Raven Chacon - For Four (Caldera)


I was first introduced to Raven Chacon at Dronefest last year when he performed a transfixing three hour noise set involving hyper-directional speakers. By manually adjusting their position, often at high speeds, he created disorienting effects of laser beams or overdriven insects buzzing around the circular space. I had never seen or heard anything like it and instantly became a fan.

I’ve since seen one other of his compositions performed in which a quartet soundtracked one of his graphical scores for which he is well known.

This piece, currently on display at the Swiss Institute in NYC, trades a graphical score for the shapes of the rolling hills surrounding the Valles Caldera in New Mexico, which was formed 1.25 million years ago when a Volcano erupted (it’s also 15 miles from the location of the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the Atomic Bomb was developed).

In the piece, four singers are positioned around a small pond, each facing in a different direction. The “singers slowly rotate and while scanning the horizon line, singing the contour of the landscape.” The resulting sounds are haunting and beautiful, as the overlapping voices gradually shift between harmony and dissonance, evoking the tension between the tranquility of the landscape and the violence of the forces that created it.

Books: 2024

A running list of books I’ve read in 2024:

  • Octavia E. Butler: The Last Interview
    • “The problem is that we’re really good at responding to crises, but we’re really bad at long-term planning, especially when it requires that we stop doing something that we really enjoy doing, like burning fossil fuels. Probably we will muddle through for a while, but sooner or later we’ll push the environment too far. We’ll do something that we won’t be able to recover from.” (2000)
    • “I have advice in just a few words. The first is to read… The second is to write, every day, whether you like it or not. Screw inspiration. The third is to forget about talent, whether or not you have any. Because it doesn’t really matter.”
    • “The future is not some mystical magical place. The future is moment to moment. Thirty years ago we didn’t have the computers we do now, but we’re still doing the same things.” (1999)
  • Ling Ma: Severance
    • “It was a trance. It was lke burrowing underground, and the deeper I burrowed the warmer it became, and the more the nothing feeling subsumed me, snuffing out any worries and anxieties. It is the feeling I like best about working.”
    • “When I was a kid, I named this feeling Fuzhou Nighttime Feeling. It is not a cohesive thing, this feeling, it reaches out and bludgeons everything. It is excitement tinged by despair. It is despair heightened by glee. It is partly sexual in nature, though it precedes sexual knowledge. If Fuzhou Nighttime Feeling were a sound, it would be early/mid-nineties R&B. If it were a flavor, it would be the ice-cold Pepsi we drink as we turn down tiny alleyways where little kids defecate wildly. It is the feeling of drowning in a big hot open gutter, of crawling inside an undressed, unstanched wound that has never been cauterized.”
    • “And even if we didn’t get around to it on that day, our free day, maybe it was enough to just feel the possibility that we could if we wanted to, which is another way of saying that we wanted to feel young, though many of us were that if nothing else.”
    • “To live in a city is to take part in and to propagate its impossible systems. To wake up. To go to work in the morning. It is also to take pleasure in those systems because, otherwise, who could repeat the same routines, year-in, year-out?”

Films: 2024

A running list of films I’ve watched in 2024:

The Fader: "Add Jennifer Vanilla to your 1980's alien-pop playlist"

A nice review of Castle in the Sky was published in The Fader earlier this month:

With enough curated cheeriness and kitschy synth work, any artist worth their salt can emulate an ’80s sound. But Castles In the Sky takes on the much trickier task of blending the era’s capitalist excesses with its radical elements — art that arose as a response to the brutal injustices of austerity and imperialism masked as American exceptionalism — and projecting the whole mess onto our current technocratic dystopia. Jennifer Vanilla’s dimension of origin is an eternal ’80s, one in which the decade’s false promises are suspended in midair like floating castles. But Grant’s critical eye complicates the premise, letting the weight of the future seep ever so slightly into their avatar’s perpetual daydream.