Claire Chase To Premiere DENSITY PART Vi At The Kitchen, March 1-2
Flutist Claire Chase, whom The New Yorker describes as "the young star of the modern flute," continues her 23-year project, Density 2036, to commission an entirely new body of repertory for solo flute each year between 2014 and 2036, the 100th Anniversary of Edgard Varèse's groundbreaking flute solo Density 21.5. On March 1 & 2, Chase continues these immersive and virtuosic performances with the premiere of part vi at The Kitchen.
This year's lineup features the world premieres of new works by Olga Neuwirth, Phyllis Chen, Pamela Z, and Sarah Hennies, the latter featuring Constellation Chor. Chase is also joined by instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey for a reprise of their collaboration from Density, part iv, and by percussionist Nathan Davis to perform the Neuwirth.
Chase has also announced the next composer for part vii of Density 2036: she will premiere a new evening-length work for contrabass by Liza Lim in the 2019-20 season.
In addition, Chase has recently launched a new nonprofit organization called Pnea Foundation to provide a platform to share the repertoire created by Density 2036 in a digital library, with performance notes and recordings, as well as a series of online teaching tools for young flutists to learn the Density 2036 repertoire. Pnea will also initiate various prizes to further the development of the flute's repertoire in the hands of the next generation: the Pnea Prize for Young Flutists, given to a young flutist who shows exceptional promise in the performance of contemporary music; and the Pnea Prize for Young Composers, given to an emerging composer who is recognized for her inventiveness and imagination in writing for the flute. One of this year's prize recipients, the young Iranian composer Bahar Royaee, will compose a short fixed-media piece whose source material is the entire audio archive from the past five years of live Density 2036 shows at The Kitchen, which will open the show this year.
Magic Flu-Idity (2018) for flute and typewriter
Olga Neuwirth's "Magic Flu-Idity" is a reduction of her recent flute concerto "Aello - ballet mécanomorphe" which she wrote for Claire Chase and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra this past year as a companion piece to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. In the flute concerto version, scored for solo- flute, 2 muted trumpets, string ensemble, keyboard and typewriter, "Aello" alludes to one the harpies of classical mythology, "someone sent by the gods to restore peace, if necessary with force, and to exact punishment for crimes." Mark Berry described it this way: "In three movements, like its companion, it immediately spoke with the tones - in every sense - of a serious composer at work. Figures remembered from Bach, whether melodic, rhythmic, or both, sounded as if trapped in a machine. Or were they actually perfectly happy to be there? Claire Chase on flute, shadowed by two muted trumpets, offered breathtaking virtuosity, set against an ever-changing ensemble that included synthesised harpsichord and glass harmonica as well as portable typewriter. Machines can be fun as well as serious - indeed sometimes especially when they are serious. So too can Bach."
In this new duo version, both the solo flute and the typewriter absorb orchestral lines of the original concerto, conjuring the spirit of Aello with ancestral force.
Louder, Warmer, Denser (2018-19) for flute and fixed media
I had a studio visit from Claire while she was in San Francisco last summer. She brought her flutes with her so I could hear and record some of her intriguing techniques to aid and inspire my work on composing this piece for her "Density 2036" project. I also asked her if I could put her in my recording booth and interview her - telling her it would help spark ideas for the piece. I then used the recorded interview to create a text collage that became the basis of the work's melodic and rhythmic material and its structure. What I ended up with feels, to me, like a little portrait of Claire. Her de-constructed stories, fragments of her laughter, her sighs and non-verbal sounds all conjure her for me, each time I hear them. A stretched Varèse quote also found its way into the piece, but I think of the bulk of its substance as distilled Claire Chase.
-- Pamela Z
Blood Beat (2019) for flute, fixed media and live heartbeat
There was a time when I could hear two heartbeats inside my body, beating in counterpoint, in conversation. Since the sound of my heartbeat was the first music my daughter heard, I always trusted she would intuit the rhythm of my song.
With all the metaphoric uses of the heart, it is surprising that I forget to simply listen to my own beatings, its speed, its irregularities and other qualities. In this piece, I think of Claire not only as a performer but as a landscape, an environment that changes as she plays. Midway through the work, we catch a glimpse into her experience by way of a digital stethoscope strapped to her chest. What will her heart sound like today? And what will it be like in 2036?
-- Phyllis Chen
Reservoir 2: Intrusion (2018-19) for flute and five or more voices
"Intrusion" is the second in a series of pieces called "Reservoirs" based on the relationship between human conscious and unconscious thought. The title is based on Freud and Jung's belief that the human unconscious mind is a large reservoir of thought and feelings mostly inaccessible to us in our conscious lives. Many psychologists also believe that the unconscious mind is a "storage facility" for unpleasant and traumatic memories, a kind of internal mental protection so we don't have to continually relive our past traumas every day.
-- Sarah Hennies
Bertha's Lair (2016, rev. 2018-19) for flutes and drums
Bertha's Lair, an explosive tour-de-force written in 2016 for Chase's Density 2036 project that exemplifies Tyshawn Sorey's penchant for exploring the improvisation-composition continuum, originally featured Chase on the contrabass flute and Sorey on drum set or unpitched percussion. "One of the rarer members of the woodwind family," wrote Sorey in 2016, "the instrument is lovingly known as Bertha (after whom this work is named). She is anything but simply a contrabass flute...I found it necessary to create a work for this instrument that is full of high, raucous energy- to write music that is counterintuitive to using certain "effects" that are more customary for the instrument (that is, to avoid as much as possible the use of long, quiet, mysterious sounds, whistle tones, etc.)-and focus more on shape, line, color, texture, ritual, and, most of all, the physicality of live performance on this particular instrument. This avoidance principle is strictly adhered to until the very last system of the composition."
Over the past three years, as Chase and Sorey have performed the piece extensively, a series of variations on the original "Bertha" have organically evolved, each one different than the former and each one employing different flutes in Bertha's "lair." For this reprise at The Kitchen, Bertha makes no appearance at all, but is represented by her smaller flute family members - piccolo, bass flute and Varese's favored platinum flute.
Tickets for each show are $25 ($20 for members) and can be purchased online at www.thekitchen.org; by phone at 212.255.5793 x11; or in person at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street), Tuesdays - Saturdays, 2:00 - 6:00 P.M