In March 2019, composer and visual artist Raven Chacon and the contemporary chamber music ensemble The Living Earth Show will travel to University of Michigan to workshop their new piece 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. One movement of the piece will be performed as a work-in-progress at Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Thursday, March 14, featuring members of the U-M Percussion Ensemble. In addition to rehearsals and workshops with U-M students, The Living Earth Show will also perform the production American Music on Friday, March 15 at East Quad’s Keene Theater.

Tremble Staves

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.  

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. The full piece will be premiered in June 2019 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 "workshop performance" in Ann Arbor will place in the lush setting of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens Conservatory, and will feature one movement of Tremble Staves played by The Living Earth Show and members of the U-M Percussion Ensemble.

The workshop performance of Tremble Staves takes place on Thursday, March 14 from 6-8pm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, 1800 N. Dixboro Rd., Ann Arbor MI.

Each unique iteration of the piece will last approximately 15 minutes, starting at 6:00pm, 6:30pm and 7:30pm, with an Artist Q&A from 7:00-7:30pm. Attendees are invited to explore the conservatory during and between performances.

There will be limited seating available on a first come, first serve basis. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact Center for World Performance Studies, at 734-936-2777, at least one week in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the University to arrange. 

Reservations are encouraged:

American Music

The production American Music is concert of works written for The Living Earth Show by eight of the most vital living composers, each of whom was born in, immigrated to, or utilizes the musical traditions created within the current borders of the United States. The show investigates the role of geography in shaping musical language. The collaborators built this program to ask the question: what does it mean for music, culture, or individuals to be considered “American” in 2018? It includes works by Nicole Lizée, Raven Chacon, Daniel Wohl, Sahba Aminikia, Sarah Hennies, Dennis Aman, Christopher Cerrone, Luciano Chessa.

American Music will be performed on Friday, March 15 at 8pm at East Quad Keene Theater, 701 East University, Ann Arbor MI.

Both events are free and open to the public. Visit for more info.