CAG honors flutist Claire Chase

Renowned flutist Claire Chase, First Prize winner of the 2008 CAG Competition, went on to win a 2012 MacArthur “genius grant” and became the first-ever flutist awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2017. Claire’s impeccable playing, unique collaborative spirit, and devotion to social justice have made her “the most important flutist of our time,” according to David Allen in The New York Times.

After receiving her B.M. from Oberlin in 2001, Claire founded the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), a non-hierarchical artist collective that premieres groundbreaking new works, often with multimedia visual components, and has educational programs to inspire school-age musicians through collaborations with living composers and ICE members. Although she stepped down as artistic director of ICE in 2016, Claire continues to value collaborations of all kinds, working on projects with visual artists, composers, and musicians from around the world.

Equally important to collaborating with creative people of all types is Claire’s social activism and sense of purpose in the world. The week she started teaching at Harvard in fall 2017, she was arrested while protesting Trump’s intention of ending the DACA program. As a teenager, Claire was already active in defending the rights of LGBT and immigrant communities. And as a musician, she strives to collaborate with people historically marginalized in the classical music world.

In 2013, Claire began working on her most ambitious project, Density 2036. Inspired by Edgard Varèse’s Density 21.5, Claire commissions new repertoire for solo flute each year until the hundredth anniversary of the groundbreaking work. At the beginning of March, Claire presented Density 2036: part vi at The Kitchen in New York, with six new works written by female composers. Claire played a variety of different flutes, together with singers and percussion, as well as a slew of non-traditional instruments—like a typewriter, a heartbeat, and electronics. Alex Ross started out his New Yorker review of the concert with: “In the past decade, the flutist Claire Chase has become one of the prime movers in the music of our time.” Using her world-class playing as a means of widening the breadth of the classical music world and the institutions that comprise it, Claire remains true to her convictions as both a superlative musician and an ally to all.

Claire Chase performs Edgard Varèse’s Density 21.5