Chasing new sounds plays off for flautist

PLAYING professional baseball was Claire Chase’s dream growing up in sun-drenched California.

That was until she discovered the flute, and at just 14 years old she was playing with the San Diego Symphony instead.

Now 38, she’s embarked on an ambitious project to commission a new flute solo every year until 2036, marking the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varése’s 1936 Density 21.5.

The French composer’s work was revolutionary, influencing 20th century music.

Varése pushed his art to new, at times, confusing levels, telling critics: “To stubbornly conditioned ears, anything new in music is noise. What is music but organised noises.”

Chase will be 58 when her Density 2036 project concludes, and in an online interview speculates on its final form.

• Claire Chase. Photo supplied

• Claire Chase. Photo supplied

“What will it sound like? Where will the newest innovations on the flute — humankind’s oldest musical instrument — take us?

Since graduating from the Oberlin art college in Ohio, Chase has been piling up kudos and garnering awards for her style and championing of new music.

Chase established the International Contemporary Ensemble in 2001, and it’s now heralded as one of the world’s top production houses for new music.

Last year she took out the American Composers Forum champion of new music gong, adding to a swag of others including a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2012, worth a tidy $625,000 over five years.

Her debut at Carnegie Hall in 2010 earned critical acclaim with the New York Times extolling her “extravagant technique, broad stylistic range and penetrating musicality”.

The folk at Tura are hitting the new music equivalent of a high C of joy with Chase heading to Perth for a concert at PICA.

“[It’s] something we get to hear rarely in Australia and not in Perth,” Mr Mahoney says, basking in the warmth of the Pilbara where he’s taking music to towns and remote communities as part of the Resonance Tour.

A career in the arts is a struggle at the best, and making it in contemporary arts even more so, he says.

“[And] new music is most challenging to make a career out of because its most abstract and often thought as difficult.”

Chase is at PICA, James Street, Northbridge Wednesday, June 29 from 7.30pm. Tix $25–15 at


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