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May 20, 2022
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Matt Browne, 215/438-5282

PRISM Quartet


Old Tune Renewed by Bright Sheng
Breath by Jungyoon Wie
Oci oci by Flannery Cunningham
Home For A While by Julian Hofstetter
Graffiti II by Roberto Sierra

Thursday, June 9, 2022 @ 7 PM
Christ & St. Stephen's Church
120 W 69th St., New York, NY

Friday, June 10, 2022 @ 8 PM
Settlement Music School
416 Queen Street, Philadelphia, PA


Tickets: $25 general admission, $20 students & seniors (all fees included)
available at

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.
The Singing Gobi Desert by Bright Sheng, commissioned by PRISM in 2011 and released with guest ensemble Music From China in 2014.
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 on June 9th at Christ & St. Stephen's Church in New York City and June 10th at Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. The program features the world premiere of Old Tune Renewed, commissioned for PRISM by Harvard University's Fromm Music Foundation from MacArthur Fellow Bright Sheng, and repeat performances (including the New York premiere) of 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.”
Composers, clockwise from top left: Bright Sheng, Flannery Cunningham, Roberto Sierra, Jungyoon Wie (not pictured, Julian Hofstetter)
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 19742014, and was succeeded by his protégé and PRISM's soprano chair, Dr. Timothy McAllister.

Flannery Cunningham, a PhD candidate in composition and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania, completed Oci oci in 2022. She notes that “Oci oci 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 (19522018), 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.

The concerts take place on June 9th at 7:00 PM at Christ & St. Stephen's Church located at 120 W 69th St. in New York City and June 10th at 8:00 PM at Settlement Music School located at 416 Queen Street in Philadelphia. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for students/seniors (all fees included), and are available at Tickets are only available at the door on the day of the concert.

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.

About the Performers

photo by Ara Howrani

PRISM Quartet

The PRISM Quartet seeks to place the saxophone in unexpected contexts, chart fresh musical territory, and to challenge, inspire, and move audiences. “A bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets” (The New York Times), PRISM has been presented by Carnegie Hall and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; appeared as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, and conducted residencies at the nation’s leading conservatories, including the Curtis Institute and the Oberlin Conservatory. PRISM has commissioned hundreds of works by composers at all stages of their careers, from talented students to recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship. PRISM’s discography is extensive, with releases on Albany, BMOP/Sound, ECM, innova, Koch International, Naxos, and its own label, XAS Records. 

"An eminent classical saxophone quartet with
an unquenchable thirst for intrigue and adventure."
— Time Out New York



This program is presented with support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University and Conn-Selmer, Inc. The New York program is presented with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. The Philadelphia program is presented with additional support from the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.


For further information, press tickets, photos, and to arrange interviews,
please contact Matt Browne at

Copyright © 2022 PRISM Quartet, Inc., All rights reserved.

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