A work for piri (a traditional Korean bamboo oboe) with Western strings, based on the Korean classical form sanjo.

for piri and string quartet, or piri and cello / 11 min.
(soprano saxophone may be substituted for piri)

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Program Note

Program Note

Mudang came into being through my acquaintance with the extraordinary piri player Gamin on one of her visits to New York. She kindly accepted my offer to compose something for her with string quartet, and then provided me with volumes of information on the traditional and classical repertory of the piri. The instrument’s sound fascinates me – both earthy and otherworldly, so simple yet so rich. The classical form of sanjo provided me a shape for my piece: a series of short movements, each with a specific rhythmic pattern, played without pause with increasing tempo. The string quartet ETHEL proved an equal partner as well, workshopping my various ideas for creating a unified sound world for these diverse instruments. The Korean concept of pitch is quite variable – any note can be a gesture with rising or falling attack, middle, and release. In Mudang, the strings find their own ways to do likewise – sometimes taking the role of the single drum (janggu) that traditionally accompanies sanjo, and sometimes shadowing the piri’s lines. Despite the classical form, I gravitated toward the shamanistic side of the instrument’s heritage (mudang means shaman) and composed music that ranges from meditation to ecstasy.

Mudang has two versions: one for piri with string quartet, premiered by Gamin and ETHEL at Music Mountain June 14, 2014; and one for piri with cello, premiered by Gamin with Joon Ho Shim in Vienna on May 16, 2014. Mudang was generously commissioned by Dale Frehse and Phyllis Mills.