From Bill's Desk

Claire Chase, flute: In Performance With Community Participants

It’s easy to identify the superstar symphonic and opera composers of today’s contemporary music scene, like John Adams and Philip Glass, but it’s harder to put your finger on the solo instrumentalists who are also carrying the torch (or torchES, in some cases) — not only as composers and performers, but also as prime movers of the music of our time. It’s not often that McCarter gets a chance to present someone who has made a difference that can’t be easily quantified.  

That is why it is such an honor for McCarter to welcome a trailblazer like the flutist Claire Chase. In talking about her, the media understandably runs out of superlatives: “the most important flutist of our time” (The New York Times) is the easy one, and says it all. But Chase’s standing, influence and legacy extends far beyond her virtuosic mastery of her instrument. And while she was also a MacArthur [Genius Grant] Fellow, is a Professor at Harvard, and a winner of the Avery Fisher Prize, her lasting contribution to the music of today is as founder of the ICE: the International Contemporary Ensemble, America’s foremost new-music ensemble, which has premiered over 800 (!) works since its inception in 2001.

At the same time, Chase’s own creative odyssey is a story (she might well call it a saga!) in itself. She is currently embarked on “Density 2036,” a 23-year journey (from 2014 to 2036)  to create a wholly new repertoire for her instrument , in which she unveils a new set of pieces each year, thus giving new meaning to the phrase “reimagining.” And as part of her Valentine’s Day appearance at the Berlind on February 14th, we will get to hear one of the latest additions to this catalog: Marcos Balter’s PAN, in which Chase not only plays but sings, speaks, and acts.

But she is not alone: in addition to flute and electronics, the work involves a non-professional community ensemble who collaborate with her on tuned wineglasses, ocarinas, triangles, chimes, and a host of other handheld instruments. The result is “not just the creation of a work of art, but of a community” (The New Yorker), a thought that doesn’t readily comes to mind when one usually talks about music in performance. And it’s just as rare to consider that yes, difficult contemporary music can give delight, as Claire Chase and PAN will demonstrate.

Welcoming Claire Chase to Princeton for the first time is a real adventure for us. I hope you will join us on this journey.


P.S. Want to join Claire Chase as part of PAN’s community ensemble? Reserve your spot today!


Claire Chase, flute

Claire Chase has reimagined the repertoire for the flute for over 23 years, proving that difficult music can delight. A MacArthur Fellow, winner of the Avery Fischer Prize, professor at Harvard, and co-founder of the ICE (the nation’s foremost new-music ensemble), her Princeton debut will feature PAN, a participatory performance for flutists, electronics, and community participation.