A new 90-minute work for solo flute, live electronics and mass community participation
The four-minute solo that opens "Pan."
Pan is a new 90-minute work for solo flutist, live electronics and a large ensemble of players from the community in which it is staged. Conceived and created collaboratively by the composer Marcos Balter, the flutist Claire Chase, the director Douglas Fitch, and the creative producer Jane M. Saks, Pan is a participatory performance piece, operatic in scale, in which communities’ involvement in the artistic process plays a crucial role in the work’s incarnation, development, production and dissemination. Pan's model is part of the core mission and vision of Project&, which creates new models of cultural participation with social impact. It is also a 2017 commission of Claire Chase’s Density 2036 project, a 23-year initiative to commission a new body of repertory for the solo flute in collaboration with leading composers and artists of her generation.
While the solo flute part is scored for a virtuoso flutist, the “ensemble” parts are written in ways that can yield precise and complex musical results and yet remain fully understandable to non-musicians, thus requiring no previous musical training from participants. A kind of 21st century, crowd-sourced Greek chorus results, with performers stationed in and amongst the audience, singing and playing ocarinas, triangles, bamboo and metal chimes, and tuned wine glasses and bottles. The music and the piece are taught to the participants in a series of workshops and interactions that create an opportunity for connection among the community and between all of the participants including the creative team leading up to the performance, so that both the process and the result have as great an impact as possible on everyone involved.
The work comprises seven tableaux, each illuminating an important an event in the life of Pan, the mythological Greek god of the wild, of rustic music, of ancient flute-playing fame, and notably the only god (other than Asclepius) to have been killed. Part man and part goat, and juxtaposing naïveté with malevolence, Pan was perhaps the most human of Greek deities. It is impossible not to associate sublime elements such as music and nature with Pan. But, while Pan gave us the Pan flute, he also gave us the word “panic,” derived from his monstrous screech that could scare even the most valiant of creatures. He loved intensely, sometimes to the point of agony. But he also loved violently, and had no qualms about infringing agonizing pain on the objects of his affection. His world was one permeated by moral dichotomies: he was pure and impure, wise and childish, a victim and a villain.
Pan (taking the sense meaning “all”) aims to break new ground in the 21st century repertory with a work that is as socially meaningful in a given community as it is artistically adventurous in its format-defying approach to the “concert” (acting together, jointly) experience.