles of Indigenous folks. His artistic output contains recordings of 2016’s silent standoffs between Indigenous girls and the police close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, plus a video set up filmed on Navajo, Cherokee, and Seminole lands, that includes girls singing the tales of massacres or removals. Together with Du Yun, he additionally wrote the music for the opera “Candy Land,” a meditation on colonialism that premiered in 2020.

Raven Chacon is the primary Native American to obtain the Pulitzer Prize for Music, which has traditionally been given to white male composers. Nonetheless, within the final decade, 5 girls have gained it along with African American rapper Kendrick Lamar.

A graduate of the College of New Mexico and the California Institute of the Arts, Chacon has served as composer-in-residence for the Native American Composer Apprentice Challenge (NACAP) since 2004. Inside this position, he taught composition to American Indian highschool college students residing on reservations within the Southwest U.S.

A member of the American Indian arts collective Postcommodity, he’s the recipient of america Artists Fellowship in Music, The Artistic Capital Award in Visible Arts, The Native Arts and Cultures Basis artist fellowship, and the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for Music Composition.

Chacon has introduced his work at worldwide venues corresponding to The Kennedy Heart, Vancouver Artwork Gallery, ABC No Rio, REDCAT, La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Musica, Musée d’artwork Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Digital Music Pageant, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Pageant, and 18th Biennale of Sydney.