I’m happy to share the news of the release of a CD recording of my work, Celebrations, for 18-string kayagŭm, on Jung Gil Seon’s Gayageum Creative Works Series VII: “Sanjo & Sanjo.” This work was premiered at the National Gugak Center, Korea’s national center for traditional performing arts in Seoul, by Jung Gil Seon in 2013. The CD also includes works by Donald Reid Womack, Thomas Osborne, and Sunghwan Yang.
Celebrations explores the many means of the title, from its association with jubilant festivities to its solemn religious connotation. The music alternates between an energetic, syncopated opening and a series of contrasting passages, which are variously quirky, mysterious, and dance-like. Gradually the opening material is transformed and recast, and the work ends in a warm, melodic, romantic landscape, quite different from where it began.
Celebrations is part of a series of works for Korean traditional instruments alone or in combination with western instruments or electronics, which I have composed over the last five years. In writing for kayagŭm, the traditional Korean zither, I wanted to showcase the instrument’s tender, earthy color and its ability to weep, to question, and to speak through nuanced bending of pitch. In addition, by tuning the top five strings a half step higher, I was able to expand the instrument’s harmonic possibilities, exploring its traditional pentatonic tuning, alongside polytonal and Romantic-era harmony.
Listen to a recording of Celebrations here.