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THEME Lecture: John-Carlos Perea, University of Washington

Friday, December 1, 2023 - 4:30pm
John-Carlos Perea, University of Washington
John-Carlos Perea, University of Washington

John-Carlos Perea, Associate Professor in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, presents “Traditioning Witchi Tai To: Jim Pepper, Don Cherry, and American Indian Ways of Improvising,” in the School of Music's 2023 THEME lecture series.


Jim Pepper’s “Witchi Tai To,” first recorded in 1969, sounds the audible entanglements (Guilbault 2005) between Native American Church and jazz, rock, folk, and country musics. Revisiting my previous research on the historical acoustemology of Witchi Tai To (Perea 2009), this presentation will listen again to the early years of Witchi Tai To’s recorded history between 1969 and 1974 focusing on Don Cherry’s performance of Witchi Tai To in 1972 at Festival de Jazz de Chateauvallon, recently re-released by Blank Forms Editions in 2021. Cherry’s recording is of particular interest as it makes audible Witchi Tai To’s circulations and soundings in Europe following Pepper’s recording of the song in 1971 (Embryo) and before the Garbarek-Stenson quartet recording in 1974 (ECM). Through these circuits, the presentation listens to Witchi Tai To in order to understand American Indian ways of doing jazz not only as unexpected (Deloria 2004) but as part of an Indigelogics (Bissett Perea 2021) of improvisation. 

Series Background

THEME, an annual colloquium of UW faculty and students of Theory, History, Ethnomusicology, and Music Education, is held on select Friday afternoons during Autumn Quarter.  All talks are at 4:30 p.m in the School of Music Fishbowl unless otherwise noted. Admission is free. 


John-Carlos Perea

John-Carlos Perea (Mescalero Apache, Irish, Chicano, German) joined the faculty of the School of Music at the University of Washington in Fall 2023 as Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology. An electric bassist, singer, cedar flutist, composer, and ethnomusicologist, Perea’s research interests include jazz and improvised music performance and composition, urban American Indian lived experiences and cultural productions, music technologies, recording and archiving practices, social constructions of "noise," Native and African American jazz cultures, and the Creek and Kaw saxophonist Jim Pepper.

In addition to his scholarly activities, John-Carlos maintains an active career as a GRAMMY® Award winning multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. He has recorded on eighteen albums as a sideman and three as a leader, First Dance (2001), Creation Story (2014), and Cedar Flute Songs (2023). In April 2019, Perea was recognized by the San Francisco Arts Commission’s American Indian Initiative for his musical contribution “to reclaim space, to challenge false narratives, and to reimagine public art from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples.” He has previously served as Associate Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University (2010-2023), as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Music at UC Berkeley (2021-22), and as Visiting Researcher, Composer, and Performer (2022-23) at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT).