Present Music
Press Release

2022 Pulitzer Prize for Present Music Commission by Raven Chacon


By - May 10th, 2022 11:40 am

May 10, 2022 (Milwaukee, WI) — On May 9, 2022, the Pulitzer Prize for Music was awarded to composer Raven Chacon for Voiceless Mass, a work commissioned and premiered by Present Music in 2021. This is the first of over 80 commissions in Present Music’s 40-year history to win the prize.

Voiceless Mass was performed on Present Music’s annual Thanksgiving concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, WI on November 21, 2021, as part of the ensemble’s 40th anniversary season. The work was commissioned with funds from the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, Plymouth Church UCC, and Present Music. During a week-long residency in Milwaukee in November of 2021, Chacon rehearsed with the ensemble, led educational events for local students, and spoke in a pre-concert talk.

The Pulitzer citation lauded Chacon’s Voiceless Mass as “a mesmerizing, original work for organ and ensemble that evokes the weight of history in a church setting, a concentrated and powerful musical expression with a haunting visceral impact.” Chacon composed specifically for the Nichols and Simpson organ at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Voiceless Mass is a 16-minute work for organ, strings, winds, percussion, and sine tone, and its Pulitzer win makes Chacon the first Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Chacon is a Diné artist known as a composer of chamber music, as well as a visual artist and solo performer. He was born in Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation and attended the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith. Chacon serves as Composer-in-Residence with the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project and is a Berlin Prize laureate. Visit Chacon’s website for more information:

Chacon provided the following program note for his work:

“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.”

Present Music is one of the nation’s leading ensembles specializing in the commissioning and performance of new music. Its mission is to engage artists and audience members in imaginative and provocative experiences with new music through ensemble performance and education. Founded and based in Milwaukee since 1982, Present Music has worked closely with many of the nation’s most exciting and important composers, and has firmly established one of the largest audiences for new music in the country.

In 2019, violinist/composer Eric Segnitz and conductor David Bloom became Present Music’s Co-Artistic Directors, following conductor and musical community builder Kevin Stalheim’s 37 years of service as founder and Artistic Director. More information:

Thank you to UPAF for their generous and consistent support of Present Music.

Mentioned in This Press Release


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