Episode 56. Interview with Raven Chacon

Originally from the Navajo Nation, Raven Chacon is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, and an installation artist. He performs regularly as a solo artist as well as with numerous ensembles in the Southwest and beyond. He is also a member of the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity, with who he recently premiered the 2-mile long land art/border intervention, Repellent Fence. 

Just one week after the election results in the United States, I had the honor to sit down with composer and artist Raven Chacon and talk about his practice. In this episode Raven speaks about the origins of his work and how he came to experience making sound. We hear about his involvement with Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary arts collective comprised of Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist and we also hear about his work teaching youth through the Native American Composer Apprentice Project. Raven shares his varying experiences in creating chamber music and experimental noise and reflects on the ‘dues' that must be paid by artists along the way. He also addresses ideas around identity and the Indigenous artist, what the role of the artist is, and the opportunity the artist has to remain mysterious. Raven reminds us to think critically and to take time to seek the truth.

Here is the conversation with Raven Chacon:

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All music featured on this episode composed by and courtesy of the artist Raven Chacon

More about the artist:

Raven Chacon’s work explores sounds of acoustic handmade instruments overdriven through electric systems and the direct and indirect audio feedback responses from their interactions. Current and recent collaborators include Kronos Quartet, Laura Ortman, ETHEL String Quartet, Bob Bellerue, John Dieterich, OVO, William Fowler Collins, Ruby Kato Attwood, Jeremy Barnes, Chatter Ensemble, Robert Henke, and The Living Earth Show. He also runs the Sicksicksick Distro label showcasing music from the Southwest U.S..

As a educator, Chacon has served as composer-in-residence for the Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP), teaching string quartet composition to hundreds of American Indian high-school students living on reservations in the Southwest U.S. Under his instruction, this project was awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in 2011.

He has a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts where he was a student of James Tenney, Michael Pisaro, and Wadada Leo Smith. He has served on the Music and Native American Studies faculties at the University of New Mexico and as a visiting artist in the New Media Art & Performance program at Long Island University. Chacon has presented his work in different contexts at Vancouver Art Gallery, ABC No Rio, REDCAT, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center among other traditional and non-traditional venues.

Chacon lives and works in Albuquerque, NM.

Learn more about the work of Raven Chacon on his website: www.spiderwebsinthesky.com