In June 2019, composer and visual artist Raven Chacon and The Living Earth Show will enact Tremble Staves: a wordless water opera synthesizing mixed media installation, manipulation of natural and artificial light and sound, and theatrical performance depicting the urgent but approaching crisis of water shortage burdening the region from California to the Navajo deserts.
Chacon’s opera connects narratives of the San Francisco Bay Area’s relationship with water to overlapping Navajo creation stories in which water figures prominently. The work will be performed, from memory, by the virtuosic musicians of The Living Earth Show, utilizing amplified antlers, tape reels, effected guitars, and water as a dynamic percussion instrument. With this palette, Chacon combines electro-acoustic noises, traditional Navajo music, field recordings, and extended techniques rooted in the musical lineage of classical chamber music to craft a vital sonic and visual landscape. Presented outdoors in the flooded ruins of Sutro Baths, an early 20th century outdoor pool complex whose concrete remains are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the opera presents the sacred element of water as a struck, manipulated, and amplified instrument–in reverence while simultaneously creating a sonic violence representative of continuing scarcity of this natural resource. The audience joins the performers in the environment, turning a public space into a sonic ecosystem in which all participants are surrounded by the element discussed and interrogated by the music. The intention is immersion; the opera immerses a congregation of audience members anchored in a pond of resonance; communally engaging in the work yet aware of their own complicity in the draining of the water.
Originally from the Navajo Nation, Raven Chacon is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, and an installation artist. Chacon’s work explores sounds of acoustic handmade instruments overdriven through electric systems. As an educator, Chacon has served as composer-in-residence for the Native American Composer Apprentice Project, teaching string quartet composition to hundreds of American Indian high-school students living on reservations in the Southwest U.S. His work has been presented at the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, REDCAT, the Kennedy Center, and the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival.
Cath Brittan is a music, theater and opera producer and production manager based in California. She has worked with, amongst others, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cal Performances, Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Symphony, Soundbox, and Peter Sellars.
Mark Grey is an Emmy Award winning sound designer who made history as the first sound designer for the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall (On the Transmigration of Souls, 2002, which also won the Pulitzer Prize in Music) and the Metropolitan Opera (Doctor Atomic, 2008; Nixon in China, 2011; Death of Klinghoffer, 2014; The Merry Widow, 2015; Bluebeard’s Castle/Iolanta, 2015; L’Amour de Loin, 2016). He has collaborated intimately with composer John Adams, Kronos Quartet, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and numerous others. He has designed productions for the Park Avenue Armory in NYC, St. Matthew Passion with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle and directed by Peter Sellars, and Kaija Saariaho’s Circle Map with the New York Philharmonic in 2016.