It’s probably true that the myth of the suffering artist is well and truly dead – if Duchamp’s pissoir was the spade, then the Zen-detachment of 4’33” was the shovel – but that didn’t make it any less startling to read Keeril Makan’s unvarnished portrait of his recent struggles with depression, printed this past January in The New York Times:
The act of composing is in a dynamic relationship with my emotional life. As a result, my compositions are informed – sometimes quite viscerally – by my depression. Listening to the progression of my work over the past decade provides a sonic map of my journey from darkness to a place of relative openness and light, a transformation made possible through self-care and mindfulness meditation.
Keeril Makan – Photo by Scott Irvine
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Claire Chase is a flutist and artistic director/CEO of the International Contemporary Ensemble. A fierce advocate of contemporary music, she has commissioned over 100 new works for the flute and with ICE she has been responsible for the world premiere of over 500 works. Claire will release her third solo album, Density, on October 1. I spoke to her about the new album, the overall process of recording, and what her new record label, TUNDRA, is all about.
Varèse’s Density 21.5 is nearly 80 years old; that’s practically another world for the field of music you’re working in! So what’s its significance today and specifically for this album? What keeps it relevant to you as a performer?
For me, Density is, hands down, the greatest solo flute work of the 20th century and as yet, the greatest in the 21st. In my book it’s up there with the greatest solo flute works of all time, including Bach’s searching solo A minor Partita, Debussy’s sensuous Syrinx, and Berio’s slapstick and wonderful Sequenza I.
I was obsessed with the piece as a nerdy teenager and tried unsuccessfully to program it at my junior high school graduation (in a public school in Southern California). I was shot down and had to play Danny Boy instead. But my love affair with the piece only intensified, and it has continued to intensify for the last several decades. My ultimate dream is that by the 100th anniversary of the piece in 2036 I will have commissioned or in some way had a role in giving birth to the next great solo flute work that—like Density—redefines the possibility of the instrument and sets a new standard for an entire century.
ICE flutist, CEO, and Artistic Director Claire Chase – Photo by Will Roane
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Do you dream? I do. My dreams are like bizarre television shows, and, unfortunately, I only sometimes remember to hit record. Some of the happiest, and most terrifying, moments of my life have been rudely interrupted by my morning alarm. Carla Kihlstedt’s composition At Night We Walk in Circles and Are Consumed by Fire (2012) unabashedly ruminates on the complicated subject of dreams and dreaming. The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) gave the world premiere of Kihlstedt’s nine-part song cycle on January 26, 2013, at Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Music Center as a part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, anchoring an epic and nearly flawless concert.
Carla Kihlstedt and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (photo credit: Will Roane)
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Like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, or the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia before it got stolen, Washington, D.C. has an important art museum well outside the zone of culture shopping on the National Mall. It’s called The Phillips Collection, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, grown from the collection of Duncan Phillips. Distinct from the aim of larger institutions to show a cross-section of art, The Phillips Collection represents the peculiar tastes of its namesake, with stories to tell for many of his acquisitions. Around that personal character, it also hosts public concerts in an intimate Music Room surrounded with paintings by the like of Goya and El Greco, with acoustically resonant wooden walls framing a massive stone mantle. It’s quite a place to experience chamber music; I had the pleasure of filming a performance there once, lavishing over the space as much as the music.
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Posted by Thomas Deneuville »
On Sunday, March 11, 2012 the Third Annual New Music Bake Sale took place at Roulette in Brooklyn: great music, nice people, and tons of baked goods. We were happy to modestly sponsor the event, and also had a table there. In between two handshakes, we let the camera roll. Here it is…
Embedding is cool. Crediting is really cool.
Video + Editing + French accent: Thomas Deneuville
Opening animation: Daniel Thompson at DTWebart (http://www.dtwebart.com)
© 2012 I Care if You Listen
On January 17th, Claire Chase celebrated the arrival of her new CD, Terrestre (earthly in French, Ed.). The setting was Le Poisson Rouge, and the ambience was set smoothly before a single note was played, as the room was lit primarily by swaths of cool blue lights and warm red ones, in a jagged pattern. The house was packed, and the crowd was eclectic, as twenty-somethings, hipsters, and the baby-boomers were all well represented.
Starting the evening off was Glacier, a minimalist piece written by Dai Fujikura for solo bass flute. The bass flute is not often seen or heard, and after seeing and hearing Chase play it, one wonders where this magnificent instrument has been hiding. The piece opened mysteriously on an open fifth, and proceeded like a soliloquy with great expressive range. While the timbre began gently, warm, and with an airy vocal quality, even approaching a plainchant, there was soon much more vigor, with multiphonics, trills, warbling sounds, even honking and blasting at times. The music was divided nicely by carefully measured periods of silence. It ended on a repeating descending tritone, fading away.
Claire Chase - Photograph by Stephanie Berger
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