Claire Chase: Aliento


Aliento carves out a vast range of expressivity within a dramatically new context of sound on the flute. The recording features several works written for Claire Chase by Nathan Davis, Du Yun, Marcelo Toledo, and Edgar Guzman.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 57:58
03Poison Mushroom
Poison Mushroom
04Prometeo & Epimeteo
Prometeo & Epimeteo
05Aliento /Arrugas
Aliento /Arrugas
06Run in a Graveyard
Run in a Graveyard

Aliento carves out a vast range of expressivity within a dramatically new context of sound on the flute. Engaging throughout with the theme of breath, Chase has assembled a collection of important and cutting edge works for flute, solo, in ensemble, and with electronics. The recording features several works written for Claire Chase by Nathan Davis, Du Yun, Marcelo Toledo, and Edgar Guzman, as well as definitive premiere recordings of Jason Eckhardt's 16 for flute and string trio and Dai Fujikura's Poison Mushroom for flute and electronics.

Nathan Davis' PneApnea translates the struggle to breath into musical terms, with the flute articulating urgent, emphatic calls as if to grasp at any limited oxygen available. Live electronics process the flute sound with delays as if to place the listener in an underwater environment. Jason Eckardt's 16 refers to sixteen words from George Bush's 2003 State of the Union address referring to Saddam Hussein's enriched uranium program that proved to be so consequential for the future of Iraq and the world. Beginning with breathless intonations of syllables drawn from the international phonetic alphabet mixed with air sounds, gradually Eckardt introduces percussive and pizzicato material in the accompanying string ensemble, as the density of the musical material intensifies towards a frenzied climax of activity. Eventually, the flute spins angular, improvisatory lines above the fray. After a brief return to the skittering, syllabic material of the opening, a section of unbridled virtuosity in all the instruments leads to declamatory held flute notes over strong tutti verticalities. The force of the composition diffuses into hazy ascending glissandi in an uncompromising rebuke to political hypocrisy.

Dai Fujikura's Poison Mushroom for flute and electronics captures the anguish and surreality of the August 6, 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan. Wailing lines contrast with pointed passagework over an electronics backdrop which alternates between a sparring role with the live instrument and an enveloping environment of dystopian horror. Edgar Guzman assembled his electronic part in Prometeo & Epimiteo by sampling extended techniques on the flute and then subjecting them to a series of transformation processes -- this process preceded the composition of material for the live flute part, interestingly couching the acoustic final product in a digitally manipulated version of its own boundary pushing techniques. The resultant work is one of powerful contrasts and a wide ranging, engaging timbral vocabulary. Guzman's command over spatialization in the electronics gives the work a tactile immediacy on recording that is as bracing as Chase's performance.

Marcelo Toledo's Aliento/Arrugas begins where Guzman left off, with an extended range of flute techniques focusing on breath sounds (both inhalation and exhalation), composite timbres of speaking/singing/playing, and flutter toungue techniques. The work takes on the quality of a ritualistic incantation, with chant-like sections interspersed with passages of impetuous non-pitched sounds. At the climactic moment, Toledo merges the vocabularies together simultaneously, demanding an impressive feat of instrumental juggling.

The final work on the recording is Du Yun's introspective Run in a Graveyard for bass flute and electronics. Prayerful flute lines hover over an electronic track that shifts from glitchy electronic noises to hints of Chinese zheng to manipulated recordings of Du Yun's voice. A maelstrom accumulates as the electronic track steadily overwhelms the flute, before Du Yun's voice is revealed in lilting song, providing an ominous close to this landmark recording.

- D. Lippel

Recorded at Sweeney Concert Hall, Smith College, 1/2009, 5/2009, 7/2009, 8/2009

Recording Engineer, Digital Editing, Post-Production: Ryan Streber

Session producers: Ryan Streber (Toledo, Fujikura), Nathan Davis (Davis), Jason Eckardt (Eckhardt), Du Yun (Du Yun), Kivie Cahn-Lipman (Guzmán)
Editing producer: Timothy McCormack
Executive Producer: Claire Chase
CD Layout Design: Zoe Roman
Cover Photo: David Michalek
Funding for this recording partially provided by Brooklyn College, City University of New York New Faculty Fund.

Claire Chase

Flutist Claire Chase, a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, is a soloist, collaborative artist, and activist for new music. Over the past decade she has given the world premieres of over 100 new works for flute, many of them tailor-made for her. In 2014 she began Density 2036, a project to commission, premiere and record an entirely new program of pieces for flute every year until 2036, the 100th anniversary of the eponymous and seminal piece by Varese. Also in the 2014-15 season, Chase is music directing and playing as soloist in a series of performances of Salvatore Sciarrino's Il cerchio tagliato dei suoni for 4 flute soloists and 100 flute “migranti”.

Chase has performed throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, including debuts last season in Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris, London, São Paolo and Guangzhou. She has released three solo albums, Aliento (2010), Terrestre (2012) and Density (2013). In 2014, she was selected as an inaugural Fellow of Project&, with which she will several new works exploring the relationship between language, music and social interaction over the next several years.

Chase was First Prize Winner in the 2008 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. She co-founded the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) in 2001 and serves as the organization’s Artistic Director and CEO in addition to playing over fifty concerts a year as an ensemble member. ICE has premiered more than 600 works since its inception and pioneered a new artist-driven organizational model that earned the company a Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center in 2010. Chase was also honored with Crain’s Business “40 under 40” Award in 2013.

In 2013, Chase founded The Pnea Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the flute and its repertoire in the 21st century through commissions, community engagement, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaborations and advocacy. She lives in Brooklyn.
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Time Out Chicago

Listed Among "Best of 2009" in Time Out Chicago
"International Contemporary Ensemble flutist Claire Chase took her instrument on a brave, animated adventure with Aliento."


Chicago Reader

ICE Cofounder Claire Chase Steps Out With Debut Solo Recording


Is it just me, or is the killer new-music group and Chicago-New York presenting force International Contemporary Ensemble responsible for an inordinately large proportion of the exciting new music shows that happen in the city? A few weeks ago I saw violinist David Bowlin give a knockout performance of rarely performed work by Luigi Nono, and I'm super pumped about a program of works by the brilliant Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho happening next month at the MCA.

From the very start one of the key forces behind the organization has been the remarkable flutist Claire Chase, who plays a record release party at the Velvet Lounge tonight.

Most of my limited interactions with her have been through e-mail, where she's tirelessly provided information and insight about various ICE events. Although I knew she was a musician, it wasn't until I got a copy of her stunning new album, Aliento (New Focus), that I finally heard her play. Like nearly everything ICE does, the album emphasizes new work - all six pieces are world premiere recordings.

Of course, given how so much 20th-century classical work is bypassed by most "serious" institutions, there's an awful lot of music from the last hundred years that's in some ways 'new.' Here, though, all but one of the composers were born after 1971, and the sixth, Marcelo Toledo, was born in 1964. Age would be irrelevant if the music wasn't any good, but it is - these are bold, harrowing works.

Four of them feature processing or electronics abrading or complementing Chase's instrument. The opener, "PneApnea" (2007), by Nathan Davis, demands the most of the flutist's technique and agility, with a zigzagging barrage of terse sound bursts and thick, percussive breath sounds; live processing shadows the acoustic sounds with a kind of eerie, complementary sibilance. Chase also brings nonflute sounds to "16" (2003), a piece by Jason Eckardt, whose title refers to the 16 fallacious words George Bush spoke in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's acquisition of uranium from Niger. Here Chase uses more breathy pffts and splats as well as harsh vocal interjections, which all interact with a discordant set of lines from a string trio. The Eckardt piece is the only one here where Chase is joined by other acoustic musicians.

I've always been ambiguous about the flute. But Chase is doing for classical music what Nicole Mitchell has done for jazz in my mind - making me realize that in the right hands (and I guess with the right lips) the flute can kill it. The entire album is a knockout. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was reeling a little when I finished listening to it for the first time; this is a pretty heavy-duty program.

Chase plays tonight (Tuesday, October 27) at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge in celebration of the album's release - having concerts at nontraditional classical venues is another nice ICE thing. She'll be performing four pieces that're on the album - by Davis, Dai Fujikura, Edgar Guzmán, and Du Yun - along with a couple that aren't: one by Chicago-based Brazilian Marcos Balter (for which she'll be joined by fellow ICE flutist Eric Lamb) and a playful adaptation of Paganini's Caprice No. 24 for violin, featuring solo flute, electronics, and "gadgets."

Posted by Peter Margasak on Tue, Oct 27, 2009


American Record Guide

Claire Chase has been active in the New York new music scene for nearly a decade. She is executive director and co-founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble. Groups like this peak and fade quickly; it is a testament to her skills and leadeship that this group has been active for quite a while. She is also an extraordinary musician. She won the coveted Concert Artist Guild competition in 2008, a rare feat for a flutist. We will be seeing a lot of her in the coming years. In fact, just as I was about to write this, the NYTimes review of her recent Carnegie debut caught my eye. She played an astonishing program-- Bach, Donatoni, Boulez, and Paganini, apparently with dazzling proficiency. Look out world, here comes a monster.
This is her debut recording. Everything about it is commendable, from the playing to the beautiful packaging. If you are going to make a splash with a debut, this is the way to do it. She obviously wanted to eschew the typical path of other big name competition winners, too-- rather than record flashy concertos and standard literature, she put together a program of challenging pieces composed in the last decade or so. The pieces defy description-- you must simply hear this for yourself.
Claire Chase is clearly interested in pushing the boundaries of what is means to be a "virtuoso" flutist. It is a noble and daring path, and she deserves the highest praise. Flutists and non-flutists alike should find this stunning.

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