A playground of the imagination
Theodore Wiprud
Anna Pidgorna
William David Cooper
Eun Young Lee
Ned Rothenberg
Michael Bridge
Omar Chen Guey
Rafi Popper-Keizer
Ned Rothenberg
Satoshi Takeishi
Catalog Number: 

New York, NY

Release Date: 
Sep 25, 2020
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Nong () Nong is an ancient Korean term meaning “to play,” in this case, the joy of discovering new ways of playing with the intersection of different cultures. In this innova release, gamin and her collaborators place instruments and concepts from traditional Korean music alongside a variety of American musical elements. It is the place where two classical traditions meet — Korean and Western — at the playground of the American experience.

On the program, Theodore Wiprud’s Mudang (featuring ETHEL String Quartet with gamin on piri, a reed instrument) incorporates a shamanic energy that ranges from meditation to ecstasy. Ukrainian-Canadian composer, Anna Pidgorna invokes the courtship displays of birds of paradise in her work for saenghwang (a bamboo mouth organ similar to the Chinese sheng) and accordion. Works by William David Cooper and Eun Young Lee weave Western string instruments with Korean winds, incorporating folk tunes and different tuning systems. gamin’s joint improvisation with Ned Rothenberg and Satoshi Takeishi in Jungmori Blues matches Sanjo (scattered melody) percussion rhythms with similar features in the African-American blues tradition.

With Nong, gamin and her collaborators hope to diversify American audiences’ aesthetic understanding of East Asia, which is all too often painted in broad strokes. They also intend to inspire new generations of American composers and musicians to embrace the inherent multiculturalism of American music, inform their crafts with rich traditions from around the world, and approach music-making with the distinct goal of bridging cultural divides.

Taken together, this play of ideas serves to imagine one possible, pancultural, future music.

Gamin Kang, known simply as “gamin,” a distinguished New York City soloist, tours the world performing both traditional Korean music and cross-disciplinary collaborations. She plays three types of Korean winds, and is a designated Yisuja (Senior Diplomate), official holder of Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 46 for Court and Royal Military music. gamin carries an intimate understanding of composing and arranging for Korean instruments, as well as the history and politics that frame them. She earned her Doctorate in Korean Musical Arts at Seoul National University and currently is a visiting scholar at Columbia University.




"The intentions, even if noble, are not always enough to guarantee the validity of a discographic or, more generally, artistic product. In this extraordinary CD by Innova Recordings, however, the ideas behind the project - first and foremost, the desire to create a multicultural fusion between traditional Korean and European music - take shape in highly inspiring compositions, which allow the soloist, Korean musician Gamin Kang, to express his extraordinary virtuosity. Gamin plays three different reed instruments of the Korean tradition, characterized by a sound that has something of the oboe, as well as the harmonica, but which has an absolutely peculiar timbre. Gamin manages to unleash extraordinary power, energy and flexibility; qualities enhanced by top-level travel companions, such as Ethel Quartet, Michael Bridge, Ned Rothenberg, Satoshi Takeishi. Already from the very first notes of the first composition of the CD, by Theodore Wiprud, something magical is perceived, which takes shape - indeed, forms: the most disparate, the most diverse, yet in some way linked to each other, especially in the richness of rhythmic and timbral inventions - in a very dense dialogue between the instruments played by gamin and others of the western tradition (strings, accordion, saxophones, etc.), which sees the alternation of lyrical moments with episodes of overwhelming expressive violence. An emotional variability that we find in the other compositions, where references to Korean folk music emerge as well as, in other cases, to the blues, always coherently linked in imaginative narratives, which in the piece by Anna Pidgorna are inspired by the birds of paradise and their rituals of courtship. And in the final three Jungmori Blues gamin also reveals himself capable of reckless free-jazz improvisation, together with Rothenberg's sax and Takeishi's drums. A multiculturalism of substance and not of facade, therefore, which reveals a new, unprecedented and engaging - or better: enthralling - approach to the encounter between styles, sounds, traditions, musical worlds." [FULL ARTICLE] - Marco Paolucci