Raven Chacon

born Fort Defiance, AZ 1977
The artist Ravon Chacon stares directly into the camera in a black shirt
Fort Defiance, Arizona, United States
Active in
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
  • American

Raven Chacon is a composer, performer, and visual artist, creating videos, prints, photographs and installations that bring sonic experimentation into the gallery. Score-based creation is fundamental to his practice, encouraging generous forms of collaboration among performers and audiences, sights of significance, nonhuman actors, found sounds, and natural elements. In this way, he connects Diné (Navajo) worldviews and relationship models with Western classical, avant-garde, and art-music traditions.

Chacon’s early encounters with music included listening to his grandfather’s Navajo songs and taking piano lessons with a neighbor. He studied music composition at the University of New Mexico (BA, 2001), exploring the sonic and symbolic potential of alternative instruments, graphic notation, and noise within music. He continued his studies at the California Institute of the Arts (MFA, 2004) with celebrated New Music composers James Tenney and Morton Subotnick.

Chacon’s own renown is increasingly cross-disciplinary and international, with artworks in museum collections from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the Los Angeles County Art Museum, and compositions commissioned for ensembles around the world. One of these, Voiceless Mass, commissioned for a cathedral in Wisconsin, won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for music, making him the first Native American and art-music composer to receive this honor. The piece, in his words, “considers the spaces in which we gather, the history of access of these spaces, and the land upon which these buildings sit.” Other honors include the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for Music Composition and a Creative Capital award in Visual Arts.

From 2009 to 2018, he was a member of Postcommodity, a Native American interdisciplinary arts collective creating large-scale media installations for major international exhibitions and institutions. Since 2004, he has mentored hundreds of high schoolers as part of the Native American Composer Apprenticeship Project (NACAP).


Media - 2020.54.1 - SAAM-2020.54.1_2 - 139600
Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies
June 23, 2023January 28, 2024
Musical Thinking explores the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music.

Related Books

The cover of the publication Musical Thinking New Video Art & Sonic Strategies
Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies 
Exploring the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music, the exhibition Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies features ten leading contemporary artists and the work.

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Side by side artworks displaying symbols in a musical arrangement.
Award winning composer Raven Chacon combines Diné (Navajo) worldviews with Western classical and avant-garde music traditions