On May 22nd at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and May 23rd at Symphony Space in NYC, PRISM presents an electrifying program of world premieres of new saxophone quartets by 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe; Grammy Award-winner Michael Daugherty; the Curtis Institute’s David Hertzberg; Princeton University’s Emma O’Halloran, Viet Cuong and Jonathan Russell; counter)induction’s Kyle Bartlett; Solon Snider and Mark Macaluso, winners of the PRISM/Walden School Commissioning Award; and PRISM’s own Matthew Levy.
Check out program notes for all of the new pieces!
Cha by Julia Wolfe (b. 1958)
“Cha” was written in memory of the composer’s father. Julia Wolfe writes: “My father loved to dance. Cha is a play on Latin dance tune fragments, bass lines and vocal trills made messy with cross rhythms and bursts of song.”
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music for “Anthracite Fields,” a monumental oratorio for chorus and instruments, Julia Wolfe draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. She is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can, and serves on the composition faculty of the NYU Steinhardt School. juliawolfemusic.com
Steamboat by Michael Daugherty (b. 1954)
“Steamboat” draws from the final movement of Daugherty’s Reflections on the Mississippi (2013), a concerto for tuba and orchestra. According to the composer, it “conjures up colorful tales from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain (1835-1910). Traveling down the Mississippi River, I have composed lively music that follows the gambling steamboats from Twain’s hometown in Hannibal, Missouri, to the final stop in New Orleans.”
Grammy Award-winning composer and Guggenheim Fellow Michael Daugherty serves as professor of Composition at the University of Michigan. He has been commissioned by Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. michaeldaugherty.net
Lethal Sigh by Kyle Bartlett (b. 1971)
“I love PRISM, so one afternoon I wrote this 34-measure ‘amuse bouche’ for them. I never dreamt they would actually put it on a show. Lethal Sigh is gestural and intuitive, and plays off the huge range of timbres and textures the saxophone quartet can produce.”
Kyle Bartlett is a composer living in Philadelphia. She is a an Independence Foundation Fellow and founding member of the acclaimed New York contemporary music ensemble, counter)induction. kylebartlett.com
murmurations by David Hertzberg (b.1990)
“Although my ‘murmurations’ was conceived in a very abstract way, certain images and ideas suggested themselves to me throughout the course of its composition. The following lines are an ekphrastic response to my own work, written after its completion: you, glyph, descending forth, are not of one, you are a quiet violence, each separation of yourself, the parts, tearing themselves away from what is without, act causelessly and outside of purpose, gorge on what is not, make of your barren self, contrive with ever greater carelessness your wanton whole; the whispering angels herald your tide.”
Hailed as “opulently gifted” (Opera News) and “utterly original” (The New York Times), the music of David Hertzberg is swiftly garnering recognition, with recent seasons seeing performances on the stages of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. Recent distinctions have come from Gotham Chamber Opera, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Copland House, the Tanglewood Music Center, BMI, ASCAP, and the American Composers Forum. davidhertzbergmusic.com
Beneath/Above by Matthew Levy (b. 1963)
“I composed ‘Beneath’ as a kind of collage of gentle multiphonics (each saxophone performing several notes at once), forming an abstract mirror-image of the work that follows, ‘Above.’ While ‘Above’ is lyrical, outward, and celebratory, ‘Beneath’ is muted, inward, and dissonant. Above borrows material from my choral work ‘On Christmas Day,’ originally commissioned by Voices for Children for a recording benefiting the Philadelphia Pediatric AIDS Foundation.”
The recipient of composition fellowships from the Independence Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Matthew Levy co-founded, and is the executive and co-artistic director of the PRISM Quartet, whose recording of his music, People’s Emergency Center, was hailed as “magic with swirling precision” by WRTI and named as “Best Jazz of 2014” by PopMatters. matthewlevymusic.com
Night Music by Emma O’Halloran (b. 1985)
“…burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night…” – from Howl by Allen Ginsberg.
Emma O’Halloran is an Irish composer who writes music for acoustic and electronic instruments. In addition to concert music, she composes for theater, and is one half of the electronic duo Games Violet. Emma lives in New Jersey, and is currently a doctoral fellow at Princeton University. thisisemmao.com
Three Triffles by Jonathan Russell (b. 1979)
“A mere ‘trifle’ is a small thing of little consequence; a ‘truffle’ is small, but very rich. My ‘Three Triffles,’ then, are short, frivolous little movements, that are nonetheless musically dense and rich.”
Jonathan Russell is a composer and bass clarinetist/clarinetist whose wide-ranging compositions build on influences from all over the musical map, unified by their directness of expression, emotional power, and visceral musicality. jonrussellmusic.com
Prized Possessions by Viet Cuong (b. 1990)
“With its two contrasting movements, ‘Prized Possessions’ attempts to address the human phenomenon of taking things for granted by sending musical material through various repetitions and expressive treatments. The piece focuses on balancing fleeting, quickly vanishing ideas with other material that’s allowed to obsessively linger until almost no longer welcome.”
Viet Cuong is a Naumburg and Roger Sessions Fellow at Princeton University, where he received his MFA and is currently a PhD Candidate. He was a winner of the ASCAP Morton Gould Composers Award, Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composers Award, Walter Beeler Memorial Prize from Ithaca College, Dolce Suono Ensemble Young Composers Competition, Boston GuitarFest Composition Competition, the Prix d’Été Composition Competition, and the Trio La Milpa Composition Competition. vietcuongmusic.com
Memories in the Wind by Mark Macaluso (b. 1994)
“We are all constantly changing as individuals and it is our memories of past experiences that bridge the gap between our past and future selves. Memories are a cohesive unit amidst the tapestries of change in the world. I titled my composition ‘Memories in the Wind’ because it evokes a sense of looking into the past of who you were in anticipation of who you will become.”
Mark Macaluso attended the Walden School Young Musicians Program for 3 summers and thanks the PRISM Quartet and the faculty and staff of Walden for awarding him the commission for this composition in 2013. He wrote the piece in the fall of 2014 at Wake Forest University where he was a Presidential Scholar in Music Composition and had the honor of studying with Dr. Dan Locklair, Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music.
Four Tableaus by Solon Snider (b. 1994)
“‘Four Riverboat Tableaus’ is loosely inspired by the Dixieland sounds of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, specifically their rendition of Paul Barbarin’s ‘Bourbon Street Parade.’ The first two ‘tableaus’ draw upon dovetailing and contrapuntal techniques from this classic tune while the final two explore more homophonic settings to draw attention to the expressive capabilities of the individual saxophones, culminating in a parade-like cacophony of celebration.”
Solon Snider, 2012 winner of the PRISM/Walden School Commissioning Award, is a music major at Yale University. He is thrilled to present “Four Riverboat Tableaus” for PRISM. Special thanks to Seth Brenzel, Sam Pluta, Judah Adashi, Evan Ziporyn, and Ian Gottlieb for all their help and support through this process!