Telling a Demigod’s Story Through ‘Collective Virtuosity’ / by Claire Chase


(via The New York Times)

On a recent afternoon at RiseBoro Youth Center in Brooklyn, the flutist Claire Chase was dangerously close to losing a game of basketball to two young boys. The stage director Doug Fitch was teaching a girl the Philippine folk dance Tinikling.

This lunch break was of a piece with the relationship-building focus of the rehearsals for “Pan,” a genre-defying work for Ms. Chase and mass community participation. The piece, with music by Marcos Balter, tells a version of the mythical story of the demigod Pan while exploring how storytelling and music can bring people together; it has its premiere on Friday at the Kitchen in Manhattan.

“What Marcos has written, really, is something for collective virtuosity,” said Mr. Fitch, the production’s director, whose credits include an ingeniously staged “Le Grand Macabre” with the New York Philharmonic.

Indeed, no experience is required for the dozens of community participants, a diverse crowd including grade-school students and retirees from the Roundtable Neighborhood Senior Center in Brooklyn. While Mr. Balter’s writing for the flute soloist is bafflingly complex, for the other performers he breaks free from traditional notation, offering illustrations and directions in lieu of sheet music.

“Pan” is the latest installment in Ms. Chase’s four-year-old “Density 2036” project, for which she plans to commission a new program for her instrument annually in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of Varèse’s 1936 flute masterpiece “Density 21.5.” It is also the most recent work produced by Jane Saks and Project&, the organization behind community-centered art like the installation “This Is Reading,” made with the playwright Lynn Nottage to accompany her Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat.”

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