PAN (2017-18) is a new 90-minute work for solo flute, live electronics and an ensemble of community musicians.
"Having participated in a performance of a portion of the piece, I can attest that the experience is peculiarly exhilarating. The cult of the godlike artist gives way to a collective ceremony—art as grassroots action."
"The music is dizzying in its rhythms and endlessly shifting dynamics. At times, Ms. Chase vocalizes while inhaling, then sounds the flute on the exhale. She does all of this while also acting, which under Mr. Fitch’s direction requires dancelike movement.
For the opening scene, the death of Pan, Mr. Balter wanted to create “something that would look exhausting,” he said. Ms. Chase said that she feels like she’s “going to die” most of the time, but added that her relationship with Mr. Balter has always involved pushing each other’s limits."
The goat-god Pan is one of only two Greek deities said to have been put to death. But how can an immortal figure die at all? Should we understand the death of a god not as a contradiction in terms, but rather as the end of an epoch, or a system of values? If so, then what is it that dies with a figure like Pan — and is such a death a cause for grief, celebration, or something else entirely?
PAN, a 90-minute piece for solo flute, live electronics and mass community participation, is a meditation on ambiguity and the discomfort it brings. Pan is himself the consummate in-betweener. He is half man and half beast; as a demigod, his realm lies somewhere between heaven and earth. He is the symbol of fecundity and the creative urge; he is the weaver of melodies and the guardian of the wilderness. But he is also a cunning predator, whose lust and rapacity drives him to unspeakable deeds.
Over seven tableaux, PAN asks: how should we understand the destruction of a flawed god? If we hesitate to mourn Pan himself, we should surely lament the vanishing of his enchanted Arcadia. We should grieve for the demonization of creativity and the vilification of difference; we should weep for the silencing of Pan's unique music. But if his melodies were bewitching, they were also darkly manipulative. Should we not also rejoice, then, that Pan’s crimes are finally being avenged, and that the voices of his victims are resounding at last? And if we are no mere witnesses to the demise of our gods, but accomplices in their slaying, does that make us just as bloodthirsty and vicious as the figures we condemn?
The genesis of PAN amounts to the creation not just of a work of art, but of a community. PAN attempts to actually demonstrate, rather than to speculate about, how music-making creates spaces for societies to come together in times of uncertainty. The work is an exploration of the void between grief and anger, between retribution and forgiveness; it sketches the movement from innocence to experience, and struggles to find the way back.
In marshalling myth to articulate the tensions of our contemporary world, PAN strives to demonstrate how art can help us not simply to resolve our unease, or to eradicate it, but to look it steadily in the eye.
- Jennifer Judge (read more)