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SIJO for orchestra



duration: 15 minutes

2017 Asia Cultural Center Contemporary Performing Arts Festival
Ditto Orchestra, Adrial Kim
Gwangju, South Korea
September 22, 2017

Commissioned by the Asia Culture Center for the
2017 ACC Contemporary Performing Arts Festival

Program Note:

You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine.
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade.
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask?

Yun Seondo (1587–1671)

Sijo is a Korean poetic form structured in three lines, introducing a situation in line 1, a development in line 2, and a twist and conclusion in line 3. This lyric pattern gained popularity in royal courts as a vehicle for religious or philosophical expression, but a parallel tradition arose among the commoners. Sijo were sung or chanted with musical accompaniment, and this tradition survives. The word originally referred only to the music, but it has come to be identified with the lyrics.

My work takes the beautiful text by Yun Seondo as inspiration and structure. Indeed, the translation above is set to music, and one might hear phrases that could be sung with the text. Near the beginning, the orchestra recites the second half of the first line, introducing four of the five "companions." The first two thirds of the piece is an exploration of music representing water, stone, bamboo and pine. After reaching a moment of calm, the fifth companion – the rising moon, is introduced; then the music gradually builds to a rather dramatic statement of the questioning final line, followed by a calm reflection of the concluding clause, "what other pleasures should I ask?"

David Dzubay (July 2017)