24. July 2020

Lockdown Tape #37


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Sehyung KimSIJO_170213 (2013) for trumpet

Marco Blaauw, trumpet

Janet Sinica, video
Daniel Seitz, sound design

Marco Blaauw on how he got to know the composer and this piece in the times of the Corona-Virus-lockdown:

I have no recollection of how the one-page score of SIJO_170213 got into my archive, but I often looked at it, even printed it out to pin it on my wall, because it looked so beautiful to me. I never attempted to play it.
The title made this piece look like a page from a catalog. The score consists of only three lines with limited pitch material and, at first sight, looked more like a study or a sketch.

The lockdown of the past few months created lots of time and space to try out many old and new ideas that would normally get lost in hectic daily life.
This time I put the score on my music stand and made the first attempt to play these abstract looking gestures on the trumpet.
While practicing, I soon got stuck with questions – it was time to get to know the composer a little better:

Sehyung (Sergey) Kim was born in 1987 in Kazakhstan to Korean parents. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory and, from 2013 to 2019, undertook his master’s degree in composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz with Beat Furrer, Pierluigi Billone and Bernhard Lang. From 2011 to 2012, he also received private composition lessons from Dmitri Kourliandski. Sehyung has won numerous prizes in international competitions for his works, which range from solo compositions to music theater. Since 2019, his works, both as scores and CDs, have been published by the St. Petersburg Center for Contemporary Music https://en.remusik.org/resources/composers/sehyungkim/

In the CD booklet of Sehyung Kim’s last CD “Three Sijo”, Beat Furrer writes:
“… This music expresses the personality of a composer with Far Eastern roots in a language without any hint of eclectic sound-painting. Constantly researching, constantly looking for new forms, by concentrating and focusing on what is essential, he has already managed to find a sound very much his own.”

Sehyung Kim replied promptly to my first email in which I asked him about the piece:
“…This piece is part of big cycle called “Sijo_Book I” (which in turn is part of the mega cycle Sijo) and consisting of 21 solo works. All of them are united by the method of writing, which I borrow from the structure of Korean classical poetry…”

Indeed, to perform this piece feels like reciting a poem.
There are three phrases (23, 26, 29 beats long), two pitches, fifteen bars, seven breaths, and three different parameters coloring the sound.
Every gesture gains weight towards the middle by adding multiphonics. This is the first score I have encountered that uses a double distortion: the voice enters in every crescendo, almost creating a harmony, until the lips start distorting the actual pitch, resulting in a very dense, complex sound. There is very little sense of technical control. Instead, these sounds demand a “letting go” (I don’t like being this vague, but find no other words). They arise in the expression of that moment and create their own shape.
The execution requires full commitment with high concentration and an empty mind, as if the composer invites us to a sacred ceremony.
Every phrase opens a silence that allows us to listen deeper: how long can we still hear the echo? How long can we feel its weight? How long can we hold our breath?
The comparison of a little stone breaking through the surface of a quiet lake comes to my mind. Lots of circles shoot from the point where the stone disappeared. Only when the last rings start slowing down, just before the water comes to rest, it is time to choose between starting the next phrase or just to remain in a silent timeless space.
– Marco Blaauw, July 2020