Hailed by The New York Times as a “bold ensemble” that “set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets,” PRISM Quartet presents a program of new music from an extraordinary collection of composers, including world premieres of works by  Hannah KendallAndrew Litts, Renee Baker, David Bennett Thomas, PRISM’s first performance of Carlos Simon‘s “Elegy: A Cry from the Grave,” and more!

About the Music

The program features the world premiere of Gilt by Hannah Kendall, a doctoral fellow in composition at Columbia University and winner of the Hindemith Prize and the Ivor Novello Award. Ms. Kendall writes, “Gilt, a play on the word Guilt, takes its title from Hew Locke’s 2022-2023 façade commission for The Metropolitan Museum of Art: four super-sized, gold, trophy-like sculptures that were displayed on the front of the building. Inspired by artifacts within The Met’s collection, the sculptures are wonderfully curious, unrecognizable, striking objects. Locke describes them as ‘a façade on the façade,’ as whilst they look like gloriously opulent, reimagined articles, they are in fact propped up by poles from behind.  Like me, Locke is British and of Guyanese heritage, where gold mining is prevalent and resources are rich. At the same time, it is also a place still affected by its history of slavery, colonialism, and indentureship.”

Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon is, in the composer’s words, “dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The stimulus for composing piece came as a result of prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announcing that a selected jury had decided not to indict police officer Daren Wilson after fatally shooting an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The piece draws on strong lyricism. A recurring ominous motif represents the cry of those struck down unjustly. While the piece is predominantly sorrowful and contemplative, there are moments of hope represented by bright consonant harmonies.” Mr. Simon is the Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY award for his album Requiem for the Enslaved.

Composer Renee Baker is the founding music director and conductor of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, a polystylistic orchestra that grew from the plums of both classical music and jazz. A practicing Sannyasi, she contributes a new adaptation of her work, Second Threnody, to the program. In describing the piece, she writes, “Each day we try to walk the straightest path to our intended destinies. Fate often detached us from those dreams and we move in a dhutanga-like manner. To what end, we know not … but purpose is the most intangible and untouchable of all desires.” Second Threnody was inspired by a poem of the same name by Dutch writer MIEP Geeson. The poem captures, in the poet’s words, “the essence of human struggle, loss, and the quest for meaning in the face of life’s uncertainties.”

Andrew Litts, a Philadelphia composer of acoustic and electronic and film music, describes Voler [to fly (Fr.)]: “Looking up, I see an airplane make its way across the sky. Bernoulli’s principle, lift, drag…all that I know about the physics of flight is forgotten. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for watching airplanes from my childhood home, or perhaps it’s my own love of travel…but watching airplanes fly overhead never ceases to incite a child-like wonder in me. Who are these people sitting in fast-moving chairs in the sky? Where are they going?”

Composer, author, jazz pianist, and teacher David Bennett Thomas is Associate Professor at the University of the Arts School of Music. He describes You Know Me as “textural, with washy minimalistic cells rubbing against each other while transforming in colorful ways, often accompanying broad melodies. You may also notice some jazz style block-chord soli writing. And an adagio that brings the piece to a close. When I compose, I try to use all that the idiom has to offer to construct something tight and cohesive that hopefully draws the listener in and takes them somewhere.”

New Work by Hannah Kendall (world premiere)
Second Threnody by Renee Baker (world premiere, new arrangement)
Voler by Andrew Litts (world premiere)
You Know Me by David Bennett Thomas (world premiere)
Elegy: A Cry from the Grave by Carlos Simon
Additional works TBA

*Program subject to change


Carlos Simon

David Bennett Thomas

Renee Baker

Andrew Litts

Hannah Kendall

This program is made possible with generous support from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. Hannah Kendall’s commission is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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.

Settlement Music School is fully wheelchair accessible.

Settlement Music School, Mary Louise Curtis Branch
416 Queen Street Philadelphia, PA 19147

May 11, 2024
7:00 PM

Free, but tickets must be reserved in advance. Click the link below to save your spot!