Foregrounding concepts of transparency, radical diversity and inclusion, Zachary Watkins, Raven Chacon, Sharmi Basu, Morgan Craft, Ava Mendoza, and The Living Earth Show present AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: an evening­-length collaborative production.
 
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION was conceived with Zachary James Watkins to interrogate the manner in which chamber music is created and consumed. Composed by five artists of color and performed by the two white cis men of The Living Earth Show, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION highlights the “lens of whiteness” through which the work of artists of color have to necessarily present their work. The project is built to activate the tradition of classical chamber music in order to craft a new, collaborative musical language.
 
Just as importantly, the collaborators view AFFIRMATIVE ACTION as a vehicle for bringing artists and audience together, reveling and relishing in “inclusion” as the production’s creative foundation. Though they have all engaged in decades of collaborative musicmaking, several of the composers will be writing their first “commissioned” piece of chamber music in this project. By presenting these composers’ work alongside the work of composers more familiar with the traditional chamber music ecosystem, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION provides a platform for artists of color to use chamber music (and the specific collaborative language of the medium) as a canvas to create vital artistic statements.
 
For the community at large, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION is designed to welcome audience members who have traditionally felt excluded from classical music spaces, providing a multimedia production integrating improvisation, electronic music, ambient music, rock music, theater, and performance art to present an inclusive artistic experience.

 

Zachary James  Watkins

Zachary James  Watkins is a sound artist who has earned degrees in composition from The Cornish School and Mills College. Zachary has received numerous grants and commissions and presented works in festivals across the United States, Mexico and Germany. His 2006 composition Suite for String Quartet was awarded the Paul Merritt Henry Prize for Composition and has been performed as part of the 2nd Annual New Music Marathon in Seattle, WA the Labs 25th Anniversary Celebration and the Labor Sonor Series at Kule in Berlin. Zachary has enjoyed artist residencies at both the Espy Foundation and Djerassi.

 

Raven Chacon

Raven Chacon (born December 1977 in Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, Arizona, United States) is an American composer and artist. He is known as a composer of chamber music as well as a solo performer of noise music. He is recognized as one of few Native Americans working in either genre.

Chacon is a member of the American Indian art collective, Postcommodity, with whom he has developed multi-media installations which have been exhibited internationally. His collective and solo work has been presented at Sydney Biennale,[1] Kennedy Center, Adelaide International, Vancouver Art Gallery, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, and Performance Today.[2]

Chacon also performs in the projects KILT with Bob Bellerue, Mesa Ritual with William Fowler Collins, Endlings with John Dieterich, and collaborations with composers Robert Henke and Thollem McDonas. In 2016, he was commissioned by Kronos Quartet to compose a work for their Fifty For The Future project.[3]

He was a student of James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project.[4] In 2012 he was awarded a Creative Capital[5] Visual Arts grant. In 2014, he was honored with a NACF Artist Fellowship in Music from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.[6] His composition Double Weaving was premiered by the string quartet ETHEL at the 2014 Grand Canyon Music Festival.[7]

 

Sharmi Basu 

SHARMI BASU is an Oakland born and based queer South Asian woman of color creating experimental music as a means of decolonizing musical language. She attempts to catalyze a political, yet ethereal aesthetic by combining her anti­-colonial and anti-­imperialist politics with a commitment to spirituality within the arts. She is a MFA graduate from Mills College in Electronic Music and Recording Media. 

 

Ava Mendoza 

AVA MENDOZA is a Brooklyn-based guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer. Born in 1983, she started performing her own music, and as a sidewoman and collaborator in many different projects, as soon as she was old enough to get into 18+ venues. As a guitarist, Mendoza has received acclaim for her technique and viscerality. Her most ongoing work is as leader of experimental rock band Unnatural Ways, and as a solo performer on guitar/voice. In any context she is committed to bringing expressivity, energy and a wide sonic range to the music. Mendoza has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe and recorded or performed with musicians including Carla Bozulich, Fred Frith, Mick Barr, Nels Cline, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Mike Watt, Matana Roberts, Ikue Mori, Matt Mitchell, Jon Irabagon, members of Caroliner, the Violent Femmes, and more. Recordings are available on labels Tzadik, Weird Forest, Clean Feed, NotTwo, Resipiscent, and New Atlantis.

 

Morgan Craft

is a musician and writer born in New Brighton, Minnesota. He is a veteran of New York’s progressive music scene of the mid 1990s and early 2000s.

He founded Circle Of Light Recordings in 2001. He has played with Butch Morris, Talib Kweli, Pete Cosey, Ikue Mori, Meshell Ndegeocello, Anton Fig, Beans, Muzz Skillings, Greg Osby, Rhodri Davies, Johnny Kemp, Marc Ribot, Christian Marclay, Simon H. Fell, Nona Hendryx, Carl Hancock Rux, Daniel Carter, Vernon Reid, Greg Tate.

He has released thirteen solo albums as well as numerous essays and articles.

After a period of intensive Tuscan mountain forest recording sessions, having liquified his instrument the electric guitar.

 

The Living Earth Show

 

Called “outstanding” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “transcendent” by the Charleston City Paper, and “a fully distorted perpetual motion of awesome” by I Care If You Listen, The Living Earth Show (guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson) is a megaphone and canvas for some of the world’s most progressive artists. One of the premiere contemporary music ensembles in the United States, The Living Earth Show received the grand prize in the SAVVY Chamber Arts Competition and open category runner-up in the M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, commissioned and premiered over 50 new works by some of the most vital composers in the world, released two critically acclaimed albums, and has performed, lectured, and given masterclasses across the country.

Memorizing every work it performs, The Living Earth Show thrives on pushing the boundaries of technical and artistic possibility in its presentation of commissioned electro-acoustic chamber music. The ensemble has commissioned and premiered works by such composers as Anna Meredith, Timo Andres, Nicole Lizée, M. Lamar, Raven Chacon, Brian Ferneyhough, Samuel Adams, Ken Ueno, Luciano Chessa, Sharmi Basu, Ted Hearne, Jon Russell, Morgan Craft, Adrian Knight, Alden Jenks, Nick Vasallo, and Zachary James Watkins. Many of these commissions can be found on the group’s critically acclaimed albums High Art (Innova Records, 2013) and Dance Music (New Amsterdam Records, 2016).