Raven Chacon: What the Sound Carries

High Visibility: On Location in Rural America and Indian Country

In celebration of his recent MacArthur Award, we share this conversation from the High Visibility initiative with Raven Chacon – on the artists, lands, and traditions that have shaped his dynamic creative work.

Raven Chacon joins Art of the Rural Executive Director Matthew Fluharty to share the experiences and creative practices that have shaped his work across a variety of forms – from his music compositions, to his visual scores and installations, through to his leadership in the Native American Composer Apprentice Project and his piece American Ledger No. 2, which was on view at the Plains Art Museum as part of the High Visibility exhibition in 2021.

Along the way, we also have the opportunity to sit, and listen, with Raven as he shares the stories and creative practices behind his recently released, and highly-acclaimed, album An Anthology of Chants Operations.

This conversation moves across an array of lands and traditions– from Navajo Nation to Aristotle’s Lyceum, from string quartets to heavy metal – and a presence that connects many of the pieces Raven discusses is his time as a guest with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock in 2016. Afterwards, he reflected on the experience, he wrote this in a piece published by The New School:  

“The camps became the imagined microcosm of a North America where we were still the majority, self-sustained and self-governed, no other direct action than simply being alive and retaining our ways. What became apparent—even in the short time I was there and under the shadow of militaristic surveillance—was a shared experience: remembering one’s identity, while at the same time re-imagining who we aimed to be. What was achieved there was not a funneling of a pan-Indian sameness, but rather a radial explosion of every potential dreamt history.”

Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. As a solo artist, collaborator, or with the Postcommodity, he has exhibited or performed at a wide range of institutions and spaces including the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, and The Kennedy Center. Every year, he teaches 20 students to write string quartets for the Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP). Raven is the recipient of the United States Artists fellowship in Music, The Creative Capital award in Visual Arts, The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship, and the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for Music Composition.

Works and connections mentioned in this episode:

High Visibility is a partnership with Plains Art Museum and Art of the Rural. We are grateful for the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.


High Visibility: On Location in Rural America and Indian Country welcomes into conversation artists, culture bearers, and leaders from across rural America and Indian Country. This podcast accompanied the exhibition of the same name at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND, which was on view from November 30, 2020 until May 30, 2021.