This afternoon (May 9), Diné artist, composer, and CalArts alum Raven Chacon (Music MFA 04) was awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Voiceless Mass, a “mesmerizing, original work for organ and ensemble.”
The Pulitzer Prize in Music is one of seven Pulitzer Prizes awarded in the Books, Drama, and Music categories, and awarded to a “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”
Voiceless Mass was composed specifically for the Nichols & Simpson organ at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, and commissioned by the WI Conference of the United Church of Christ, Plymouth Church UCC, and Present MusicHowever. The large ensemble work can be performed in any place of worship equipped with a pipe organ and high ceilings.
In the official prize announcement, Chacon further discussed the composition:
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.
Chacon joins a Pulitzer roster of renowned musicians and composers, most recently fellow CalArtian Ellen Reid (Music MFA 11), who was also awarded the Pulitzer in Music in 2019 for her operatic work p r i s m. Other CalArtian winners include John Luther Adams (Music BFA 73), who won the 2014 prize for his orchestral composition Become Ocean; Mel Powell, founding dean of the music school (now The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts), who won in 1990 for Duplicates: A Concerto; and composer Julia Wolfe, the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winner for Music, who won the Pulitzer the same year for her oratorio Anthracite Fields.
See the full list of 2022 winners at The Pulitzer Prizes’ official site.