"Gugak" refers to any music - even modern music - played on traditional Korean instruments. The South Korean government sponsors a "National Gugak Center" to promote performances of new compositions as well as traditional music for Korean instruments. The Gugak Center holds a biennial composition competition, and my "Chamber Symphony in Sinawai-jo" was selected as one of several winners in 2011. I am the first composer not of Korean descent to win this award. I was extremely fortunate to hear the National Orchestra of Korea, lead by Kim Man-Seok, premeire this work at the Gugak Center in Seoul.
"Sinawai" is a style of traditional, mostly improvised Korean music. "Sinawi-jo" would translate as something like "Sinawi-mode," and indicates not only a collection of pitches, but also a musical vocabulary of traditional motivic and rhythmic gestures around which Sinawi improvisation would be based. My work is not improvised; but rather combines gestures from Sinawi with more Western ideas of musical structure and motivic development.
Seola Kim, Ajaeng; John Chow Seymour, Percussion | 김설아 아쟁, 준 차우 세모어 타악기
This arrangement of the third movement was created especially for Ajaeng virtuoso Seola Kim. The Third movement in the original version already opens with an Ajaeng solo, which remains unchanged; however, when arranging the remainder of the piece for a solo instrument I focused on ways in which the Ajaeng could create a variety of textures and contrasts rather than on being true to the original composition. Performance with a Korean Changgu drum is recommended; as no one trained in Changgu was available for this performance in Honolulu, the percussion part has been arranged for a pair of toms.