Claire Chase: Density 2036: Part VI (2019)


Virtuoso flutist Claire Chase continues her laudable documentation of her multi-year commissioning project, Density 2036, with digital release of the works from 2019. Featuring pathbreaking music for flute, in solo, electro-acoustic, and chamber settings, by Olga Neuwirth, Sarah Hennies, Phyllis Chen, and Pamela Z, Density 2019 represents a landmark addition to the contemporary flute repertoire.


Claire Chase’s twenty four year commissioning project, Density 2036, builds a radical new repertoire for flute in various contexts — solo, with electronics, and as a lead ensemble instrument. The 2019 iteration of the project, released here in digital only format (and in collaboration with the 2020 and 2021 programs on a 3 CD set), focuses on the latter two contexts, featuring a electro-acoustic work, two duos (one of which is a duet with Chase’s own heartbeat), and one with choir.

Olga Neuwirth’s Magic Flu-idity pairs Chase’s flute with the percolating rhythms of a typewriter, played here by Nathan Davis. The work is a reworking of Neuwirth’s flute concerto, Aello—ballet mécanomorphe, written for Chase and Thomas Dausgaard with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Originally intended to be paired with Bach’s fourth Brandenburg Concerto, the concerto shares the three movement form of a Baroque concerto, and this duo reimagining retains the lightness and grace as well as the typical fast-slow-fast structure.The dialogue between the typewriter and flute soloist mirrors that of the ripieno and concertino, as the accompaniment articulates rhythmic arrivals while the flute swoops in and around the clicks and occasional bell rings of the machine’s carriage return lever. The middle section features sustained material on both instruments, broken up by colorfully embellished figures on flute.

Pamela Z’s Louder Warmer Denser uses an audio interview with Chase as the source material for a collage style electronic part that fragments her voice. Mining disconnected words, laughs, and utterances, the electronics highlight the registral contrasts embedded in Chase’s speaking style, Pamela Z creates an engaging portrait of Chase that serves as the sparring partner for the live flute part. Sometimes the instrumentalist is in rhythmic unison with the electronic part (reminiscent of the increasingly popular YouTube stylized videos where an instrumentalist transcribes a speech and plays along, i.e. Henry Hey’s infamous rendition of a George W. Bush speech), and other times in counterpoint with it. An accumulating wash of long, reverb saturated tones provides a pad for repeated utterances of “36” that close the work, a reference to Chase’s ambitious multi-year project that culminates in 2036.

In Roots of Interior, Phyllis Chen composed a different kind of portrait of Claire Chase, investigating the rhythms of the performer’s own heart during and after a virtuosic performance. Inspired by her own experience carrying her daughter during her pregnancy after hearing two heartbeats in counterpoint with each other, Chen extrapolates beyond Chase’s impressive physicality on her instrument to the simultaneous internal response happening within her body. The result is both a compelling musical work on its own and an invitation to consider the impact of performance on a performer’s inhabited corporeal experience.

Sarah Hennies’ Reservoir 2 for flute and voices explores the boundaries between conscious and unconscious thought. The work opens with waves of inhalation and exhalation, a repeated tone on the flute, and an enveloping harmony in the voices. It has the quality of a collective meditation. Hennies paces the evolution of the texture patiently, adding new entrances and pitch material to encompass an increasingly rich expressive range. At the piece’s climax, we hear an undulating mass of vocal swells on wordless syllables, flutter tongued tones in the flute, and brief grunting outbursts from the choir, as if releasing suppressed tension. The effect is cathartic and expansive, a guided seventeen minute journey that unfolds at the speed of emotion.

Each chapter of Claire Chase’s Density 2036 project has its own unique profile. There are many angles from which to contemplate the works on Density 2019. In a certain light, each piece is a reworking of pre-existing material - Neuwirth’s original concerto, Pamela Z’s reorganization of material from an interview with Chase, Chen’s highlighting of Chase’s heartbeat, and Hennies’ processing of subconscious emotion. Three of the works look inward in creative and individual ways, at the unique features of a personality expressed in speech patterns, at biochemical feedback as a manifestation of lived experience, and at the journey of working through stored emotional memory. It is a credit to Chase and her collaborators that amidst such an ambitious and visible commissioning project, they are able to retain and amplify such personal depth in each piece, leaving behind not just volume of repertoire to future interpreters, but works that carry their own indelible imprint.

- Dan Lippel

Executive Producers: Helen Meyer and John Meyer
Producer: Matias Tarnopolsky

Recording engineer and Constellation engineer: David Dennison
Mixing and mastering engineer (tracks 1 and 4):  Senem Pirler
Mastering engineer (tracks 2 and 3): Senem Pirler
Recorded at Studio 9, The Porches, North Adams, MA, January-April 2022

Cover photo: Typewriter on Table, Dom J (
Photo pg. 3 & back: Claire Chase performing at the Kitchen
Photo: Karen Chester

Design, layout & typography: Marc Wolf (

All works were commissioned by Claire Chase as part of Density 2036, a 24-year initiative to create a new body of repertoire for the flute


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.

Nathan Davis

Inspired by natural phenomena and the abstraction of simple stories, Nathan Davis "writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority" (NYTimes), elucidating the acoustics of instruments and the fragile athleticism of playing them.

The BAM Next Wave Festival and American Opera Projects presented the world premiere of Davis’ Hagoromo, a chamber dance-opera featuring the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), soloists Katalin Karolyi and Peter Tantsits, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and featuring dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. The Donaueschinger Musiktage commissioned Davis’ Echeia for string quartet and live electronics, and Tanglewood presented the premiere of The Sand Reckoner (a “macrocosmic masterpiece” - Boston Globe) for six solo voices and celeste. Lincoln Center inaugurated its Tully Scope Festival with the premiere of Nathan's landmark work Bells, a site-specific, electroacoustic piece for ensemble, multi-channel audio, and live diffusion broadcast through a conference system to audience members’ mobile phones.

Davis has written many other works for the ICE and its members, and has received commissions from Ekmeles vocal ensemble, GMEM (Marseille), Steven Schick, Miller Theatre, the Ojai Festival (for Eighth Blackbird and an installation by sound-sculptor Trimpin), The La Jolla Symphony Chorus, Doug Perkins, the Calder Quartet, SO Percussion, MATA, and Yarn/Wire.

Nathan was a Fellow at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and was the 2018 Aaron Copland Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation. He has also received awards from the Fromm Foundation, Meet The Composer, American Music Center New Music for Dance, Aaron Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, New Music USA, Concert Artists Guild, ASCAP, The Trust for Mutual Understanding, and the ISCM. He and Phyllis Chen won an NY Innovative Theater Award for their score to Sylvia Milo's play The Other Mozart, for which Davis also received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Sound Design.

Also an active percussionist, Davis has premiered hundreds of pieces, working with luminaries and fostering emerging composers. He has appeared as a concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Nagoya Philharmonic. A core member of ICE, he is an artist-in-residence at the Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival and performs regularly at major venues throughout NYC, across the US and Europe, and has toured Russia, Bali, Turkey, and Cuba. He has recorded for Nonesuch, Tzadik, Mode, Kairos, Sono Luminus, Sony Classical, and New Albion.

Davis served on the faculty of Dartmouth College for eight years and currently teaches composition and electronic music at Montclair State University. He has given masterclasses on composition, electronics, and extended percussion techniques at UC Berkeley, CalArts, Rice, Baylor, Yale, and the Akademia Muzyczna in Krakow, Poland, with additional residencies at Harvard, Princeton, UCSD, Brown, and other universities across North America. Nathan received his Masters in Music from Yale University, Bachelors degrees in both composition and percussion at Rice University, and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Rotterdams Conservatorium in Holland.

Constellation Chor

Constellation Chor is a vocal performance collective founded and directed by Marisa Michelson. Its intention at inception, and still to this day, was to create a space for humans to sing virtuosically together while also prioritizing deep embodied experience and movement. Since 2016, Constellation Chor has been in residence at Judson Memorial Church in NYC, meeting weekly.

We are singers, composers, and dancers. We are committed to embodied music-making, to practicing together over a long period of time, and to the liberation of the singing Being (that is: all of us, and all of you). We have two branches: our improvisational branch (based on a set of principles called Core Sounding), and our written-composition-based branch, in which we learn and perform works by various composers (including originals from within the Chor). We’ve improvised and performed compositions in a variety of spaces including Lincoln Center, the Kitchen, Harvard ArtLab, Spectrum, Pioneer Works, and National Sawdust; we’ve also performed as far afield as Iceland and Greece. Our practice fuels everything we do. We invite our rawest impulses to channel through us, and aesthetically translate those impulses into voice or movement. We practice non-attachment to narrative. We also cultivate vulnerable emotional transparency. We want to show up, to be seen, and to see.

The Chor’s collaborators include Claire Chase, Sarah Hennies, Ashley Fure, the New York Philharmonic, the Kitchen, Heartbeat Opera, Harvard Art Lab, Maria Popova, Paola Prestini. Awards/grants include: 2021 Toulmin Fellowship with National Sawdust and Center for Ballet Arts, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

*Chor from the Latin Cor meaning: heart, soul, mind; and the Greek Khoros meaning: to dance in a circle, chor is also meant to evoke the core, the center and the essence. Chor is in “chorus” and “choreography.” The gestures and impulses we are working with might become voice or they might become movement.

Olga Neuwirth

Olga Neuwirth was born in Graz, Austria and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, also studying painting and film at San Francisco Art College. She sprang to international prominence in 1991 at the age of 22, when two of her mini operas with texts by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek were performed at the Vienna Festwochen.

Neuwirth’s works have explored a wide range of forms and genres: operas, radio-plays, sound installations, artworks, photography and film music. In many works she fuses live musicians, electronics and video and calls her main aesthetic an “art-in-between.” Highlights include two portrait concerts at the Salzburg Festival (1998); her multi-media opera Baa-Lambs Feast (1993/1998) after Leonora Carrington; Clinamen/Nodus for Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra (2000); a composer-in-residence position at the Lucerne Festival (2002/2016); the world premiere of her music-theatre work Lost Highway (2003) after David Lynch, which won a South Bank Show Award (ENO at the Young Vic, 2008); and two new operas while living in New York (2010/11)—The Outcast: Homage to Herman Melville and American Lulu, based on Alban Berg’s Lulu.

Neuwirth’s opera Orlando after Virginia Woolf premiered at the Vienna State Opera in December 2019, making her the first woman commissioned in the 150-year history of the house; it was named World Premiere of the Year by Opernwelt and awarded the 2022 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition by the University of Louisville Kentucky. Orlando was released on DVD in September on Unitel.

Among a host of other honors, Neuwirth received two prestigious awards in the last years: in 2021 the Wolf Prize, shared with Stevie Wonder, and in 2022 the Ernst von Siemens Prize.

Her composition teachers included Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail and Luigi Nono.

Pamela Z

Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist working primarily with voice, live electronics, sampled sound, and video. A pioneer of live looping, she processes her voice to create complex sonic layers. Her solo works combine experimental extended vocal techniques, operatic bel canto, found objects, text, digital processing, and wireless MIDI controllers that allow her to manipulate sound with physical gestures. In addition to her solo work, she has been commissioned to compose scores for dance, theater, film, and chamber ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, the Bang on a Can All Stars, Julia Bullock with the San Francisco Symphony, and the LA Philharmonic New Music Group. Her interdisciplinary performances have been presented at venues including The Kitchen (NY), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), REDCAT (LA), and MCA (Chicago), and her installations have been presented at such exhibition spaces as the Whitney (NY), Savvy Contemporary (Berlin), and the Krannert (IL). Pamela Z has toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. She has performed in numerous festivals including Bang on a Can (NY), Interlink (Japan), Other Minds (San Francisco), La Biennale di Venezia (Italy), Dak’Art (Sénégal) and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Festival (Wuppertal). She is a recipient of numerous awards including the Rome Prize, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Dorothea Tanning Award, United States Artists, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Guggenheim Fellowship, Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, Herb Alpert Award, an Ars Electronica honorable mention, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. She holds a music degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

[updated 4.24.23]

Phyllis Chen

Described by The New York Times as “spellbinding” and “delightfully quirky matched with interpretive sensitivity,” Phyllis Chen (2022 Guggenheim Fellow, 2019 Cage-Cunningham Fellow) is a composer, pianist and sound artist whose music draws from her tactile exploration of object and sound.

Phyllis started playing the piano at the age of five and came across the toy piano as an adult. As a pianist, she immediately fell in love with the instrument’s possibilities. Being bound to no history, the toy piano became her grounds to develop her personal voice, one that reflects her third culture kid experience. The unrefined and raw tone of the instrument inspired Phyllis to create very personal miniature theater works (The Memoirist, The Slumber Thief and Down The Rabbit-Hole) in collaboration with her partner and video artist, Rob Dietz. One of her interdisciplinary solo works, Lighting The Dark, was described by NYT as “by turns poignant, humorous and virtuosic, Chen’s performance offered a slyly subversive take on issues relating to femininity, technology and power…the looping, spellbinding music…became a fitting tribute to the modest, repetitive, yet quietly heroic work of women.”

Phyllis has received commissions by ensembles and organizations such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, A Far Cry, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Claire Chase’s Density 2036, Opera Cabal’s Opera Shop, Singapore International Festival of the Arts, the Roulette-Jerome, Look & Listen Festival, Jacob Greenberg, and others. She has received grants from New Music USA, Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, NYSCA (via Concert Artists Guild and Look & Listen Festival), Fromm Foundation and the Pew Heritage Trust via Christ Church of Philadelphia.

Phyllis has released five albums, three solo albums (Concert Artists Guild, cerumenspoon, New Focus Recordings) and a fourth collaborative album with Indie-band Cuddle Magic on FYO records.

[updated 4.24.23]
27 Dec, 2023

New Focus releases highlighted in year end lists

New Focus titles were highlighting in several 2023 best of the year lists: Alex Ross's Notable Classical Recordings 2023 list in The New Yorker - Claire Chase: Density 2036,” Parts VI, VII, VIII: works of Olga Neuwirth, Pamela Z, Phyllis Chen, Sarah Hennies, Liza Lim, Matana Roberts, Wang Lu, Ann Cleare; Claire Chase and various collaborators (New Focus) - George Lewis, “Afterword”; Joelle …

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Take Effect Reviews

The Brooklyn flutist Claire Chase packs 3 years of a commissioned project into this release, where many different works from several artists features different players for the experimental setting.

Disc 1 leads with the playful flute prowess of Olga Neuwirth’s “Magic Flu-idity”, where Nathan Davis’ typewriter adds a charming element to the climate, and Pamela Z’s “Louder Warmer Denser” follows with Z’s fixed media wordplay intersecting the unpredictable and avant-garde flute acrobatics.

At the end of this portion, “Reservoir 2”, by Sarah Hennies, welcomes expressive vocal swells from the Constellation Choir that pairs well with the precise tonality of the flute, and disc 2 leads with Matana Roberts’ “Auricular Hearsay (Version 1)”, which makes quite an impression with Susie Ibarra’s atypical percussion and Senem Pirler’s live electronics complementing the atmospheric flute.

Deeper into disc 2, “anfa”, by Ann Cleare, meshes Levy Lorenzo’s mysterious and cinematic electronics with Chase’s dense contrabass flute, while disc 3 is entirely Liza Lim’s “Sex Magic”, which unfolds across 9 chapters of Pirler’s live electronics matching Chase’s contrabass flute, kinetic percussion, alto ocarina, Aztec death whistle and pedal bass drum for the lower registers, unconventional rhythms and poignant intimacy.

A truly unclassifiable listening experience that’s iconoclastic in its own vision, Chase pushes the boundaries of the flute with unparalleled attention to pitch, and it sure does enthrall the listener from beginning to end.

— Tom Haugen, 1.29.2024



No doubt it takes a lot for a performer to stand out if her interest is in the far-flung possibilities of New Music for the flute, and Brooklyn-based flutist Claire Chase has gone way beyond the extra mile. She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2012, the year she turned 34, and now holds a prestigious position at Harvard. Remarkable as those attainments are, they don’t lift you very many rungs on the ladder of hipness. To get that message across, Chase is pictured in the booklet of this digital album in gold lamé boots and camo jumpsuit. She’s ready to lead the charge.

Reining in her ambition is nowhere on the agenda. In 2013 Chase began Density 2036, a commissioning project that will last until 2036, a landmark year for Edgar Varèse’s Density 21.5 from 1922. Over the course of a project spanning more than 20 years, Chase aims to create not just new repertoire for the contemporary flute but entirely new “ecosystems” (I can’t quite grasp how this differs from sound worlds). Chase has released premiere recording of every commissioned piece, and this release covering 2019 can also be had combined with 2020 and 2021.

The four women composers on the program have diverse artistic aims, but the same mode of experimentation and boundary-breaking is common to them all. No one could doubt that a duo for flute and prerecorded typewriter (Olga Neuwirth’s Magic Flu-idity) is awash with novelty, or another duo, this time with Chase’s heartbeat mixed on a digital stethoscope (Phyllis Chen’s Roots of Interior). Extended performance techniques, some of them abrasive to the ear, help in smashing the flute’s gentle image. Only one piece, Sarah Hennies' Reservoir 2, a near-static meditation for flute and wordless chorus, actually employs harmony; the other three pieces dealing in sounds and noises that serve as backdrop for the flute.

The final result is the musical equivalent of Radical Chic, in which the listener is expected to fall in line with shock tactics that were well traveled long before this. I’ll venture that for the general listener, this release is short on enjoyment in any traditional sense. The duo for flute and typewriter (a reworking, if you can believe it, of Neuwirth’s Flute Concerto—exactly how do typewriter keys “reimagine” an orchestra?) is especially harsh and loses its novelty quickly. The duo for flute and stethoscope remains rooted, more or less, in the lub-dub of the human heart, which is matched by a convincingly virtuosic moto perpetuo from Chase. The piece has rhythmic flair and is the standout among the four.

We get the essentials from the program notes when they say, “Pamela Z’s Louder Warmer Denser uses an audio interview with Chase as the source material for a collage style electronic part that fragments her voice.” Whether a scrambled-egg version of an interview provides “an engaging portrait” is debatable, and hearing Chase recite a string of numbers at the beginning is warmed-over Einstein on the Beach. But the electronic mix displays an ingenious repertoire of vocal sounds, and Chase matches this with impressive, moody techniques on the flute, bass flute, and contrabass flute.

The closest we come to music for a general listener is Reservoir 2, which revisits an old trick, having the singers inhale and exhale rather than sing, but eventually you glean that long, patient harmonized chords for the chamber chorus seamlessly merge with long, patient, unharmonized notes on the flute. It would be hard to claim that the next 13 minutes produce anything different, but the meditative effect of Reservoir 2 is pronounced. Hennies might have only one trick up her sleeve, but the soft amalgam of voices, flute, and breathing is memorable in itself.

New Music is a perspectivist’s art, and I’d expect that contrary words like boring, pretentious, second-hand, far-seeing, original, luminous, and adventurous will all be applied to the same work. This is an insider’s album created by someone who seems to be the ultimate insider. Whether this inspires you or makes you want to stay away is your choice.

— Huntley Dent, 5.26.2024

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