Color Theory 2.0: Saxophones and Percussion / PRISM Quartet with Susie Ibarra and Tyshawn Sorey

The PRISM Quartet presents Color Theory 2.0: Saxophones and Percussion following the 2017 release of the group’s critically acclaimed COLOR THEORY album with So Percussion and Partch (XAS Records, trailer below).

Color Theory 2.0 spotlights Susie Ibarra and Tyshawn Sorey, groundbreaking percussionist/composers who join PRISM as soloists in world premieres of their own works. Join us for free concerts at two branches of The Free Library of Philadelphia — June 2nd at Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library and June 4th at Parkway Central Library — and in a ticketed concert at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City on June 3rd.

Both Ibarra and Sorey share PRISM’s dedication to crossing musical boundaries; they bring a vast array of cultural, compositional, and improvisatory practices to the project. Color Theory 2.0 also features world premieres of stand-alone saxophone quartets by Elizabeth Hoffman, Professor of Composition at New York University, and Max Chung, winner of the annual PRISM Quartet/Walden School Young Composer Commissioning Award.

PRISM, Ibarra, and Sorey will also collaborate with the Free Library of Philadelphia to present Unlocking Your Inner Composer, a free six-week workshop series where participants will compose works for PRISM, Ibarra, and Sorey for premieres at the Library. If you’d like to write your own Color Theory composition, click HERE to learn more about participating in the workshops (open to all levels!).


Color Theory 2.0 is a music project inspired by science and the visual arts. In the 1670s, Sir Isaac Newton discovered the origin of color by shining a beam of light through a prism, splitting it into the colors of a rainbow. Throughout the centuries, visual artists have developed a body of knowledge (color theory) about mixing pigments to create color combinations that provoke powerful emotional responses.

We are using the idea of “color” as a framework to explore the spectra that make up instrumental sound, to create a new body of music combining saxophones and percussion. Color Theory pioneers new possibilities of orchestration and musical color with first-time collaborations that represent enormous unexplored potential.


Susie Ibarra

“When I listen to PRISM Quartet, I am struck by their ability to move as one instrument. Sometimes ethereal in their delicate chords, sometimes enigmatic with multiple musical conversations moving along in contradiction. Through all of this, I am drawn to their profoundly beautiful sound which makes me dream about its origins and connections to the environment. I think of Kalinga musicians in the forest of the Cordilleras, walking and playing interlocking bamboo to ward off evil spirits. Is it a magpie waterfowl along the Ganges? Maybe it’s a bear call from the Seneca Nations appearing in the evening. Or perhaps it’s a high pitched marmot whistling and running in the rocks of a Northwest American Glacier. Their performance can be unpredictable yet flowing like water, or light, rapid and flickering like the fireflies in summer. I will draw upon elements of the natural environment as inspiration for a new piece for PRISM. I will perform alongside the Quartet on percussion instruments that can gather both dynamic force and delicacy using an hourglass harp to play water pitches, to drumset, gongs, and an array of textural percussion.”

Susie Ibarra is known for her innovative style and cultural dialogue as a composer, improviser, percussionist, and humanitarian. She is interested in the intersection of tradition and the avant-garde, and how this informs and inspires interdisciplinary art, education and public service. Ibarra creates live and immersive music that explores rhythm, Indigenous practices, and interaction with the natural world.

Tyshawn Sorey

“Working with the PRISM Quartet in a chamber setting will give me a chance to explore sonic landscapes that fall outside of the music I create with my regular collaborators. My work will explore the quiet intersection of saxophone harmonics and overtones produced by metal percussion instruments (e.g. cymbals, gongs). I imagine a large percussion setup, but no drum set. The work will incorporate ‘masked’ improvisation that will interact seamlessly with composed music. I’ll draw on my relationship with saxophone music from the African American diaspora, particularly artists like Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, by expanding syntactical aspects of their language into this new work.”

Tyshawn Sorey is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar working across an extensive range of musical idioms. A 2017 MacArthur Fellow and 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award recipient, Sorey performs percussion, trombone and piano nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and leading jazz/experimental artists. His compositions integrate African diasporic, Western classical, and avant-garde musical forms.


Elizabeth Hoffman

“My work for the PRISM Quartet will explore the full ensemble as it is capable of forming a single homogenous sound, and this sound’s capacity for nuanced fragmentations. Often putting pressure on the score/performance distinction, one of my sonic preoccupations is the impact and expressivity of spatialization and its inter-relationship with the tactility and intensity of timbre.”

Elizabeth Hoffman is a composer based in NYC who writes music with, and for computers; and for instruments. Her work includes a focus on collaborative projects, digital instrument design, guided improvisation in conversation with a score, and music as social commentary. She has received recognition from the Bourges and Prix Ars Electronica competitions, the Jerome Foundation, NEA, and MacDowell and serves as Professor of Music at New York University.


Max Chung

“The title of my work, ‘Subaquatic Rift,’ references a boundary of the ocean floor where tectonic plates meet. The specific zone around the Mariana trench is known as a subduction zone, where matter from one plate is continuously sent down to the core in an extremely slow process over millions of years. Very little life resides this deep due to pressure and lack of light. Seeing pictures of this area reminded me of the moon—completely quiet, virtually devoid of life on its surface, and extremely dark. ‘Subaquatic Rift’ is inspired by the ways in which water moves though this mysterious deep space.”

Composer and pianist Max Chung attends Brown University where he is studying chemistry and music composition with Wang Lu. His music has been performed at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, with an upcoming performance by Yarn/Wire at Brown University. He has also attended the Walden School for Young Composer, and is this year’s recipient of the PRISM Quartet/Walden School Young Composer Commissioning Award.


Color Theory 2.0 is dedicated to the memory of Robert Capanna (1952 – 2018), a beloved friend, longtime PRISM Quartet board member, and visionary arts leader.

Color Theory 2.0 is made possible with generous support from the William Penn Foundation, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and Conn-Selmer. Philadelphia performances are co-presented by PRISM Quartet, Inc. and the Free Library of Philadelphia. The New York performance is made possible with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. PRISM is a member of New Music USA’s New Music Impact Fund, made possible with funding from The Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund. Visit PRISM’s New Music USA profile.

Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Philadelphia Regional Library
68 W Chelten Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144

June 02, 2018
3:00 PM

FREE: Just Show Up!

Parkway Central Library, Montgomery Hall
Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street Philadelphia PA 19103

June 04, 2018
6:30 PM

FREE: Just Show Up!


June 03, 2018
8:00 PM

$22 General Admission / $17 Seniors, Children, and Students (with ID), $3 more at the door