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September 22, 2017
More information:
Matthew Levy: (215) 438-5282
PRISM Quartet

Paradigm Lost

Released Today on XAS Records
Paradigm Lost album cover photography and design by Jon Rohrer
Press and Media Outlets
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If it is possible for a group with over three decades of pioneering work to reintroduce itself, then that’s what Paradigm Lost does for the PRISM Quartet. After a string of important and boundary-busting releases on Innova, ECM, and many other labels, this collection firmly establishes PRISM’s own XAS label, and offers a kind of “State of the Union” address for the saxophone quartet.

The album title is also well-considered. If there ever was a paradigm for a saxophone quartet, PRISM has long since dispensed with it, through a radical re-examination of what the saxophone can do… and who it can do it with. The quartet has worked with choirs, chamber ensembles, jazz bands, and the weird and wild instrumentarium designed by Harry Partch. As it happens, the works on this album, whatever their origins, are simply for saxophone quartet, but they all come from a place of collaboration, with composers who reflect the musical and cultural diversity of 21st century America.

From liner notes by John Schaefer

Sample Track: "Compass, S" by David Rakowski

Paradigm Lost (2005) by Lee Hyla (1952–2014)
Fearful Symmetries (excerpt, 1988) by John Adams (b. 1947), Arr. Timothy McAllister
Compass (2010) by David Rakowski (b. 1958)
Prism (Memo 6b) (2008) by Bernard Rands (b. 1934)
Not Alone (2014) by Chen Yi (b. 1953)
Squeeze (2007) by Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964)

The six composers featured on Paradigm Lost represent the pinnacle of excellence in new American music. Between them, they have received virtually every major composition award and fellowship, including the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Grawemeyer Award, Rome Prize, Grammy Award, Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, Charles Ives Living Award and Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and commissions from the Fromm, Naumburg, and Koussevitzky foundations.

Paradigm Lost is the third release of PRISM’s label, XAS Records, founded to advance the Quartet’s mission to share extraordinary saxophone music with listeners around the world.

Paradigm Lost was made possible with generous support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.; the National Endowment for the Arts; and New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Helen F. Whitaker Fund, and Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

XAS Records 103
US Physical street release date: 09/22/17
UPC: 8 64190 00022 2
Distributed by: Naxos USA
Artwork and additional information:

Composers Bios & Program Notes
Lee Hyla
Lee Hyla (1952–2014) was described by The New York Times as “an American composer whose work married the formal rigor of classical music with the driving energy of rock and the improvisational abandon of jazz.” The Boston Globe wrote that Hyla’s music “hurls through space with visceral immediacy” and that “moments of surprising beauty arrive like clearings in a forest.” He was the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, the Rome Prize, and the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Lee Hyla: “Paradigm Lost” is in one continuous movement and explores the contrast between quiet, delicate, recessive music, and more aggressive takes on what, down deep, is similar material. The attempts to resolve these different takes, or the failure to resolve them, are at the heart of the piece.

Augusta Read Thomas

The music of Augusta Read Thomas is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful. The New York Times wrote that “Ms. Thomas’s compositional idiom is one of modernist complexity, yet the sheer delight she takes in exploring instrumental sonorities proves infectious.” A finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, she has been the recipient of awards and fellowships from ASCAP, BMI, the NEA, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky, Naumburg, and Fromm foundations.

John Schaefer (WNYC): “Squeeze” is a high-spirited pastiche of classical and jazz elements, with rapid-fire passagework and chattering rhythms. (The work is scored for two sopranos, one alto, and one tenor.) Like John Adams, Thomas seems to have had an earlier form of horn-based music in mind: “the work,” she writes, “should be played standing, and facing the audience, in a kind of ‘Big Band’ mode.”
John Adams

Composer, conductor, and creative thinker—John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Le Monde wrote that his music “gives the impression of a rediscovered liberty, of an open door which lets in the fresh air in great gusts.” He is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the Grawemeyer Award, and multiple Grammy awards.

John Schaefer: When John Adams wrote his orchestral piece “Fearful Symmetries” in 1988, he did not have a saxophone quartet in mind. But he did have the sounds of American big band music in his mind’s ear, so when PRISM’s Timothy McAllister began arranging an excerpt of “Fearful Symmetries” for the quartet, he was, in a sense, uncovering a hidden intention in the work. “A seriously aerobic piece” is how Adams described it, mixing “the weight and bravura of a big band with the glittering, synthetic sheen of techno pop (samples and synthesizer) and the facility and finesse of a symphony orchestra.”
David Rakowski

David Rakowski’s music is prized for its originality, explosive high energy, visceral surface, unusual and quirky turns, meticulous attention to detail, and unfaltering sense of form. He has received the Rome Prize, the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Barlow Prize, Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundation commissions, and has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He serves on the faculty of Brandeis University.

David Rakowski on "Compass": W is about notes passed antiphonally through the group under a torrent of brief jazz licks; N is a jazz scherzo that is about quick handoffs of quick gestures and tight scoring; S is a slow movement that draws long melodies out phrases that begin simply with octave leaps; and E is a take-no-prisoners finale about repeated notes and gestures that explode out of them.

Bernard Rands

The Boston Globe wrote that Bernard Rands “has been pursuing an aesthetic ideal that has made him one of the foremost composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Rands’ compositions are elegant yet meticulously structured, bringing tonal and nontonal elements into a fusion that is firmly enough based in musical tradition to be inviting, yet unpredictable convey a sense of modernity.” He has been a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and a Grammy award.

Bernard Rands on “Prism (Memo 6b)”: The work addresses contemporary virtuosity and expressive capacities, and explores a wide range of the saxophone’s associations and characteristics from singing, lyrical, cantilena, melodic lines to energetic, driving, rhythmic, passages.

Chen Yi

Chen Yi blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Yo-Yo Ma once commented, “Chen Yi’s music sounds both modern and ancient. Her music manages to sound both authentic and unexpected, which is what you always want from art.” She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Elise Stoeger Award from Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Chen Yi: “Not Alone” explores the realm of identity, independence and introspection. It is inspired by a famous Tang Dynasty Poem by Li Bai, “Drinking Alone Under the Moon.”
About the PRISM Quartet
PRISM Quartet headshot
PRISM Quartet
Timothy McAllister, soprano
Zachary Shemon, alto
Matthew Levy, tenor
Taimur Sullivan, baritone

Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America’s foremost chamber ensembles. “A bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets” (The New York Times), PRISM has performed in Carnegie Hall on the Making Music Series, in Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America, Russia, and China under the auspices of the United States Information Agency and USArtists International. PRISM has also been presented to critical acclaim as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, and conducted residencies at the nation’s leading conservatories, including the Curtis Institute of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory. Two-time recipients of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has commissioned over 250 works, many by internationally celebrated composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winners Julia Wolfe, William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon, Zhou Long, and Bernard Rands, and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipients Bright Sheng and Miguel Zenón. PRISM’s discography includes 16 releases on Albany, ECM, innova, Koch, Naxos, New Dynamic, New Focus, and its own newly launched label, XAS Records. In 2016, PRISM was named by its alma mater, the University of Michigan, as the first recipient of the Christopher Kendall Award in recognition of its work in “collaboration, entrepreneurship, and community engagement.”
“This virtuosic ensemble is a saxophone quartet, but prepare to hear sounds that transcend the traditional palette of that instrument.”
The New York Times

“Arguably the preeminent saxophone ensemble of its kind currently active in the United States...PRISM has presided over what future music history textbooks might just look back on as a golden era for the sax quartet medium.” 
For more information and to arrange interviews with Paradigm Lost composers or members of PRISM, please contact Matthew Levy at (215) 438-5282 or High resolution photos of PRISM are available at

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