PREMIERES (PHL) – Marcos Balter, Adam Silverman, Helen Feng, Renee Baker, Alfredo Cabrera, Flannery Cunningham. FREE ADMISSION!

PRISM Quartet presents a program of new music from an extraordinary collection of composers, including premieres of works by (pictured top to bottom) Marcos Balter, Adam Silverman, Helen Feng, plus Philadelphia premieres from Renee Baker, Alfredo Cabrera, and Flannery Cunningham. Co-presented by PRISM Quartet, Inc. and The Free Library of Philadelphia.



Pratigraha by Renee Baker (Philadelphia premiere, new arrangement)
Yarn by Marcos Balter (world premiere)
Rogue Flare, Fly Away by Alfredo Cabrera (Philadelphia premiere)
Oci oci by Flannery Cunningham (Philadelphia premiere)
Corner by Helen Feng (world premiere)
TITLE by Adam Silverman (world premiere)
I. Quiet
II. Thorn
III. Ultra
IV. Rogue
V. Yearn
VI. Helix

Marcos Balter is the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University whose work has been praised by The Washington Post as “dark and deeply poetic.” Mr. Balter describes his new work, Yarn: “The type of fiber and the tightness of the thread dictate a yarn’s character. While thicker and tighter yarns are more durable, a quality yarn is typically loose and lightweight; fragility and exquisiteness are intrinsically correlated, where the ultimate price of refinement is ephemerality.”

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, Pratigraha, to the program and writes, “As a concert as well as avant-garde composer, it is helpful to use and accept the gift of the skill set of each musician. Think of this piece as an alms bowl, open to the courageous donations of each interpreter and accepted without proud discriminations. The notated piece is a structured alms bowl.”

Alfredo Cabrera, a doctoral candidate in composition at the University of Michigan describes his 2022 work, Rogue Flare, Fly Away: “Most of my music seeks to bridge the different parts of my identity: Venezuelan, queer, immigrant, among many other things. In the past, I have had to mask some of these to make it in the world. And yet, sometimes, those secret parts of our souls decide to go Rogue and burn everything and everyone in their path. We ought to allow these outbursts to Fly Away, learn from them, and keep moving forward. The piece relies on rhythmic structures and melodic fragments from various Venezuelan folk music styles, but mainly from Joropo, Venezuela’s national dance and music.”

Winner of the PRISM Quartet/Walden School Commissioning Award, Helen Feng‘s Corner is, in her words, “a musical painting of some of my personal experiences with depression, which were complex but especially dominated by a feeling of being at the corner of the world. Far removed from normal functioning and seeing the world through muted lenses, depression can cause such feelings of isolation, and I feel endlessly thankful for the people, music, etc. that got me through the storm, reminding me that I was not alone. Writing this piece has been incredibly cathartic and healing. I hope that sharing these raw and personal experiences can help others feel less alone on their journeys.”

Professor of Music Theory and Composition at West Chester University, Adam Silverman says that TITLE “is meant explore the most tender and most muscular aspects of the ensemble. It draws upon the stamina of its performers in a variety of ways, ranging from the first movement’s continuous melodic thread (demanding circular breathing), jagged rhythms and harmonic shifts of the second and third movements, unpredictable pulsations of the fourth movement, the long-phrased melancholy of the fifth movement, and an extremely intricate instrumental interplay in the last. The composition’s title pays tribute to the puzzle craze Wordle. All of the movement titles were selected from existing puzzle answers, each chosen to most closely reflect the character of the music of that movement.”

The program also includes Flannery Cunningham’s Oci oci. She writes that it 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. Sometimes the nightingale’s ‘oci, oci’ is a call for death stemming from the pains of overwhelming love. 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.”

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.

This program is made possible with generous support from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund 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.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is wheelchair accessible with dedicated seating locations.

Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library: Skyline Room
1901 Vine St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

June 06, 2023
7 PM

Free Admission, just show up!