Music

Cutting-edge approach

World renowned flutist set to perform with Taos Chamber Music Group

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World-renowned flutist Claire Chase brings her cutting-edge approach to musical performance to Taos this January. The 39-year-old musician has premiered hundreds of new flute works in the Americas, Europe and Asia. She founded the International Contemporary Ensemble in 2001, described by The New Yorker as the "foremost new-music ensemble" in the United States. Chase serves on the faculty at Harvard University and is co-artistic director of Summer Classical Music at the Banff Centre in Canada.

Among her many awards, Chase was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. Better known as the "genius grant," the fellowship comes with a gift of $500,000 with no restrictions for its use. In 2017, Chase was awarded the $100,000 Avery Fisher Prize for her contributions to classical music performance.

The Taos Chamber Music Group presents Chase in two evening performances this Saturday (Jan. 20) at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street.

The first performance at 5:30 p.m. has sold out, but there are still tickets available for the 7:30 p.m. performance.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for students with a 20 percent discount available to Harwood members if tickets are purchased at the Harwood's gift shop. Tickets are also available at taoschambermusicgroup.org. After the performances, concert-goers receive a dinner discount from Doc Martin's, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert's restaurants.

"The Taos Chamber Music Group is thrilled to be able to bring such a ground-breaking and virtuoso performer as Claire Chase to Taos," said Nancy Laupheimer, founder and director of Taos Chamber Music Group. On a more personal note, Laupheimer adds, "I have been following Claire for years and am awed and inspired by what she has brought to the world of music. I think this is an amazing opportunity for Taos to be able to hear a world-renowned, cutting-edge artist such as Claire."

For her Taos performance, Chase will perform from "Density 2036." Chase began this project in 2014, and has envisioned it as a 22-year project to be completed in 2036, on the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varèse's seminal 1936 flute solo, "Density 21.5."

Chase said Varèse's four-minute flute solo "blew the roof off of my musical imagination when I heard it for the first time as an adolescent."

She continued, "A few years ago, I decided that I would commit myself to creating a new body of repertoire each year leading up to that date, to honor its blazing legacy and to ask the question, really, what will the Density of the 21st century be?"

"My ultimate dream is that by the 100th anniversary of the piece 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," Chase said.

To fund the commissions, Chase partners with individual donors, educational institutions and foundations.

Pieces on the Taos program that were written for the Density project, include Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun's "Gradient Density" and "An Empty Garlic" (based on a Rumi poem); Dai Fujikura's "Lila" for flute, bass flute and contrabass flute; and Felipe Lara's "Meditation and Calligraphy" for bass flute, inspired by the Mongolian poet and calligrapher, Mend-Ooyo. Many of the works on the program require simultaneous singing and playing.

The program features "Sounds from Childhood" and "Tuning Meditation" by the late Pauline Oliveros, a pioneer in electronic music who coined the terms "deep listening" and "sonic awareness."

"Many of Pauline's works involve audience participation and the demystification, generally, of the creative process into a process that is shared, generous and fundamentally about collective presence," said Chase.

Also on the program is Steve Reich's "Vermont Counterpoint" and two pieces by Marcos Balter, Chase's friend and collaborator. Balter's works are "Pessoa" for six bass flutes and "PAN."

"I'll invite members of the audience to join me onstage for a miniature and excerpted version of the piece, "PAN," a 90-minute musical drama about the life and death of the mythological Greek god Pan," said Chase.

"'PAN' was actually birthed in Taos a year-and-a-half ago by co-creators Marcos Balter as composer and our very own Doug Fitch as director. The 90-minute version of the piece, fully staged by Doug in a gorgeous production that we'll do in March in New York City for the first time, involves participation from the community in the form of a 65-person ensemble onstage, with people of all ages and abilities playing tuned wine glasses, small percussion instruments and chanting."

"The miniature version I'll do in Taos is a short musical excerpt with a reduced setup onstage of about 12 objects for people to play with me," explained Chase. "It'll be a blast!" she added.

If you are interested in joining Chase in this participatory music-making, contact nancy@taoschambermusicgroup.org.

Chase grew up in a musical family and began playing instruments as a child. She said her first memories are musical ones. "One of my earliest, and fondest, memories is of my mother singing to me, my head against her chest," said Chase.

"I saw the flute for the first time in a concert at the San Diego Symphony when I was 3. I was utterly captivated by its appearance, at first, and then completely entranced by its sound. The orchestra was playing Brahms 4 but I could only hear the flute, and that's all I wanted to hear," Chase recalled.

"I told my mother after that concert that I wanted one for my fourth birthday. She said that that was much too young to start, and that I should play the violin and the piano first, so I did those things - and I loved the music, but I knew I didn't have any talent for those instruments - but I asked for a flute anyway on my 4th birthday, my 5th birthday, my 6th birthday, my 7th birthday, and my 8th birthday. And then finally, on my eighth Christmas, I asked again. And lo and behold, I got one! I was the happiest little girl on the planet that day with that instrument in my hands, and I have to say, I still am today."

For more information, call the museum at (575) 758-9826 or visit taoschambermusicgroup.org or clairechase.net.

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