Density 2036: part iv (2016)

Edgard Varese: Density 21.5 (1936), with a movement score (2016) by Julie Beauvais (version one)
Claire Chase, flute

Suzanne Farrin: The Stimulus of Loss (2016) for glissando headjoint and ondes martenot
Claire Chase, flute; Suzanne Farrin, ondes martenot

Tyshawn Sorey: Bertha's Lair (2016) for contrabass flute and drums
Claire Chase, contrabass flute; Tyshawn Sorey, drums

Vijay Iyer: Five Empty Chambers (2016) for tape

Edgard Varese: Density 21.5 (1936)
Suzanne Farrin, ondes martenot

Pauchi Sasaki: Gama XV: Piece for Two Speaker Dresses (2016) for Flute, Violin, Electronic Live Processing, 2 Vocals and 2 Speaker Dresses
Claire Chase, flutes/vocals/speaker dress; Pauchi Sasaki: violin/electronics/vocals/speaker dress

Richard Beaudoin: Another Woman of Another Kind: seven stories for flute and eight voices on texts by Paul Griffiths (2016)
Claire Chase, flute; Brad wells, conductor; Roomful of Teeth

Density 2036 part iv (2016) is dedicated to the loving memory of Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016).

Program notes/bio below.

Program Notes


From Nucleus to Nexus

by Lydia Steier

I've been fortunate enough to have witnessed Claire Chase's momentous Density 2036 project since its first incarnation in 2013. It's been electric to see how one woman, in effect, an atom in the vast solution of the classical music firmament, has been able to serve as a catalyst for the frenetic development not only of the repertoire for flute (and inspiration for similarly bold soloistic programming in other branches)—but also for the necessary testing and, on occasion, shattering of the boundaries of the concert format. Claire has singularly expanded the role of the “solo performer” in the format of a “classical music concert”--pushing it into the realm of ringmaster, storyteller, fetishistic object, high priestess, and pulsating nucleus. We've seen her jump into the audience and bellow gibberish, strike gongs, stroke her contrabass flute (“Big Bertha”, as she's known) like a lover, use her physique both as a battering ram and an instrument of almost alarming fragility. In every presentational iteration of the Density 2036 until now, Claire has been the absolute centerpiece.

In Density IV, Claire moves from nucleus to nexus—and the work moves from soloistic to, at times, symphonic. This year's Density is an exploration of the flute in relationship with its world, and the artist in close, symbiotic exchange with her collaborators in real time and space. This program features twelve performers onstage in addition to Claire—and the tension and interest caused by this energetic movement completely sets this program apart from the universe of “enhanced concert.” This new dynamic brings us into the world of something far more narrative—even operatic. Claire moves from being an abstract point at the center of a sonic structure, and toward being the protagonist in a story written by and executed by a brilliant set of fellow artists. The evolution of Claire's identity in this transformed performative environment has been the basis of our conceptual work.

The central scenic element in Density iv is a simple platform. This is equal parts altar, soapbox, bed, podium, and home base for Claire's figure. Suspended above the platform is a mirror—which allows us to see Claire from different angles—and for her to see us differently. The metaphor of the mirror is one of self-seeking, exploration and even becoming lost in the unrecognizable elements of the reflections we see. Surrounding the upper edge of the platform and beneath the mirror, is a small audience—the members of Roomful of Teeth. At moments this audience is laudatory, at others dubious or judgmental. They mirror our own prejudices and expectations as an audience of the Density project, and they witness alongside us as Claire cycles through iterations of identity—each time formed and framed by a different collaborator or sets of collaborators onstage.

Does she sell or supplicate? Does she seduce or search? Costumes, some intentionally uncharacteristic of the Claire Chase we all have come to know, projections, and lighting are used strategically to create the feel of seeking—moving through acoustic worlds set apart by each composer—until we find ourselves face-to-face with the real heart of the event—not a single artist or performer but a force of nature that connects the disparate personalities of both the visual and sonic universes of Density iv. This program begins with a solo figure, seemingly lost in the smoke with only sound and gesture as guideposts, and ends in a celebration of the force of the masses—Claire Chase performing with a chorus, the “proxy audience” we'd watched observing Claire since the start suddenly stands with her, framing the epic final piece: Richard Beaudoin's Another Woman of Another Kind.

With Density iv, Claire and her collaborators open the door to the exploration of character and narrative line in the context of a concert program. Who is the solo performer in all of this? What is her identity? What are the identities of her collaborators in this and how does their presence serve to influence the whole? How does the identity of the audience change when participating in an experiment such as this?

Let's look in the mirror together. Perhaps we'll be surprised by what we see.

Suzanne Farrin: The Stimulus of Loss

A friend introduced me to the idea of Emily Dickinson’s letters. He quoted a phrase in a talk that I found astounding (“to multiply the harbors does not diminish the sea”). As I went searching for that phrase, I began to read others along the way, each with its own sparkling revelation of her genius.


Tyshawn Sorey: Bertha's Lair (2016)

A colorful instrument of myriad possibilities and beauty, the flute is an instrument that has been central to much of the work that I produced during recent years. It has been a tremendous honor for me to have collaborated with some of the most brilliantly virtuosic practitioners on that instrument, from Margaret Lancaster, Alice Teyssier, and Malik Mezzadri to Laura Cocks, Nicole Mitchell, and Claire Chase – all individuals who continue to stretch beyond the limits of that instrument in their own, personal way. I am indebted to all of these masters for their inspiration and courage to further my writing for the flute.

Which brings us to Bertha’s Lair, an explosive tour-de-force written exclusively for Chase and myself (on drum set or unpitched percussion) that further exemplifies my penchant in exploring the improvisation-composition continuum, as evidenced in my Trio for Harold Budd (2012) and Ornations (2014). One of the rarer members of the woodwind family, the instrument lovingly known as Bertha (after whom this work is named) is anything but simply a contrabass flute; ostensibly there exists a seemingly vast amount of readily available sonic possibilities to explore. However, I also 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.

This work is dedicated to the late Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), who was the first to compose a piece for Bertha to be performed by Chase, and who named the instrument at first hearing.


Vijay Iyer: Five Empty Chambers (2016)

by Vijay Iyer (1971-)

Every sound you hear in this piece was generated by Claire Chase. My initial idea was to build a piece for live flute and pre-recorded audio. I asked Claire to record herself playing non-pitched material so that I could build some accompanying rhythms and textures.

I specified almost nothing about what I needed, and so what she sent me were not isolated individual sounds, but a series of virtuosic pitch-free impromptus on five different flutes (contrabass flute, alto flute, flute, piccolo, and ocarina). She displayed a different personality on each instrument; it was like listening to a cypher of  whisper-quiet battle emcees, or perhaps a series of encounters with various insect-robots, whirring and buzzing in the air in front of you.

I decided I would treat each of her improvisations as an episode. I built a specific environment around each one, and ran them through effects so that her extemporaneous rhythms were triggering other sounds. The more I sat with the results, the more I realized that additional flute might not be necessary. So I decided to give Claire a break for this round. Thank you for listening.

- V.I.


Pauchi Sasaki: Gama XV: Piece for Two Speaker Dresses

Gama XV: Piece for Two Speaker Dresses explores the relationship between air as sound source; body as a medium of sound’s amplification; and space as the container of the element’s interaction. This composition features a new creation: Speaker Dress No.2 (SD2), which is inspired by Claire Chase’s personal interpretation of the flute. As performers, we unconsciously develop a body language around our instruments. Our bodies “dance” while playing, searching for pathways to fuse sound’s emission with our gesture and physicality. In this sense, my intention is to provide Claire with a new experience of sound embodiment. In the first half of the piece, the body is able to become the instrument itself by wearing the SD, evidencing at the same time the movement’s lexicon of the performers. The second half of the composition integrates performers’ traditional instrumentation.

While in SD1, a usually soundless skin becomes the sound source for the dress; in SD2, respiration and unintelligible vocal sounds shapes the sonic palette. I wanted to visually integrate air into the design of SD2, since Claire’s breathing performance is the inspiration of the sculpture. This visual manifestation was achieved by the design of an accessory: a mask with several tubing connected to a purse that emanates negative ions, becoming an emulation of an artificial “lung system”. Another functional aspect of the mask is to isolate the headset’s reception of the sound amplified by the dress, avoiding any chance of feedback during the live processing.


Richard Beaudoin: Another woman of another kind

seven stories for flute and eight voices on texts by Paul Griffiths

Another woman of another kind — a commedia of identity — circles around the line: “It seems I should remember what to say.” This 23-minute, kaleidoscopic song-cycle for Claire Chase and Roomful of Teeth sets seven unpublished poems by Paul Griffiths.

The work is based on a millisecond-level microtiming analysis of Claire’s own performance of Varèse’s Density 21.5 made in February 2016 at Meyer Sound in Berkeley, California. The duration of each sound event — Claire’s every pitch, click, surge, and breath — was measured, transcribed into notation, and used as material.

The title — a line from Griffiths’ closing sonnet — hints that there are (at least) two Claires involved in the piece: The MeyerSoundClaire that is transcribed into the notation, and the LiveOnstageClaire who (with Teeth) weaves new music atop, inside, behind and under the microtimed transcription. Finally, the durations of the movements follow a curve — each is longer that the one before.

© 2016 Richard Beaudoin



Richard Beaudoin

Richard Beaudoin is architect of the microtiming technique. Iconic recordings are transcribed in minute detail, treated as palimpsest, forming a parchment over which the composer interweaves original music. Sources include Argerich performing Chopin, Debussy recording Debussy, Thelonious Monk improvising, Gould creaking through Schoenberg, Stevie Wonder singing, and Casals playing Bach. Performances include Nach-Fragen at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Konzerthaus, and Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele, The After-Image at Boston Lyric Opera, and selections from The Artist and his Model at The Forge, London. Taught at Harvard University 2008-2016; currently Visiting Research Fellow in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London. 


Pauchi Sasaki

Described by The Wire as an artist "unafraid of working within different disciplines and stylistic constraints"; Pauchi Sasaki's interdisciplinary approach integrates musical composition with the design of multimedia performances, the application of new technologies, and the development of self-designed instruments seeking the embodiment of electronic music performance. A composer, performer and improviser, her music recreates intimate subjective landscapes through electro-acoustic sonorities mixed with field recordings and synthesis, influenced by improvisational aesthetics and ethnic musical traditions. An active film scorer, "Pauchi Sasaki's effective scores" [Variety] are also featured in more than 30 feature and short films.


Vijay Iyer

Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer is the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University. He was voted Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Artist of the Year for 2012, 2015, and 2016, and he has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and a Grammy nomination. His twenty-one recordings include A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM, 2016) in duo with Wadada Leo Smith, and Break Stuff (ECM, 2015) with his trio. He serves as Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, and as Music Director for the 2017 Ojai Music Festival.


Tyshawn Sorey

Newark-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey has performed nationally and internationally with his own ensembles, as well as with such artists as John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, Steve Lehman, Evan Parker, and Myra Melford, among many others. He also collaborates regularly with the International Contemporary Ensemble as a percussionist and resident composer. Sorey has taught and lectured on composition and improvisation at Columbia University, The New School, The Banff Centre, and Wesleyan University, where he will begin teaching in Fall 2017 as assistant professor in composition and creative improvised musics. 


Suzanne Farrin

“Like field recordings from inside the cerebral cortex,” (Timeout Chicago). Suzanne Farrin’s music explores the interior worlds of instruments and the visceral potentialities of sound. Her music has been interpreted by some of the great musicians of today on stages across the world. She is also an active performer of the ondes Martenot.

She is the Frayda Lindemann Professor of Music at Hunter College and the C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center. She holds a doctorate from Yale University. Corpo di Terra, an album released on New Focus Recordings, is devoted entirely to her music, which may also be heard on the VAI, Signum Classics, Tundra and Albany Records labels.


Julie Beauvais

Julie Beauvais’s work is driven by her interests in embodied experience and elevation. She concentrates on the exploration of the relationship between music, movement and space. Beauvais’s diverse works – in theatre, opera and installation – have been performed and exhibited in many countries. Not limited to the confines of theaters, her practice engages the broader public sphere through hybrids of opera and monumental installation art in public space.

Julie is a Swiss artist who began her directing career in the United States, producing choreographic works after graduating from Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. For seven years, Julie toured internationally, exploring different forms of epic theatre in diverse political contexts, leading to collaborations with Brazilian, Mongolian and Nicaraguan companies. Since 2006, Julie has focused on the dynamics that lyrical voice provokes in the singer's body and, by extension, in the performing space. Amongst the many operas she directed in eight years, baroque compositions opened new horizons.

In 2013, Julie founded BadNewsFromTheStars*, whose mission is to generate baroque and contemporary music works shared with audiences via installations, performance art, or films. She is currently creating three new hybrids: Toccata e Fuga - a long durational duo - with flutist Claire Chase, Sunbathing In My Tears - a contemporary solo opera - with singer and performer Lisa Tatin and Heroine - an operatic performance - with mezzo-soprano Kristina Hammarström.


Lydia Steier

Lydia Steier was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. In addition to creating the major in opera directing there, Steier also completed her studies in Vocal Performance at Oberlin Conservatory of Music before receiving her M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Carnegie Mellon University. Immediately afterwards, Steier was awarded the Fulbright Grant, which laid the groundwork for her international career in opera, concert, film and spoken theater.

Since moving to Berlin on the Fulbright in 2002, Steier's work in diverse media has been seen at venues such as the Stuttgart State Opera, Wiener Festwochen, Theater Basel, Komische Oper Berlin, Hamburg Theater Festival, German National Theater of Weimar, Prinzregententheater Munich, Los Angeles Opera, Theater Bern, and many others. She was nominated in 2012 and in 2015 in the category of “Best Director in Musiktheater” for her productions of G.F. Händel's Saul at the Staatsoper Oldenburg and Pascal Dusapin's Pérela, Uomo di Fumo at the Staatsoper Mainz, respectively. Steier's 2016 staging of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Donnerstag aus “LICHT” in Basel was awarded the title of “Production of the Year” by Opernwelt, the industry's dominant trade publication in Europe.

A frequent collaborator of Claire Chase's and of the International Contemporary Ensemble since 2003, Lydia Steier directed ICE's production of Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King, which toured North America for over ten years.