PREMIERES (NYC) – Bright Sheng, Roberto Sierra, Jungyoon Wie, Flannery Cunningham, Julian Hofstetter

Old Tune Renewed (NYC premiere) by Bright Sheng
Commissioned for the PRISM Quartet with generous support by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University.

Breath (NYC premiere) by Jungyoon Wie, winner of  The PRISM Quartet/Donald Sinta Commissioning Award

Oci oci (NYC premiere) by Flannery Cunningham, winner of PRISM Quartet’s Robert Capanna Commissioning Award

Home For A While (NYC premiere) by Julian Hofstetter, winner of The PRISM Quartet/Walden School Commissioning Award

Graffiti II (NYC premiere) by Roberto Sierra, premiered in May 2022 in celebration of the Musical Fund Society’s 200 anniversary.


With over 300 commissions to its credit, the intrepid PRISM Quartet (Timothy McAllister, Zachary Shemon, Matthew Levy, Taimur Sullivan) presents an expansive program of extraordinary new works, featuring the New York premieres of Old Tune Renewed, commissioned for PRISM by Harvard University’s Fromm Music Foundation from MacArthur Fellow Bright Sheng, and Graffiti II by Tomás Luis de Victoria Prize-winner Roberto Sierra, commissioned by the Musical Fund Society for PRISM in celebration of the Society’s 200th anniversary. Also on the program are world premieres of works by rising-star composers: winners of three PRISM Quartet student commissioning awards: Jungyoon WieFlannery Cunningham, and Julian Hofstetter.

In describing Old Tune Renewed, Mr. Sheng writes, “Chinese traditional music had a fascinating practice of transforming old, mostly well-known compositions into new works. This procedure, called Old Tune Renewed, often goes far beyond the normal concept of interpretation. Here the recreator would become the creator and would often compose a new work based on the older version. The fresh execution would become a new tradition which would be passed on by performers in the next generations. This is an indispensable practice in Chinese music, as it not only prolongs the lifespan of the established compositions, but also it makes sure that the older works are up to date to the sensibility of its performers and audience. I centered Old Tune Renewed on a folk song from Northwestern China. The work attempts to spotlight the style and zest of the folk singing, often takes place in open valleys, while putting a contemporary spin on the music.”

Mr. Sierra’s Graffiti II is a set of 14 miniatures. He writes, “My work is evocative of graffiti, with the juxtaposition of highly contrasting gestures, rapidly shifting colors and dynamics, and swooping gestures. Graffiti II portrays graffiti’s immediacy and lyricism in some movements, but also its radical, aggressive, uncontained quality in others, a sense that the music, like the artwork, is spilling out of the frame. Even when multiple graffiti artists utilize the same surface, the best graffiti conveys a sense of freedom, but is cohesive, with its own internal logic. The saxophone quartet is the perfect medium for my musical explorations of graffiti, since it seamlessly incorporates coloristic extended techniques, like multiphonics and the use of microtones, into its performance practice.”

San Francisco-based composer and winner of the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Jungyoon Wie describes Breath, her contribution to the program, as “coming from nature. If there was a mother to this piece, it would be the land, water, and their life-giving vibrations. Each gesture symbolizes a breath and the entire piece is made up of a series of breaths, those by humans, animals, insects, birds, the land, and water alike. Each gesture starts from silence and builds in dynamics, eventually returning to the stillness again. As no breath is the same, each gesture has its own sound, timbre, and meaning that is different from the others. Each breath brings another life, and so the piece keeps going.”

Ms. Wie composed Breath in 2020 as the winner of the inaugural PRISM Quartet/Donald Sinta Commissioning Award, named after PRISM’s mentor and dear friend, Donald Sinta, a seminal saxophonist and pedagogue who served as the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Earl V. Moore Professor of Saxophone at the University of Michigan from 1974–2014, and was succeeded by his protégé and PRISM’s soprano chair, Dr. Timothy McAllister.

Flannery Cunningham holds PhDs in composition and musicology from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed Oci oci in 2022 and notes that the work “is titled after the syllables used for the nightingale’s call in medieval French chansons and prose, which come from the French verb ‘ocir,’ or to kill. 13th- and 14th-century French artists had a fascinating conception of birdsong’s ambiguous status as music, and there is a particularly rich tradition of nightingale ‘calls’ and textual references in troubadour and trouvère song. Sometimes the nightingale’s ‘oci, oci’ is a call for death stemming from the pains of overwhelming love; other times that love is a religious rather than romantic one, and the cry is one of anguish for Christ’s suffering. In either case, the nightingale is often used as an example of a bird who sings particularly sweetly (and is thus able to aestheticize her yearning and torment). I wrote the core material of Oci oci soon after my daughter was born, in just the sort of heightened state of love and pain of the piece’s namesake. I also spent hours listening to the same ‘most beautiful birds of the world’ playlist with her, which helped calm her when not much else could. One of these birdsongs is woven into the texture of Oci oci.”

Ms. Cunningham composed Oci oci as winner of PRISM Quartet’s Robert Capanna Commissioning Award, honoring the life and legacy of Bob Capanna (1952–2018), a dear friend of PRISM, visionary arts leader, and gifted composer. His career included leadership positions with Settlement Music School, The Presser Foundation, and Musical Fund Society, and he served for many years as chair of the PRISM Quartet’s board of directors.

The youngest composer on the program, Julian Hofstetter, wrote Home For A While as winner of the PRISM Quartet/Walden School Student Commissioning Award, an award presented jointly to a promising student at Walden, among the nation’s premiere composition training institutions. Since 1991, PRISM has conducted multiple residencies at the Walden School’s summer camp for young composers in Dublin, New Hampshire.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for students/seniors (all fees included). Enter the code “PRISM5” to receive $5 off tickets for advance purchases. On the day of the concert, tickets are only available at the door.

These concerts are open only to fully vaccinated and masked individuals. Anyone wishing to attend must show proof of vaccination – such as a photocopy of a Covid-19 vaccination card – to box office staff at the door. Musicians and staff members have been vaccinated.

This program is made possible with generous support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

PRISM Quartet welcomes all individuals to our concerts, and provides a variety of accommodations for those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For specific accommodations, please contact or 215.438.5282.

Christ & St. Stephen's Church
120 W 69th St., New York, NY 10023

March 26, 2023
3:30 PM

$25 general admissions, $20 seniors/students with ID (all fees included). Discount Code for advance online purchases: PRISM5 for $5 off each ticket! Tickets available at door only on day of concert.