Composer’s work debuts at Carnegie Hall

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Composer’s work debuts at Carnegie Hall

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World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, a non-profit artistic organization founded in 1998 to act as an umbrella organization for numerous artistic, cultural and educational programs, played Korean-American composer Kim Jee-young’s new piece “Ancient Bell” for the first time at New York’s Carnegie Hall last week.
Kim, who studied composition at Yonsei University before going on to receive a Masters in Music at Indiana University and a doctorate in musical arts from Yale University, is currently working as a composer for the San Francisco Performances. In 2001, Ma commissioned her to compose “Tryst” for the Silk Road Ensemble, which its gayageum (a Korean string instrument) trio of gayageum, cello and oboe performed.
The second work of this kind which the cellist entrusted to the composer was “Ancient Bell (Korean title ― Amilre Bell),” made for a quartet of cello, violin, janggo (a Korean percussion instrument) and ney (an Iranian woodwind). The largest bell in Korea, legend has it that the Amilre Bell has a peculiar sound because a baby was melted along with the metal to make it. The composition, in which Western, Korean and Iranian instruments merged, was performed in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.
During the performances on Sept. 16 and 17, Ma played the cello and Kim Dong-won, who has been a member of the Silk Road Ensemble since 2001, played the janggo. Typically, a janggo performer has two parts to his or her performance ― playing the instrument and humming without lyrics. In this Carnegie Hall performance, Ma made sounds by tapping on his cello while Kim sang with no lyrics. At the start and end of the piece, a pre-recorded sound of the Amilre Bell was played.
Also, to lessen the distance between the audience and the players, the performance was in the round, with the stage placed in the center of the audience.
This Silk Road Ensemble performance in Carnegie Hall was a finale for its September workshop (held from September 6 to 15) at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. Along with “Ancient Bell,” a total of seven new compositions were performed by artists of the Silk Road Project.
“I tried to capture my ancestors’ hopes in bringing blessings to the world through the sound of the Amilre Bell,” said the composer Kim, adding, “I wrote the notes after analyzing and reinterpreting the musical scales and melodies of the bell. The rhythm originated from traditional Korean exorcism rituals.” She said that Ma, when he came to Korea to play “Tryst,” showed special interest in the legend of the Amilre Bell and that when she received the letter from Ma asking her to compose a piece about the bell, he also sent a box full of theses and articles on the Amilre Bell.
Recently, Kim also finished a composition titled “Tripitaka Koreana,” which was commissioned by cellist Yang Seung-won. The piece was written for a trio of violin, cello and daegum (a Korean flute). The Yang Trio (formed to celebrate the 120th year of the diplomatic relationship between Korea and France) is set to perform the premiere of this composition in Paris on September 25. Professional daegum performer Ahn seong-wan will also participate.
From October 8, Kim’s “Tripitaka Koreana” will be performed in four cities in Korea, starting at Hapcheon in South Gyeongsang province, and ending at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul.


by Lee Jang-jik
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