Sound & Vision: Preston Singletary of Khu.éex' on His Glass Art and Looking at Indigenous Music Through a Contemporary Lens

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
photo by Julien Capmeil

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.

Preston Singletary is a local Tlingit glass artist and musician and, whether it’s through his 10-member band Khu.éex' or in his ornate glass blowing, he looks at indigenous culture through a contemporary lens. Sound and Vision host Emily Fox spoke with Singletary about his glass art and how he fuses jazz and funk with indigenous music.


On how Khu.éex’ builds songs around indigenous culture:   

We did a little bit of it reinterpreting traditional melodies and songs in the very beginning, at which point, we had to go back to the clan leaders and ask for permission to use them. So, today we've taken this step in just writing our own new compositions using the indigenous language – using Tlingit, Haida and on the fourth album, there’ll be some Y’upic voices on there, too. We revel in the fact that we have this group and it is so dynamic and it brings a new perspective to indigenous music.

On his journey to becoming a glass blower:

I grew up around glass blowers and one of my best friends in high school was Dante Marioni, whose father was one of the original pioneers of glass art in the states here. For me, it was very much of a day job because I didn't go to college, I went straight into glass blowing. At age 19, I started to attend the Pilchuck Glass School. I started to learn how artists work with glass, and I tried to figure out how to synthesize the traditional Tlingit designs into glass. I did that through a stencil process and a carving process which basically allows me to carve into the thickness of the glass and make it look traditional.

On bringing new perspectives to indigenous culture through his glass blowing:

The way that I think about it is that native people have a defining historical connection to glass that came through trade beads. So, for me it’s a symbol of transformation, of change and evolution with technology. And, you know, one of my most important mentors, Joe David, would point out that the materials that we would use for our traditional arts is becoming increasingly rare – cedar trees for totem poles and what have you. And so, the people will come through to keep the stories and symbols alive through new mediums. You find that that Native people are navigating into new materials and declaring who we are and what we do.”

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