I am David Chavannes, a sensitive pianist, vocal coach, singer, and songwriter, and an eager collaborator with other artists. I am 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. Last January, I 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. A month later, I presented my 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. Like a black pierrot, my final thesis performance, the edge of self, centered works by African-descended composers. It included the premiere of an original song cycle, bright mourn.
I have studied the Euro-American classical tradition as a conductor, pianist, singer, flautist, recorder player, and harpsichordist. I have commissioned or premiered music by a broad range of composers, including Alex Temple, Haley Shaw, and Ian Boswell, and have taught classical music for three years at the collegiate level. But my formative years outside music school were spent immersed in the generations-old dialog between Afro-Jamaican and African-American music cultures. I write music that straddles the border between the European and African cultural influences of my childhood.
I believe in the power of music to deepen and transcend the meaning of words. I view the expressive cultures of the Caribbean as a lens through which to engage with issues of gender and sexuality. I make music and conversation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and continue to experiment with ways to deploy my talents in response to the oppression of marginalized groups of people in my communities.
This site has recently been updated to include excerpts from both of my 2016 thesis performances. Please continue to visit periodically to follow the site's continued expansion.