Mending Wall

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PRISM Quartet
Timothy McAllister, soprano saxophone
Zachary Shemon, alto saxophone
Matthew Levy, tenor saxophone (works by Bresnick and Seo)
Matthew Koester, tenor saxophone (guest artist, works by O’Farrill and Lewis)
Taimur Sullivan, baritone saxophone
Tony Arnold, soprano
Arturo O’Farrill, piano

Track Listing

1. Something to declare? (yeah, fuck your wall) by Arturo O’Farrill
PRISM Quartet with Arturo O’Farrill

2. Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Recited by Tony Arnold

Mending Time by Martin Bresnick
3. Two Can Pass
4. The Gaps I Mean
5. The Wall Between Us
6. Moves in Darkness And The Shade of Trees
PRISM Quartet

7. Where Her Eye Sits
Music by George Lewis, poem by Keorapetse Kgositsile
PRISM Quartet with Tony Arnold

8. Echo Chamber by Waly Salomão
Recited by Tony Arnold

9. Unsung Lullaby by Juri Seo
PRISM Quartet

In February 2022, PRISM was joined by soprano Tony Arnold and pianist Arturo O’Farrill in premiere performances of Mending Wall, a fully staged concert exploring the meaning of walls in our world by giving musical form to questions about identity, community, division, and freedom. In this recording, Arnold and O’Farrill rejoin PRISM in a studio recording of the project, performing commissions by four visionary composers—Martin Bresnick, George Lewis, Juri Seo, and O’Farrill—who take inspiration from poetry by Robert Frost, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Waly Salomão, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña.

The stage production of Mending Wall was directed by Jorinde Keesmaat who, in her words, “was interested in exploring the paradox of personal contact: our simultaneous discomfort with strangers and our intrinsic longing for human connection, the psychological effects of isolation and our basic need for one another’s warmth. Mending Wall examines the complicated meaning of boundaries—physical and invisible—but it’s also about fear giving way to hope.”

Matthew Levy, PRISM’s Executive and Co-Artistic Director, and founding tenor saxophonist writes, “Walls are a foundational part of our world: they have mythical and poetic resonance, but also material consequences. The project began as a response to the idea of a wall as a dehumanizing force. Although America’s recent zeal for wall-building has counterparts throughout history and across the globe, it represents a specific failure of imagination. As artists, we’re called to build another kind of structure: a collaborative experiment that restores mystery, complexity, and generosity to our encounters with one another. Mending Wall amplifies a range of musical and poetic voices; Our hope is that the project will illuminate and help us to confront and mend fractures in our human community.”

Tony Arnold

Arturo O’Farrill

George E. Lewis

Juri Seo

Martin Bresnick

About the Music

Arturo O’Farrill’s Something to declare? (yeah, fuck your wall) is based on “Freefalling Toward a Borderless Future” by Guillermo Gomez Peña and son jarocho, a Mexican song form with a lead trovador voice supported by jaranas (guitar-like instruments), which PRISM’s saxophones approximate. His piece draws upon the rich political/cultural underpinnings of Fandango Fronterizo, an annual festival on both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border fence.

Martin Bresnick’s commission, Mending Time, is inspired by the contradictions in Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” in which two neighbors meet yearly to rebuild the structure separating their farms. Bresnick writes, “According to Frost we are trapped and doomed by fences to eternal contact and inevitable alienation. But what if the walls between us were made of music?”

In Where Her Eye SitsGeorge Lewis set texts examining the legacy of Apartheid by the late South African poet and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile. The piece joins PRISM and soprano Tony Arnold “to link a coloratura’s sonic sensibility with the saxophone’s evocation of South African popular music via mbube-like orchestration.”

Juri Seo‘s work, Unsung Lullaby, is inspired by Algaravi: Echo Chambera volume of poetry by Syrian-Brazilian writer Waly Salomão that explores the dual meaning of “echo chamber”— the figurative connotation that’s ubiquitous in our politics/media, and its older (and literal) meaning, a walled space that repeats, amplifies, and distorts sounds.

For more detailed program notes, performance photos, and more, please visit the Mending Wall website

Press Release:
Read the press release.

Executive Producer; Editing/Mixing/Mastering: Matthew Levy
Produced by PRISM Quartet (Timothy McAllister, Zachary Shemon, Matthew Levy, Taimur Sullivan), Arturo O’Farrill, Tony Arnold
Recorded at Elm Street Studios, Conshohocken, PA
Session Engineer: John O. Senior
Assistant Engineers: Nancy Kimmons, Brendan McGeehan
Artwork/Design: Jon Rohrer,

Major support for Mending Wall has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The Presser Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA,  Conn-Selmer, Inc., the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands, Musical Fund Society, New York State Council on the Arts, and  Chamber Music America. Read the full list of funders.


Record Label / Catalogue Number:
XAS 119

Release Date:
December 01, 2023