My fourth work inspired by gugak, the traditional music of Korea.

haegeum and cello / ca. 10 min.

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Program Note

Chimera is a high-octane duo for haegeum virtuoso and composer Soo Yeon Lyuh, and the visionary cellist Ashley Bathgate.  The work combines string instruments of vastly different construction, technique, and history, into a single other-worldly voice.  The work marries string instruments ofvastly different construction, technique, and history, into a single other-worldly voice.  “Chimera” refers to a mythical beast that combines various animal parts into something monstrous, or beautiful, or fantastical.  This music has all these elements.  It is cast in a single movement with a number of closely related sections.

This is my fourth work bringing a Korean traditional instrument into a Western music context.  In each one I have taken a different approach, in some cases incorporating aspects of gugak (Korean classical) music.  In this case, it is purely the sound of the two-string fiddle known as haegeum – plaintive, husky, or piercing, often played with a distinctive swoop between notes – that inspires the work.

Both of the musicians had invited me to compose something for them at some point, and it was my idea to combine them as part of my continuing exploration of gugak instruments and sounds.  The two instruments are very difficult to balance and combine, and I could not have completed the work without the generous workshoping provided by Ms. Lyuh and Ms. Bathgate.  I am grateful also to my friend Phyllis Mills, who has supported my work in many ways over the years, for commissioning Chimera.