Blue Yellow River
For Kayageum, Cello and Double Bass
The title and much of the pitch material for Blue Yellow River comes from Hwanghacheong (a piece of Korean Court music). Hwanghacheong evokes a time so peaceful that even the Yellow River will turn blue.
The inspiration for Blue Yellow River came from the composer’s re-visit, after 20 years, to Seok-gu-ram (in the old Shilla capital of Kyungju), the site of the much-venerated 1250-year-old statue of Buddha. This statue is known for its unusually tranquil appearance and is the subject of the following poem by the 20th Century poet Chee-hwan Yu:
Great Buddha Statue of Seok-gu-ram
My throat tightens
I sit as a piece of stone, eyes closed.
For one thousand years
Faint veins under cold skin
Look at my flowing breath.
Sensing gentle distant breeze
Leaf of east sea lotus
Screaming of crow and magpie
And light on my forehead of the dawn moon.
Who would believe!
To endure this unbearable weeping
I sit as a piece of stone
Solitary lotus position.
Two kayageums are used in the piece: 1 – Sanjo kayageum (a smaller instrument often used in fast music, and virtuoso instrumental pieces), and 2 – Peopgeum (larger, playing mostly slow music, and Court music). In Blue Yellow River, the composer has occasionally departed from the traditional manner of playing the kayageum. For example, instead of damping each note as playing the next note (as is usual in traditional kayageum music), here the player will, in certain passages, let the notes ring, allowing the sounds to overlap and accumulate. Also, the player is asked to produce non-traditional timbres by plucking the strings in a variety of places, by muting the strings with the hand and by placing a metal thimble against the strings.
The Cellist and the Double Bass player are asked to play the entire piece with a very loose bow in order to create continuously changing colors.
The composer’s piece for solo kayageum Upon Returning From Seok-Gu-Ram is a companion piece to Blue Yellow River which was written for and premiered at the 2000 Other Minds Festival by Jiyoung Yi, Joan Jeunrenaud, and Richard Worn.
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