SoundState: Claire Chase - Density 2036

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 13:12

Flute player and instrumentalist, Claire Chase is a visionary who continues to shake up the music world with her bold ideas and experimental performances. Founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, she is a trailblazer for new music and as part of January 2019’s SoundState festival, Chase will bring her 22-year project Density 2036 to Southbank Centre. 

The commissioning project takes its name from Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking flute solo, Density 21.5, which has its 100th anniversary in 2036. Every year until this date, Chase will challenge today’s most creative artists to write new and exciting work for her to perform. Ahead of the performance, we take a closer look at some of the pieces from this radical and extraordinary project.

Density 21.5

At aged 13, Chase first heard Varèse’s Density 21.5 and, in a 2017 interview with Ashville Grit, she described this first, momentous listen. ‘I got bitten by the bug, and it was totally visceral and emotional. I became completely obsessed with the piece and I didn't want to play anything else.’ Today, Chase estimates having played the piece over one thousand times.


Vermont Counterpoint

Varèse’s Density 21.5 for solo flute culminates Chase’s third solo album, Density, in which she begins with Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint – an 11-flute piece – before incrementally reducing the number of instruments piece by piece. Originally commissioned in 1982 by flautist Ransom Wilson, Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint takes the listener on a 10-minute journey through the ongoing counterpoint between the live and pre-recorded flute, and extended melodic patterns. Chase’s Density was awarded album of the week by Q2 Music and the publication described the Vermont Counterpoint recording as ‘majestic’.



Mario Diaz de Léon’s Luciform will have its first outing in London when Chase performs the piece here at Southbank Centre. Commissioned by Chase for Density 2036, it contrasts the melody of the flute with Diaz de Léon’s large, swooping electronics. The duo’s performance of Luciform as part of the release party for Diaz de Léon’s The Soul Is the Arena at The Stone in New York was described as ‘best of all’ by the New York Times.


Almost New York

Luciform precedes Alvin Lucier’s Almost New York on Chase’s Density album and was described by Q2 Music as a ‘perfect foil for Lucier’s drone-work’. Originally composed in 2001, Almost New York features one flautist playing notes consecutively on five flutes against the frequency patterns caused by two wave oscillators.



Marcos Balter described his first meeting with Chase as ‘love at first sight’. Commissioned in 2013 by Chase, Pessoa is based, in part, on a poem by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. As part of SoundState, Chase will perform a suite from Pan which is a new work from her latest collaboration with Balter and director Douglas Fitch. It’s a part-musical, part-theatrical piece telling the story of the god, Pan, featuring an ensemble of community members.



Southbank Centre’s SoundState took place Wednesday 16 – Sunday 20 January, 2019.

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