A new collaboration between the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Van Wezel Foundation, Unscripted, is offering participants an intimate peek inside the works-in-progress of artistic minds. The series, which opened Thursday evening with an appearance/performance by flutist Claire Chase via Zoom from her Brooklyn apartment, aims to offer an interactive experience conveying “Arts from the Inside Out,” and will range in venues and disciplines as it continues.
The foundation’s CEO, Cheryl Mendelson, and the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s artistic director and CEO, Andy Sandberg, welcomed about 70 interested audience members to the experience, which took place via a Zoom link sent by an email invitation. Recipients signing up did not know until they RSVPed who the evening’s artist would be, but many of them were probably already familiar with Chase, a MacArthur Genius who has been in residence at the Manasota Key artist retreat before. (Other Hermitage artists will be featured in future.)
Chase spoke a bit about a current project she’s working on with composer Marcos Balter and others, a musical drama centered on the Greek god Pan, before playing two excerpts from the new piece, backed by electronic music. The work is conceived as a collaboration not only with professionals but with community members in an ensemble utilizing tuned wineglasses, wine bottles, bamboo chimes, triangles and more, meaning it will be slightly different each time it’s performed.
“We want it to sound improvised, but I’d say 93 to 98 percent is written down note for note,” said Chase. The musician, called “the most important flutist of our time” by The New York Times, took questions and comments from the audience via a chat option on Zoom, including one about what it’s like to perform in a home environment rather than onstage.
“I try to think of the space itself as an extension of the instrument,” she explained, adding that while she has been teaching and performing online since the coronavirus pandemic hit, as well as recording, she has missed “being with humans and feeling alive in a room” such as a concert hall.
She also spoke briefly about a 23-year-long project called Density 2036, for which she has been commissioning pieces using the flute since 2013. Ultimately, in 2036, all the pieces in the project will be performed in a marathon sitting.
That’s work she said has also “cooked” at the Hermitage—as have new creations in theater and the visual arts by a wide range of artists over the years. To learn more about Unscripted programs, and how you can become involved, stay updated at vwfoundation.org and hermitageartistretreat.org.