Impressions from Row G
by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)
Can you hear a painting? Can you see music? We certainly did on Saturday, March 17, thanks to a mashup of the flute pyrotechnics of ICE’s own Claire Chase and the omnifarious paintings of Molly Zuckerman-Hartung. The scene of this sight and sound wizardry was the Corbett vs. Demspey art gallery in Chicago at the first in a continuing series of ICE Solo events.
The event also marked the closing of Molly’s exhibition Negative Joy at the gallery. Adam Ritchie, on the Flavorpill Chicago website calls her work: “Supremely elegant while still appearing messy, [it] combines refined modernist tropes with an intensely visceral materiality where the media used often seems quite contingent on other artistic decisions already made.”
Without introductory remarks, Claire propelled the concert from a dead stop to 90 mph. Standing in front of Molly’s Anti-Expeditious (2011), her total shredding of Edgard Varèse’s modern flute masterpiece Density 21.5 made the painting’s turbulent surfaces come flying off the wall to dash around the room. Afterwards, Claire told the dumbstruck audience she discovered Density 21.5 at the tender age of 13 and hasn’t stopped playing it since. She spoke of it in anthemic terms, like a “Battle Cry of Freedom” for the flute itself and for her as a young artist. Though her parents and teachers kiboshed her idea to play it at her 8th grade graduation, you know she would have had the kids up dancing in the aisles. Molly told Arlene she had a deep emotional reaction to hearing the music combine with her painting, saying it perfectly evoked the way she herself felt at age 13.
Next up was Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint. Imagine 11 Claire Chases playing at once, when the universe can barely contain the energy of one. That’s the effect of this piece, which is scored for three alto flutes, three flutes, three piccolos and one solo part all pre-recorded, plus a live solo part. Claire accompanied her own recording with the live solo on flute, alto flute and piccolo. With Claire well centered among six speakers spaced around the long, narrow gallery space, she produced a full surrounding sound. The opening notes presented an elegantly perfect counterpoint of 2 instruments in a soft, slow tempo. Over the next ten minutes, the number of flutes increased, as did the tempo and the volume, until suddenly the piece abruptly ends. The 11 overlapping, counterposed lines of Vermont Counterpoint made an apt metaphor for the many levels on which Molly’s paintings attack your sensibilities.
Claire closed the concert with the impossible-to-play Salavatore Sciarrino solo flute transcription of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565). Claire was a peripatetic dynamo, swerving between the multiple overlapping lines of the score, spinning out enough notes of each line, as near simultaneously as possible, to convince the ears of the listeners we were hearing all the lines in their entirety. This auditory illusion was aided by the fact that the iconic melody is so familiar that the listener’s brain is able to fill in the missing pieces, if the flutist can just play enough of the notes. Claire made believers of us all; and we are not sure anyone else could have!
Arlene (acornarlene [at] gmail [dot] com) and Larry (acornled [at] gmail [dot] com)