Telling a Demigod’s Story Through ‘Collective Virtuosity’ — The New York Times
"The piece, with music by Marcos Balter, tells a version of the mythical story of the demigod Pan while exploring how storytelling and music can bring people together."
- Joshua Barone, The New York Times
A Dynamic Flutist Makes Art and Community — The New Yorker
"In Pan, Claire Chase gives a virtuosic performance - and then invites amateur musicians to join in."
- Alex Ross, The New Yorker
PAN: A MEDITATION ON UNEASE
The goat-god Pan is one of only two Greek deities said to have been put to death. But how can an immortal figure die at all? Should we understand the death of a god not as a contradiction in terms, but rather as the end of an epoch, or a system of values? If so, then what is it that dies with a figure like Pan — and is such a death a cause for grief, celebration, or something else entirely?
PAN, a 90-minute piece for solo flute, live electronics and mass community participation, is a meditation on ambiguity and the discomfort it brings. Pan is himself the consummate in-betweener. He is half man and half beast; as a demigod, his realm lies somewhere between heaven and earth. He is the symbol of fecundity and the creative urge; he is the weaver of melodies and the guardian of the wilderness. But he is also a cunning predator, whose lust and rapacity drives him to unspeakable deeds. (read more)
FALLIBLE POPES, ROUND SQUARES, AND THE DEATH OF A GOD
As every reasonably well-versed Catholic knows, to be Pope is to be infallible where doctrinal matters are concerned. The pontiff can't be wrong about core matters of the faith. This is why Andrew Brown describes the disgruntled clerics who recently accused Pope Francis of heresy, in light of his lenient views on divorce, as having taken the 'nuclear option' within ecclesiastical criticism. It's inconceivable that the Pope could be a heretic. The accusations of heresy levelled at Francis thus amount to the insistence that he is not, after all, the true Pope.
A heretical Pope is a bit like a round square. It's an object (with apologies to the pontiff) with contradictory properties. A thing can't be at once round and square, or fallible and infallible. And a thing can't be at once immortal and mortal, either. If you're a god, you're immortal. And if you're immortal, you can't die. (read more)
WHAT USE ARE MYTHS IN A POST-TRUTH WORLD?
We tell stories all the time. Only some of them are true. Of the untrue stories, some are just inaccurate: they try, and fail, to capture how things really are. But others don't aim at truth at all: insofar as they describe some world, it's not this one. The Sherlock Holmes stories might be set in London, but they don't describe it; at best, they describe some possible London, adjacent to but discontinuous from the actual city as we know it.
The Greek myths strike us not as mere fictions, but as fables. They feature fantastical protagonists like gods, nymphs, fauns; there are no creatures like Pan, with his half-man, half-goat body, in our neck of the woods. Unlike the Sherlock Holmes stories, the myth of Pan doesn't describe a possible, though non-actual, world. More natural to suppose that the Greek myths, and their more recent descendants, offer us visions of the impossible. Perverse creatures that we are, we find ourselves fascinated. (read more)