Besides being a flute player, a MacArthur fellow, and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble (or ICE), Claire Chase is increasing the amount of repertoire for her instrument by leaps and bounds. This Saturday, through Cal Performances, she presents the first five seasons’ worth of a commissioning project that will run until 2036.
There’s more information about the sold-out performances at the Cal Performances website. The sold-out concerts, which begin at 4:30 and 7:30 are at BAMPFA, but will be streamed live for free on Facebook, YouTube, and the Cal Performances site.
The inspiration for Density 2036 is the seminal work by French composer Edgard Varèse called Density 21.5, which was written in 1936 to celebrate the properties of the platinum flute of the soloist. “My whole life has been marked by this thing,” Chase says. “I keep coming back to it, you know, the way I come back to Bach. It keeps teaching me things, it’s this well. And in a sense, my life’s work so far has been about searching for a piece in the 21st century that would be as powerful as this piece was in the 20th.” The thought of a project that spans more than 20 years didn’t seem as daunting as one might expect. “When I came up with the project idea, it was really a peaceful thing. It just felt like a natural outgrowth of what I was doing, and in many ways it felt like a harnessing and focusing of momentum and energy I had around creating new repertoire for this little tube of metal that I love. I was walking in the woods up in the Catskills in New York, and I just thought, ‘OK, Chase, why not just make this a project leading up to the centennial of this piece, and do basically what you’ve been doing all along, but funnel it into one project, give it a name, give it a title, and set a completion date?’ She’s found the exploration and discovery process when working with collaborators to be among the most rewarding part of the process. “I have my mind blown by things that I didn’t know this instrument was capable of doing, I didn’t know that I was capable of doing, and I love that. I mean, for me that’s the engine of this project.”