SELF-PORTRAITS 1964, UNFINISHED by Martin Bresnick, with The Crossing

Led by Donald Nally, the “adventurous, fiercely talented choir,” The Crossing, “combines an embrace of the new, a social conscience and fearless technique.” For this performance, the multiple Grammy® Award-winning new music group is joined by the PRISM Quartet, “a bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets.” The program features the world premiere of Self-Portraits 1964, Unfinished by Martin Bresnick, a composer known for “music that seems at once ancient, elegiac and awesomely new.” (The New York Times)

Our souls are like
Those orphans whose
Unwedded mothers
Die in bearing them:

The secret of
Our paternity
Lies in their grave, and
We must there to learn it.

– 1. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
2. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
in Martin Bresnick’s Self-Portraits 1964, Unfinished

The philosophical observations of Melville, Joyce, Hardy, and Hopkins come together in Martin Bresnick’s Cento (a new poem, constructed of previously existing poems). The result is a tumultuous journey of questioning, whimsy, and stoicism. Not only one of the most renowned composers of our time, Martin is also one of the most significant teachers of composition, numbering as his students many of the ‘household names’ of music today. A reunion with the saxophone quartet PRISM, with which The Crossing won its first Grammy.

This program follows the release of Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century, The Crossing and PRISM’s ECM recording that won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.


Program Note

Self-Portraits 1964, Unfinished

When I was seventeen, I was living alone, working as a maintenance man and trash collector in one of the city’s Housing Projects to earn enough to attend a new school. I would rise in darkness and travel to my job by train. In breaks, high on rooftops where sea birds took refuge in the hot summer of 1964, I read books carried in my back pocket and reflected on others I had studied in my first year at university. After work, at small clubs and coffee houses, I listened to music with others of my kind, returning late at night.

Now a much older man, I imagine that the texts I read and the music of the six movements of Self-Portraits 1964, Unfinished, are a memoir evoking my youthful state of mind then – rising before dawn, traveling, working, reading, listening, coming home.

In the rattling train, I remember
The long day and night.
Music, friends, lovers,
Words understood

And misunderstood
Ride with me,
Connecting and disconnecting
As the train sways.

Thoughts arising, fading,
Falling toward sleep, I consider
“What I do is me:
For that I came.”

Martin Bresnick

Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

March 24, 2023
7 PM


Box office contact info:
Annenberg Center, Penn Live Arts: 215.898.3900