David Chavannes is a sensitive pianist, vocal coach, singer, and songwriter, and an eager collaborator with other artists. He is curious about how the consumption of popular music can influence the formation and negotiation of identity, particularly among same-sex desiring and gender nonconforming individuals. In January of this year, he collaborated with Sudesh Mantillake on My Devil Dance; this work combined historiography, ethnography, and performance to explore the Sri Lankan colonial experience through the Kandyan dance form. In February, he presented his first thesis performance at the University of Maryland: a black pierrot fused poetry, music, and dance into a one-movement drama exploring diaspora, belonging, and resistance. His final thesis performance, the edge of self, included the premiere of an original song cycle bright mourn, along with other works by African-descended composers.
David has studied the Euro-American classical tradition as a conductor, pianist, singer, flautist, recorder player, and harpsichordist. He has commissioned or premiered music by a broad range of composers, including Alex Temple, Haley Shaw, and Ian Boswell, and has taught classical music for three years at the collegiate level. David’s formative years outside music school, however, were spent immersed in the generations-old dialog between Afro-Jamaican and African-American music cultures. He writes music that straddles the border between the European and African cultural influences of his childhood.
David believes in the power of music to deepen and transcend the meaning of words. He views the expressive cultures of the Caribbean as a lens through which to engage with issues of gender and sexuality. He makes music and conversation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and continues to experiment with ways to deploy his talents in response to the oppression of marginalized groups of people in his communities.
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