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Chamber Music Series

LIVE FRIDAY October 9 7pm
STREAM SUNDAY October 18 2pm


First United Methodist Church

610 2nd Avenue North

Music of indigenous peoples from the
American Southwest, South Africa and Samoa

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Cascade Quartet

Three Native Views will be presented in our opener, originally planned for April 2020.


Raven Chacon, a Diné (Navajo) composer, created The Journey of the Horizontal People for the Kronos Quartet. You’ll want to get up and dance!


Another Kronos-commissioned work invokes a similar impulse. According to South African composer Kevin Volans, “The title White Man Sleeps comes from a moment in nyanga panpipe music where the performers leave off playing their loud pipes ... and dance only to the sound of their ankle rattles, to let the white landowner sleep – for a minute or two.”


Michael Foumai’s Flare Up is a five-minute musical inferno inspired by Samoan fire knife dancing!

The Journey of the Horizontal People is a future creation story telling of a group of people traveling from west to east, across the written page, contrary to the movement of the sun, but involuntarily and unconsciously allegiant to the trappings of time. With their bows, these wanderers sought out others like them, knowing that they could survive by finding these other clans who resided in the east, others who shared their linear cosmologies. It is told that throughout the journey, in their own passage of time, this group became the very people they were seeking. 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 whom he recently premiered the two-mile-long land art/border intervention, Repellent Fence.

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 Laura Ortman, ETHEL, Bob Bellerue, John Dieterich, OVO, William Fowler Collins, Ruby Kato Attwood, Jeremy Barnes, Chatter Ensemble, Robert Henke, and The Living Earth Show.

As an 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.

Chacon has an 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, the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, 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, New Mexico.

The Journey of the Horizontal People was composed for the Kronos Quartet in 2016. Learn about Raven Chacon, view or download the score, view an instructional video and a video statement from the composer, all on the Kronos Quartet website.

White Man Sleeps features open, spacious harmonies, repeated short motifs, and quirky instrumentation.

Unlike some composers who adopt local color in a completely natural way, Kevin Volans, a white South African, had to make a deliberate study of it due to the apartheid system – a system that enforced his isolation from the indigenous music of his native land.His first real exposure came when he was twenty-seven and was hired to do some field studies of indigenous music. Soon after that, he began incorporating the rhythms, harmonies, and tunings of South African ethnic music into his own compositions. Apart from finding himself drawn to the music for its own sake, he hoped to build a bridge between the worlds of white and black at a time when South Africa’s future hung in the balance.


White Man Sleeps is a set of five dances that draw on the music that Volans studied then. Originally written in 1982 for the unique instrumentation of two “African-tuned” harpsichords, viola da gamba, and percussion, he transcribed it in 1986 for string quartet at the request of the Kronos Quartet. The resulting album, Pieces of Africa, became a top-selling classical release in 1993, much to the surprise of Volans.


Some notable features of the music are its open, spacious harmonies, its repetition of short motifs, and (even within the confines of the arrangement for a string quartet) its quirky instrumentation. These last two features are particularly clear in the final dance, where the viola and cello alone play a simple figure over and over with subtle variations, bringing the work to a close in a hushed, hypnotic fashion. 


This, and similar moments in other dances, may be the source of the subtitle, White Man Sleeps: In Nyanga panpipe music the players would put aside their pipes for a time and dance just to the sound of their ankle rattles, allowing the white landowner to sleep.


– Notes by Thad Suits

More information about Kevin Volans on Wikipedia.

Kevin Volans

 Flare Up! is a five-minute musical inferno inspired by Samoan fire knife dancing.

Flare Up! is a short work exuding a furious, fierce, fiery and flaming character that is inspired by the fire knife, a traditional Samoan cultural implement that is used in ceremonial dances. It was originally composed of a machete wrapped in towels on both ends with a portion of the blade exposed in the middle. Tribal performers of fire knife dancing (or Siva Afi or even "Ailao Afi" as it is called in Samoa) dance while twirling the knife and doing other acrobatic stunts.

Dr. Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987, Honolulu, HI) is a composer of contemporary concert music and educator. His music has been described as “vibrant and cinematic” (New York Times) and “full of color, drama, and emotion” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).


A prolific composer of symphonic music, his work focuses on storytelling and the history, people and culture of his Hawaiʻi home. In 2019, he was selected into the 17th class of the Pacific Century Fellows comprised of 35 outstanding and talented young leaders to represent the individual and professional diversity of Hawaiʻi, including government, small-and-large-businesses, the arts, non-profit and corporate enterprises. Through his works, he was was awarded the Mayor of Honolulu Certificate of Recognition and the recognition by proclamation from the State Senate of Hawaiʻi.

Learn more at

Michael-Thomas Fumai

Chamber Music Series

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Raven Chacon