Emily Koh
Philipp Stäudlin
New Thread Quartet
Jonathan Hulting-Cohen
Kristen McKeon
Erin Rogers
Zach Herchen
Noa Even
Catalog Number: 
#1 055
new classical
Release Date: 
Jul 23, 2021
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Emily Koh draws interest out of the things many of us may not even notice, and these overlooked minutiae and intricacies lead to new horizons in her work. Her new album [word]plays is full of frenetic and sonorous beauty, and represents her interest and exploration of the sounds, meanings, and interpretations of words, as a multi-linguist artist whose native tongue is an English-based creole language (Singlish).

[word]plays is an album of microtonal works for saxophone(s) inspired by the similarly named literary technique in which witty word-use becomes the subject of the work. The central works in [word]plays are three saxophone quartets - homonym (2013), heteronym/ (2016) and cryptonym: (2018) - composed for the Amigo Saxophone Quartet, PRISM Quartet, and New Thread Quartet respectively. These quartets take their inspiration from the meanings of the compound words formed when the -onym suffix is attached after a root word. 

・ homonyms are words that are spelled identically and sound the same, but have different meanings

・ heteronyms are words that are spelled identically, but are pronounced differently, and have different meanings

・ cryptonyms are code names or secret words 

Flanking the quartets are medi+aTion (2016) and b(locked.orders) (2019). These solo works are named with neologisms which include special symbols, giving these titles a polysemic quality. medi+aTion (2016) can be read as ‘meditation’ or ‘mediation’, and looks within for inner meanings and unfoldings. b(locked.orders) (2019) can be read as ‘blocked borders’ or ‘blocked orders’, and sonifies the stifled voices of immigrants in their adoptive countries, as well as silenced minorities within their home countries. The version of b(locked.orders), with video art by Michiko Saiki can be viewed at emilykoh.net

Emily Koh (b.1986) is a Singaporean composer and double bassist based in Atlanta, whose music is characterized by inventive explorations of the intricacies of sound. She is also an amateur multi-disciplinary artist and enjoys collaborating with creatives of other specializations, especially when sound plays a central role in the project.




"Emily Koh’s biography lists her as: “composer+” a suggestion that in addition to being a composer, she is also a bassist. However, that mathematical sign does not even begin to describe her prodigious gifts as a multi-disciplinary artist. This enables her to inform her radiant music with experiences from across the visual and sonic artistic spectrum. Remarkably, on the repertoire for the album [word]plays, Koh also adds a literary dimension to her compositions." [FULL ARTICLE]


"Compositions by Emily Koh are interpreted by Philip Staudin/bs, Noa Even/ss and the four read New Thread Quartet. The emphasis is on finding out various ranges that the reeds can arrive at, as “Meditation” has Staudin going into the subbest of subtones while Even’s soprano goes higher than altissimo on “B(locked.orders)”. The four saxes get both velvety and prismatic on high  pitched “Cryptonym” and long tones echo and pads flutter for “ Heteronym”. A walk through sharp reeds by the bank." [FULL ARTICLE]