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Diné American composer Raven Chacon wins Pulitzer Prize for music for “Voiceless Mass”.

The winners of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize were announced yesterday. In the music category, awarded fifteen thousand dollars, the winner was Diné American composer Raven Chacon (Fort Deviance, Arizona, 1977), for a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year”: his piece Voiceless Mass. The work was premiered on 21 November at the annual Thanksgiving concert of the non-profit cultural organisation Present Music. Voiceless Mass, for organ and orchestra, was composed specifically for the Nichols & Simpson pipe organ at the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee.

Pulitzer Prize board member David Remnick noted that Chacon “goes deep in his musical thinking, and when he sits down to compose he calls on diverse traditions and modes of musical expression. The result, his ensemble composition, Voiceless Mass, is utterly captivating”.

In the days leading up to the premiere, Chacon explained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the Thanksgiving holiday is not, for Chacon, a cause for celebration: “As an Indigenous artist, I make a point not to present my work on this holiday, but in this case I made an exception. This work considers the spaces in which we gather, the history of access of these spaces, and the land upon which these buildings sit. Though ‘mass’ is referenced in the title, the piece contains no audible singing voices, instead using the openness of the large space to intone the constricted intervals of the wind and string instruments. In exploiting the architecture of the cathedral, Voiceless Mass considers the futility of giving voice to the voiceless, when ceding space is never an option for those in power”.

The prize jury was chaired by The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross and comprised composers John Luther Adams, Du Yun, Tania León (winner of the 2021 edition of the prize) and Patrice Rushen. Finalists wer Andy Akiho, for Seven Pillars, and Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, for with eyes the color of time.

© Photo downloaded from The Industry website.