Under the Sun
(for Traditional Korean Orchestra)
written by Hyo-shin Na
December 2005 - I happened to find a copy of the bible that Barry Moser designed and illustrated (the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, Viking Studio Edition, 1999) in a San Francisco bookstore. Of the more than 230 wood engravings he had made for this edition, I was most deeply impressed by "Under the Sun" (page 548), depicting lines from Chapter 1/Ecclesiastes, and right away ideas for a piece of music began to occur to me.
July 2006 - The Korean Traditional Orchestra at the National Theatre commissioned me to write a piece relating in some way to Christianity and I began to put my ideas down on paper. In "Under the Sun", Moser had portrayed the sunlight emanating from a single point in the sky, spreading in many different directions toward the earth and, as I wrote, I thought of lines from Ecclesiastes ("Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity ... I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of the spirit") and also from Genesis ("In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth ... and God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good").
The instrumentation of the work is that of the Korean Traditional Orchestra at the National Theatre, using only traditional instruments and avoiding modernized or modified instruments. The piece consists of two large sections, played without pause: "Let There Be Light", made up of seven shorter passages, each of the first six played by a different group within the larger ensemble, each beginning with the same music - Formlessness/Void/Darkness - and moving to its own unique sounds - 1: Light, 2: Firmament, 3: the Earth/the Seas/Plants, 4: Sun/Moon/Stars, 5: Fish/Fowl, 6: Animals/Man - then continuing to the seventh passage - Co-existence - where the entire orchestra plays together for the first time; and "Under the Sun", the second large section.
I wrote the two main sections of the piece using two different processes. "Let There Be Light" came largely from the world around me, a sort of writing by looking outward, finding sounds, colors, motions, observing the changing light in man-made and natural objects and settings, photographing and recording sounds in the mountains, on beaches, on city streets, trying to avoid a simple expression of my emotions. "Under The Sun", on the other hand was written from my impressions of Moser's work of the same name, a more inward-looking process. Here I made my meditations on his visual art the source for my acoustic art.
The jangdan (traditional Korean rhythmic pattern) is often present in the piece. For these sections, the conductor ceases to conduct and, instead, plays a percussion instrument while the orchestra members co-ordinate simply by listening. In sections where the jangdan isn't given, the players follow the conductor's beat. In this way, I hoped to maintain the integrity of the jangdan for traditional musicians while not confining them to the jangdan. The conductor also retains the historical role of "leader" of the orchestra, but in a looser or more expanded way. In addition to playing their instruments, the musicians at times use their voices. These vocal sounds are as important, as musical materials, as the instrumental sounds. Certain of the musicians move through the space during the piece, changing location to create movement of sound and texture.
'Under the Sun' was completed in July 2007 as the first in a series of works relating to "light" and will be followed by 'Not the Object Alone' which will be premiered by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and the Ives String Quartet in March 2009.