In the past decade, the flutist Claire Chase has become one of the prime movers in the music of our time. Technically brilliant, audacious in her approach to programming and presentation, cyclonic in her energy, she proves that difficult music can give delight. She initially won wide notice as the first-among-equals leader of the International Contemporary Ensemble, which has arguably become America’s leading modern-music group. A couple of years ago, she stepped away from running ICE, although she remains part of the ensemble. In collaboration with Steven Schick, another modernist dynamo, she is overseeing summer music programs at the Banff Centre, in Alberta, Canada; she also joined the music faculty at Harvard last fall. Within a week of taking up her Harvard post, she was arrested during a street protest in support of the DACA program.
In 2013, Chase launched a project called “Density 2036,” named for Edgard Varèse’s classic solo-flute work “Density 21.5.” Each year until 2036, the centennial of “Density,” Chase will commission and perform a program of new flute scores. The latest addition to the catalogue is Marcos Balter’s “PAN,” a ninety-minute conceptual piece that has been emerging in parts for the past couple of years and will receive its first full performance at the Kitchen (March 2-3). Balter is a forty-three-year-old Brazilian-American whose blend of complexity and vitality exemplifies musical discourse in the Chase-ICE cosmos. “PAN” is an ambivalent paean to the Greek goat god, depicting his capacities for creation and destruction. Chase not only plays but sings, speaks, and acts; the work feels like an extension of her torrential spirit.