Raven Chacon Makes Noise

As Zócalo Presents His Work in ‘How Do We Hear America?,’ the Composer Shares His Liner Notes on Composition, U.S. History, and the Los Angeles Music Scene

Raven Chacon has been making noise, literally and otherwise, since he was a youngster growing up in New Mexico. Fascinated by instruments of all kinds (those he’s bought and those he’s built), the 45-year-old Diné composer and artist has spent a lifetime studying the sounds things and people make, and creating experimental performances that build upon that noise, melodious and otherwise, to make listeners think about the places they inhabit: physical, spiritual, artistic, and intellectual.

Today, Chacon’s music is having a moment. In 2022, his composition for church organ and ensemble …

The Photo Album That Succeeded Where Pancho Villa Failed

The Revolutionary May Have Tried to Find My Grandfather by Raiding a New Mexico Village—But a Friend’s Camera Truly Captured Our Family Patriarch

For a long time—at first sporadically but lately in hot pursuit—I’ve been looking for Sam. Sam is Sam Ravel, my paternal grandfather.  I scour the indexes of history books for …

Is New Mexico an ‘Incomplete Project’ of the United States?

Brought Into the Union Through Conquest, the State’s Untidy Identity and History of Autonomy Persist

New Mexico has an uneasy and complicated history. After joining the United States by conquest—through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848—its residents didn’t automatically …

How New Mexico’s “Peons” Became Enslaved to Debt

A System Inherited From Colonial Spain Kept Americans in Servitude Even After the Civil War

Imagine a time and place where a small debt—even just a few dollars—could translate into a lifetime of servitude not only for the debtor, but also for his or her …

Train From New Mexico

In the Lamy train station, passengers lean stiff
hips against wooden benches. Hear that old creak.
An attendant heaves my green trunk onto an antique
scale made of wood and …

Manifest Destiny, That Atrocious Ideal

A Wintertime Visit to a Onetime Nuclear Test Site Reveals the Lengths Americans Go to Own Whatever They Please

On the outskirts of Tularosa, New Mexico, I drove among sacred mountains. It was three days before Christmas, 2014, and it was over 70 degrees. With the A/C cranked, I …