Claire Chase wants to show us what solo flute music sounds like when you take away the flute and the soloist.
Or when the score is danced, the sound engineer performs, and the flute's played as a drum set. For Density 2036: part iv, at the Kitchen from December 1 to 2, Chase puts her instruments in dialogue with other instruments, artists — and absences. "The life and the body of the performer are necessarily ephemeral things," she says. "The body of music that we're creating to go through these two ephemeral things is anything but ephemeral."
It will be the fourth installment of a 23-year cycle of works for solo flute commissioned by Chase and inspired by pioneering French composer Edgard Varèse's foundational 1936 flute solo, Density 21.5 (named for the density of platinum, of which Varèse's flute was made, in grams per cubic centimeter). "I fell madly in love with the piece when I was thirteen. Its raw, visceral energy blew the roof off of my adolescent imagination," Chase says. "I tried to program it on my junior high school graduation ceremony, on a football field in a Southern Californian public school, but was told to play 'Danny Boy' instead."
Now, with a 2012 MacArthur grant under her belt, Chase can finally devote herself to the piece. Her Density project's first installment arrived in 2013 and included works by Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Going forward, Chase has only one rule: "I don't want to recycle ideas, vocabularies, [or] languages." Audiences will find that part iv diverges visually as well as musically from previous sections, with streamlined stage design and — the critical feature — more focus on Chase's collaborators. "This cycle really blows open the notion of what a solo performer is," says Chase. "In my book, a solo artist is always a collaborative artist, because a solo project is never really a solo project. Even when I'm working with a composer, they're up there onstage with me. If not in physical form, spiritually they're up there."