Color Theory is inspired by the spirit in which scientists and visual artists have studied color throughout the centuries. In 1671–72, Sir Isaac Newton discovered the origin of color by shining a beam of light through a prism, splitting it into the colors of a rainbow. Visual artists have used color theory to develop a body of knowledge about mixing pigments to create color combinations that provoke powerful emotional responses.
The PRISM Quartet’s project uses color theory as a framework to explore the spectra that make up instrumental sound by spurring the creation of a new body of music combining saxophones and percussion, including reconstructed Harry Partch instruments, originally built by the American composer/inventor from 1930–1972. Partch’s “Instrumentariam” is full of fantastical, visually striking creations such as the eucal blossom, spoils of war, and cloud chamber bowls. The project pioneers new possibilities of orchestration and musical color with first-time instrumental pairings that represent enormous unexplored potential.
PRISM and Sō Percussion premiere a new work by Steven Mackey and a new arrangement of Donnacha Dennehy’s “The Pale.” Mackey, 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 premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas’ “Saxophone Quartet,” Bryce Dessner’s “Music for Wood & Strings,” and Hymn from Kati Agócs’ “Coluratura.”