Maria Chavez

Maria Chavez is a sound artist, working most predominantly with turntablism and DJing. In an interview, she describes her art as making a “sound sculpture” and pulling out “moments” for people to focus on and hear in a new context. I am interested in these moments she talks about, and it reframed how I view her art: instead of a linear piece like a traditional song, it is an experience and the individual “moments” are used to generate emotion and reflection. She also emphasizes the community aspect her art creates, bringing people together to be in the present and to give their attention to the same thing.

Chavez uses a base record with full sentences, and she waits for precise times to include her other audio. She purposefully chooses when to end the piece when she feels it is right. Because of these choices, even Chavez doesn’t know where the experience may go and so she adapts as it goes on. This performance ends with the phrase “that’s a good sign.” I tried not to listen to the meaning of the vocals itself, but rather the effect of mixing the two pieces together. There was an almost hypnotic effect to the performance, and the rotation of the record player and Chavez’s choices of when to alter the sounds contributed to that.

This piece I found on Chavez’s Soundcloud is atmospheric and calming. I feel I appreciate the combination and remixing Chavez does much more in this piece than the first ones I really listened to. The description of this piece says the recordings “were originally intended for radio playback in the 1960s.” The piece puts me more into a mindset and I would listen to it passively while doing other work. It’s as if it both roots me in the present and suspends me from time (and that’s me trying not to get deep about it).

This piece comes across very much like a song remix, emulating the type of music that would have been played in the Pulse Nightclub, the shooting at which this piece commemorates. Chavez uses her popularity to raise awareness and funds in the wake of the tragic events that took place in Orlando. In the first interview I watched, she mentioned how she doesn’t like the idea of “performer is genius, audience is other.” She wants her work to live apart from herself and for it to simply be a mode for bringing people and their attentions together.

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