PRISM Quartet, So Percussion & PARTCH to Premiere COLOR THEORY in Philly and Brooklyn
From June 1-15 in both Philadelphia (Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts) and New York (Roulette in Brooklyn), PRISM-dubbed "one of America's finest saxophone quartets for three decades" by The New Yorker -- will partner with the PARTCH Ensemble and So Percussion, and composers Ken Ueno, Steven Mackey and Stratis Minakakis to perform, explore, and record a new body of music combining saxophones with a breathtaking range of percussion instruments in COLOR THEORY.
To further intensify COLOR THEORY, PRISM, which is known for its impressive outreach, will present 12 community activities for all ages during the 15-day project-exploratory lectures and instrument-making workshops led by the Harry Partch Institute at the University of Washington, drumming workshops with So Percussion, composition classes with PRISM, and panel discussions with Color Theory composers Mackey, Ueno, and Minakakis. Partners include Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Curtis Institute of Music, and Nextfab.PARTCH-the Los Angeles-based group dedicated to performing and recording the work of the visionary 20th-century California composer Harry Partch (1901-1974)-makes its East Coast debut with COLOR THEORY. The ensemble is admired for its crackling, idiomatic performances on reconstructed Partch instruments. Its recording Partch: Plectra & Percussion Dances won a 2015 Grammy award, with additional Grammy nominations in 2012 and 2015 for Harry Partch: Bitter Music and Castor & Pollux respectively. Harry Partch, who referred to himself as "a music man seduced into carpentry," invented his own instruments and microtonal tuning system. The instruments are fantastical, visually striking examples of sculpture which combine aspects of science fiction, ancient Greece, and Japanese theater. Partch's "Instrumentariam" includes the eucal blossom, spoils of war, and cloud chamber bowls. So, PARTCH, and PRISM share a desire to connect their work to traditions outside of Western classical music. So plays found instruments and often collaborates with leaders of indie and alternative rock bands like Wilco's Glenn Kotche and The National's Bryce Dessner. PARTCH champions instruments that utilize microtonal tuning systems referencing Asian and ancient Greek scales. PRISM's groundbreaking collaborators have ranged from the ensemble Music From China to jazz luminaries Jason Moran and Rudresh Mahanthappa. For centuries, visual artists have used color theory to develop a body of knowledge about mixing pigments to create color combinations that provoke powerful emotional responses. PRISM's COLOR THEORY pioneers new possibilities of orchestration and musical color with first-time instrumental pairings that represent enormous unexplored potential. COLOR THEORY will be broadcast by media partner WWFM and culminate in a recording of commissioned works for release on XAS Records (PRISM'S new label), distributed worldwide by NAXOS, with liner notes by WNYC's John Schaefer.
From Matthew Levy, PRISM's co-founder, executive director and tenor saxophonist: "Color Theory is a once-in-a-lifetime project. PRISM has invited three strikingly original composers and two groundbreaking ensembles to join us in discovering new sound worlds and musical colors. We love the strange and beautiful sounds that saxophones and percussion make together. But there is virtually no repertoire pairing a saxophone quartet with discreet percussion ensembles-especially the Harry Partch instruments, since there are only three sets in the entire world. None of us are sure exactly what to expect, and that's why this project is so exciting." Having done just about everything imaginable with a classical saxophone quartet, PRISM Quartet (Timothy McAllister, Taimur Sullivan, Matthew Levy, and Zachary Shemon) announces its newest project COLOR THEORY, extending its palette through collaborations with two remarkable percussion groups to make sound combinations and musical colors that have never been heard before.
COLOR THEORY Events:
PRISM and So
PRISM Quartet and So Percussion, June 4, 2016, 7:30 p.m., Kimmel Center, $10-$28
PRISM Quartet and So Percussion, June 7, 2016, 7:30 p.m., Roulette, NYC, $17-$25
New octet by Steven Mackey & arrangement of Donnacha Dennehy's The Pale
So Percussion PRISM and So Percussion premiere a new jazz-influenced work by Steven Mackey entitled Blue Notes and Other Clashes and a new arrangement of Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy's The Pale. Mackey, a composer and electric guitarist who serves as Professor of Music at Princeton University and who previously composed masterful works for both ensembles separately, creates the first major octet combining saxophone and percussion quartets. Dennehy's work is a musical imagining of the area encompassing Dublin called the Pale, where British rule was at its strongest in the 14th century. According to Dennehy, "they even protected this area with ditches and fences to keep the barbarous, thuggish Irish out-the great unwashed were, as the phrase became, 'beyond the pale.'" Also on the program: the New York and Philadelphia premieres of Georg Friedrich Haas' Saxophone Quartet, Bryce Dessner's Music for Wood & Strings, and "Hymn" from Kati Agócs' Coluratura. Steven Mackey talks about his Color Theory commission: "In Blue Notes and Other Clashes, I imagine a dialogue between colorful, static timbral objects and syntactical, forward moving narrative elements. I will engage the idea that white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow in a musical metaphor creating dense, heterogeneous textures that delineate a bright, joyous state of being-a glorious cacophony."PRISM and PARTCH
PRISM Quartet and PARTCH, June 11, 2016, 7:30 p.m., Kimmel Center, $10-$28
PRISM Quartet and PARTCH, June 12, 2016, 7:30 p.m., Roulette, NYC, $17-$25
World premieres by Ken Ueno and Stratis Minakakis
"A madman of sorts, Partch set about inventing and making dozens of the most extraordinary instruments. Then, between the 1930s and '70s, he wrote wondrous and evocative compositions for them, his subjects ranging from mythology to days riding the trains during the Depression. He laid the ground for people like Terry Riley and La Monte Young." - David Bowie on Harry Partch
PRISM and the Grammy-winning ensemble PARTCH (in its East Coast debut) premiere two works written for saxophones and Harry Partch instruments: Future Lilacs by Ken Ueno and Skiagrafies (Shadow Etchings) by Stratis Minakakis. Ueno is a prize-winning composer/vocalist/sound artist who is currently Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, and Minakakis is a composer, conductor, and faculty member at New England Conservatory."Of all the triumphantly weird characters who have roamed the frontiers of American art, none ever went quite as far out as the composer Harry Partch," notes New Yorker critic Alex Ross. Finding no instruments capable of producing the sounds he imagined, Partch invented his own. The instruments use microtones, dividing the octave into 43 tones. Harry Partch famously held J. S. Bach responsible for a downhill trend in music: "the movement toward equal-tempered tuning, which meant that composers could not absorb the scales of other world traditions." The commissioned works draw upon and extend this rich compositional tradition.
Also on the program: Castor & Pollux by Harry Partch (watch PARTCH perform this work), Xas by Iannis Xenakis, and "Radical Alignment" from 15 Places At The Same Time by Steve Lehman. Ken Ueno talks about his Color Theory commission: "My work, Future Lilacs, will metaphorically connect to color theory in blending different temporalities. It is the scientific reduction of sounds to a common denominator (thinking in terms of frequencies rather than scales) that helps me with this approach, which I consider a Newtonian way of rationalizing the ineffable." Stratis Minakakis talks about his Color Theory commission: "My work, Skiagrafies (Shadow Etchings), will explore the musical dimensions of the dichotomy between what Goethe describes as 'uncolored' versus 'colored' shadows. What does it mean to construct such shadows of a sound?"OUTREACH
Color Theory marks the most extensive range of ancillary activities that PRISM has ever produced, from kids' composition to instrument-making and drumming workshops.
Composition for Kids, June 1, 8, 15, 2016, 12:00 p.m. and 1:15 p.m., Kimmel Center
Family Drumming Workshop, June 1, 2016, 3:45 p.m., Kimmel Center
Harry Partch Lecture and Instrument Making, June 8, 2016, 5:30 p.m., Nextfab
Composers Forum, June 11, 2016, 5:30 p.m., Curtis Institute of Music
Color Theory culminates in a recording of the above-commissioned works for release on XAS Records (PRISM's new label), distributed worldwide by Naxos, with liner notes by WNYC's John Schaefer
PRISM Quartet (www.prismquartet.com) - Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America's foremost chamber ensembles. Two-time winners of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has been presented by Carnegie Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra. Champions of new music, PRISM has commissioned over 250 works, many by internationally celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning composers. PRISM's discography includes 15 recordings for Albany, Innova, Koch, ECM, Naxos, New Dynamic, New Focus, and its own newly-launched label, XAS Records. PRISM may also be heard on the soundtrack of the film "Two Plus One" and has been featured in the theme music to the weekly PBS news magazine "NOW." PRISM performs exclusively on Selmer saxophones.
So Percussion (sopercussion.com) - For over a decade, So Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Praised by The New Yorker for their "exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam," So's adventurous spirit is written into the DNA passed down from composers like John Cage and Steve Reich, as well as from pioneering ensembles like the Kronos Quartet and Nexus Percussion. So Percussion's career now encompasses 16 albums, touring throughout the USA and around the world, a dizzying array of collaborative projects, several ambitious educational programs, and a steady output of their own music.
PARTC (www.partch.la) - PARTCH is a Grammy-winning ensemble that specializes in the music & instruments of the iconoclastic American Maverick composer Harry Partch who, between 1930 and 1972, created one of the most amazing bodies of sensually alluring and emotionally powerful music of the 20th century. Partch wrote music drama, dance theater, multi-media extravaganzas, vocal music and chamber music-all to be performed on the extraordinary orchestra of instruments that he designed and built himself. Since their formation in 1991 to perform the music of Lou Harrison and Harry Partch, the group has gone on to commission and premiere works by Larry Polansky, Mamoru Fujieda, John Luther Adams, Mari Takano, Sasha Bogdonawitsch, James Tenney and others. They toured Japan under the auspices of the American Embassy's prestigious Interlink Festival, and performed for the LA County Museum of Art, Sacramento's Festival of New American Music, Minnesota Public Radio's American Mavericks, the Getty Center, and the San Francisco Symphony. In 2004, they made their Disney Hall/REDCAT debut premiering Harry Partch's Bitter Music, and have returned every year since.
Steven Mackey (www.stevenmackey.com) - Steven Mackey is one of the leading composers of his generation. He has composed for many of the world's major orchestras, ensembles and soloists. He regularly performs and records his own work, including two electric guitar concertos and numerous solo and chamber works. He has received numerous awards and honors including a Grammy for Lonely Motel: Music From Slide. He serves as Professor of Composition at Princeton University and is published by Boosey and Hawkes.
Stratis Minakakis (www.stratisminakakis.com) - Stratis Minakakis is a composer and conductor whose creative work engages issues of cultural memory and identity, and explores the rich possibilities engendered by the interaction between arts and sciences. A recipient of numerous artistic and academic distinctions, he has collaborated with leading performers and ensembles, such as The Crossing, Arditti Quartet, and counter)induction. Deeply committed to music pedagogy, he was recently awarded the prestigious Louis Krasner Award for Teaching at the New England Conservatory, where he is a member of the Composition and Music Theory Faculty.
Ken Ueno (kenueno.com) - Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize winner, Ken Ueno, is a composer/vocalist/sound artist who is currently an Associate Professor at UC Berkeley. His music has been championed by Kim Kashkashian, Wendy Richman, Greg Oakes, Frances-Marie Uitti, BMOP, Eighth Blackbird, Alarm Will Sound, the Hilliard Ensemble, and Steve Schick with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He has performed as soloist in his vocal concerto with the orchestras in New York, Boston, Warsaw, Lithuania, Thailand, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh. His bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.
Photo Credit: Steven N. Severinghaus
Pictured: Harry Partch's "Cloud-Chamber Bowls"