1. Mudang 11:10
ETHEL string quartet
On the Courtship Displays of Birds-of-Paradise
Michael Bridge, accordion
2. The Black Sicklebill 4:24
3. Parotia 3:59
4. The Princess Marcia 4:13
Two Pieces for Piri and Strings
William David Cooper
Omar Chen Guey, violin
Rafi Popper-Keizer, cello
5. I. Impromptu 3:03
6. II. Variations 6:03
Eun Young Lee 7:23
gamin, piri & saenghwang
Omar Chen Guey, violin
Rafi Popper-Keizer, cello
gamin & Ned Rothenberg
gamin, piri & taepyungso
Ned Rothenberg, bass clarinet & saxophone
Satoshi Takeishi, percussion
8. Jungmori 6:43
9. Jungjungmori 4:35
10. Jajinmori 4:57
— 56:31 —
Nong is an ancient Korean term meaning “to play,” and the central idea of this project is discovering new ways of playing between musical instruments and forms from different cultures. Brought together by a mutual fascination for fusing musical traditions from around the world with contemporary classical music in the US, gamin and her collaborators seek to introduce instruments and concepts from traditional Korean music to American audiences through chamber music that incorporates elements of both traditional Korean and Western Classical music.
In this album, gamin’s ensemble, in many ways, is a combination of East and West, such as in instruments, composers, musicians, ideas, etc. In this way the “play” among these people and elements also allows us to imagine new arts, future music, and creative work.
Nong is conceived and organized by gamin, a performer and scholar of traditional Korean music who has toured extensively in Korea, Europe, and the US sharing her knowledge of cultural intersections between Korean and Western music. A 10-year assistant principal player of traditional Korean wind instruments at the Contemporary Gugak Orchestra in Korea (the national hub for training and preserving Korean traditional music), gamin carries an intimate understanding of composing and arranging for Korean instruments, as well as the history and politics that frame them. She also brings a wealth of interdisciplinary experience, having recorded and performed with New York-based contemporary musicians through an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship, and toured American universities such as Harvard, Dartmouth, and UCLA presenting Korean music in a series of lecture-performances.
With the release of Nong, gamin and her collaborators hope to diversify Americans audiences’ aesthetic understanding of East Asia, which can often be painted in broad strokes. They also aim 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.
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.
On the Courtship Displays of Birds-of-Paradise
The Black Sicklebill is a great shape shifter. He transforms from a fairly ordinary looking, long-tailed black bird into something resembling a black comet by arranging a fan of feathers around his head and torso thus creating a perfect iridescent blue outline. Undulating enticingly while perched on a well-selected stump, the male rubs his feathers together to produce an irresistible knocking sound to attract the female.
The Parotia Bird-of-Paradise is a highly skilled dancer. The male prepares a stage below a perfectly placed perch which can accommodate multiple viewers, making sure that each leaf is placed just so and all obstacles are removed. When the audience begins to arrive, he lifts up his feathers into a tutu and performs a carefully choreographed dance while waving around two iridescent pendants suspended from his head on long, elegantly arched chords. This particular male has also borrowed some highly affective feather fan sweeps from a neighbouring Riflebird.
The Princess Marcia is unusual in that the female sports surprisingly elaborate plumage. With her silky charcoal-grey body and golden halo of feathers around her head, she appears to show absolutely no interest in the more plain-looking male. She continues to hop from fruit to fruit, munching and chirping happily, as he clumsily, though desperately tries to fit himself around her. It is fortunate that this species is entirely made up, because it is unclear how it would actually manage to reproduce.
This work was commissioned for gamin and Michael Bridge by Soundstreams in Toronto, Canada.
Two Pieces for Piri and Strings
William David Cooper
During my graduate studies in California, piri player gamin visited and gave a guest lecture on the piri, as well as the saenghwang, taepyoungso and Korean traditional music. I was deeply impressed by her artistry and the beauty of these instruments, particularly the piri. I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to compose a piece for her for piri and strings. My trio is structured in two movements. The first is a lyrical impromptu that utilizes three of the techniques I feel the piri does best: long crescendi, glissandi, and wide vibrato. In this movement the strings are muted and play a supporting role. In the second movement, a set of variations, the strings become full participants with the piri. The variations range in mood from comical, to inwardly expressive, to violent, before building to a climax where the melody from the opening movement returns in a new context.
Eun Young Lee
Writing for Korean and Western instruments together, with their totally different tuning system and sound spectrum of the instruments, and without resorting to cliché, is a challenge. Each of the five sections of this piece is based on a different Korean folk tune. These tunes are not explicitly in the foreground, but are embedded in the texture. I also experimented with different rhythmic pulses throughout the piece while holding the different sounds of piri, saenghwang, violin and cello together tightly. The title, Bagooni, means basket in Korean. My grandfather used to make baskets with leftover plastic strings. This great recycling item was used for all kinds of purposes - for food, toys, and miscellaneous. It was so strong and sturdy even though the material was cheap plastic threads. My grandfather also was a unique person who strongly stood against Japanese colonization but also had a positive attitude and saw the value of learning the strengths of Japanese culture. This piece is to celebrate the 100 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
gamin & Ned Rothenberg
“Jungmori Blues” is a work commissioned for the New York Sanjo festival, 2018. Co-composers gamin and Ned Rothenberg premièred this work in May 2018 at the New York Asia Society. Sanjo is an improvised form of Korean music that arose from Shamanist rites, an animistic religion, and later developed into a unique instrumental music form, similar to the blues, which was developed by enslaved African-Americans based upon African traditional and religious music.
Based upon this shared history, we conceived Jungmori Blues, Jungmori being one of Sanjo’s rhythmic patterns. Based on both Sanjo’s scale (gyemyunjo) and the blues’ scale, we have created an improvisation based on Sanjo’s rhythms. We combined traditional Korean winds, piri and taepyongso, with Western instruments often appearing in the blues, such as bass clarinet and and saxophone.
At the work’s première, Jungmori Blues was performed as an accompaniment for a Korean percussion, janggo, which is a traditional style for Sanjo. Later, for a subsequent performance, in November 2018, at the Smithsonian Freer-Sackler Gallery in D.C., we expanded the role of Korean percussion instruments in improvisation. A Sanjo typically begins with a solo instrumentalist playing the slow Jinyang Jangdan 16-beat, but Jungmori Blues as an original composition, is accelerated to Jungjungmori and Jajinmori rhythms. Each of 2 musicians plays 1 of 2 instruments successively, accompanied by percussion.
Gamin Kang, known simply as “gamin,” a distinguished NYC soloist, tours the world performing both traditional Korean music and cross-disciplinary collaborations. gamin plays 3 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 earned her Doctorate in Korean Musical Arts at Seoul National University and currently, is a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
Re-inventing new sonorities from ancient, somewhat restrictive, musical systems, gamin has participated in several cultural exchange programs, as Artist-in-Residence at Asian Cultural Council and Penn. She has presented lecture/concerts at Harvard and Dartmouth, and at international universities in Paris, Bangkok, and Tashkent. gamin has collaborated in cross-cultural improvisation with world-acclaimed musicians presenting premières at the New School, Roulette, and Metropolitan Museum, NYC. She was featured artist at the Silkroad concert, Seoul, 2018, performing on-stage with Yo-Yo Ma.
gamin has produced 5 albums and has performed with several major orchestras. gamin’s Carnegie Hall début as featured soloist with the Nangye Gugak Orchestra of Korea, scheduled for March 27, 2020, was postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic until a later date.
Theodore Wiprud is a composer, educator, and arts leader based in New York. Among his recent orchestral works, Wind of Many Voices (2018) responds to the landscapes, people, and history of South Dakota. His Sinfonietta (2016) was inspired by the poetry of Hafez. His study of gugak (traditional Korean music) over recent years has produced a body of chamber and orchestral works such as Nonghyun for gayageum with string quartet, Mudang for piri with string quartet; Chimera for haegeum and cello; and Four Little Pieces for Gayageum. Recent vocal works include the dramatic song cycle Girl on Fire with poet/soprano Emma Stace Darling, and a chamber opera, My Last Duchess.
Mr. Wiprud is widely known for having led education programs and hosted the iconic Young People’s Concert at the New York Philharmonic. More recently, he served as Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the South Dakota Symphony.
Anna Pidgorna (b. 1985) is a Ukrainian-born, Canadian-raised composer and multi-media artist who combines sound, visual arts, writing and carpentry to create works that are dramatic and picturesque. She works extensively with Ukrainian folk singing incorporating elements of this style in instrumental music and performing as a pseudo-folk vocalist herself. With an enduring love for the outdoors, Pidgorna draws a great deal of inspiration from the natural soundscape often imitating birds and animals. Having studied visual arts from an early age, she incorporates visual elements into some of her manuscripts. She has been commissioned by Wild Shore Festival, Irish Language Art Song Project, Ludovico Ensemble, Ensemble Paramirabo, 21C Festival, Soundstreams, Toronto’s New Music Concerts, Gryphon Trio, and Thin Edge New Music Collective. She is a recipient of two SOCAN Foundation Emerging Composers’ Awards and represented Canada at the ISCM World New Music Days 2013 festival in Vienna. Pidgorna holds a PhD in Music Composition from Princeton University.
Composer/Performer Ned Rothenberg has been internationally acclaimed for both his solo and ensemble music, presented for the past 33 years on 5 continents. He performs primarily on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, and the shakuhachi - an endblown Japanese bamboo flute. His solo work utilizes an expanded palette of sonic language, creating a kind of personal idiom all its own. In an ensemble setting, he leads the trio Sync, with Jerome Harris, guitars and Samir Chatterjee, tabla, works with the Mivos string quartet playing his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and collaborates around the world with fellow improvisors. Recent recordings include this Quintet, The World of Odd Harmonics, Ryu Nashi (new music for shakuhachi), and Inner Diaspora, all on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, as well as Live at Roulette with Evan Parker, and The Fell Clutch, on Rothenberg’s Animul label.
Satoshi Takeishi, drummer, percussionist, and arranger is a native of Mito, Japan. He studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. While at Berklee he developed an interest in the music of South America and went to live in Colombia following the invitation of a friend. He spent four years there and forged many musical and personal relationships. One of the projects he worked on while in Colombia was ‘Macumbia’ with composer/arranger Francisco Zumaque in which traditional, jazz and classical music were combined. With this group he performed with the Bogota symphony orchestra to do a series of concerts honoring the music of the most popular composer in Colombia, Lucho Bermudes. In 1986 he returned to Miami, U.S. where he began working as an arranger/producer as well as a performer.
In 1987 he produced ‘Morning Ride’ for jazz flutist Nestor Torres on Polygram Records. His interest expanded to the rhythms and melodies of the Middle East where he studied and performed with Armenian-American oud master Joe Zeytoonian. Since moving to New York in 1991 he has performed and recorded in vast variety of genre, from world music, jazz, contemporary classical music to experimental electronic music with musicians such as Ray Barretto, Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdes, Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson, Eddie Gomez, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Anthony Braxton, Mark Murphy, Herbie Mann, Paul Winter Consort, Rabih Abu Khalil, Erik Friedlander, Ned Rothenberg, MIchael Attias, Shoko Nagai, Paul Giger, Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band, Ying String Quartet, Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, Dhafer Youssef, Lalo Schifrin and Pablo Ziegler to name a few. He continues to explore multi-cultural, electronics and improvisational music with local musicians and composers in New York.
Eun Young Lee has been praised for her “imaginative use of distinctive sonorities” and writes music in a variety of styles. She has worked with the New York New Music Ensemble, Pacifica Quartet, eighth blackbird, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Gemini Ensemble, ECCE, Antico Moderno, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, disson Art ensemble, and ensemble mise-en, among other ensembles. Many of her works have been commissioned and have received a number of awards, including first prize at the Tsang-Houei Hsu International Music Composition Competition in Taiwan. Her compositions have also been selected for broadcasts. She earned a PhD at the University of Chicago, and has served on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory since 2014 as well as at Tufts University as a visiting lecturer in 2016-2017.
Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle for his richly soaring vocal lines, William David Cooper is the composer of three operas, and music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, Baroque instruments, chorus, film, and dance. His operas have been performed by Fort Worth Opera, West Edge Opera, and the National Opera Association, among others. His music has also been performed by Augustin Hadelich, Liza Stepanova, The New York Virtuoso Singers, C4, Antico Moderno, Splinter Reeds, the Lysander Trio, ECCE Ensemble, the Calder Quartet, the Slee Sinfonietta, and the Juilliard Orchestra. An alumnus of UC Davis and the Juilliard School, Cooper serves on the faculty of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and as organist and choirmaster at St. James Episcopal Church in New London, CT.
Rafi Popper-Keizer picked up a bow when he was two years old and hasn’t put it down since. From an early age, however, his clearest affinities were mathematical, and it was on this basis that he was accepted as a full-time student at the University of California of Santa Cruz at age 12, by which point he had already completed two years of undergraduate coursework at that institution. Just for a little variety, he enrolled in a music theory and literature class. The following semester, he changed his major and never looked back. In 1995, Rafi moved to the East Coast to pursue a Masters of Music and Artist Diploma at the New England Conservatory. From that time he has been a prominent member of the Boston arts scene, twice dubbed a local heroby the Boston Globe. He is the principal cellist with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Emmanuel Music, Chameleon Arts Ensemble, Monadnock Music, Cantata Singers, and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and enjoys regular or guest affiliations with numerous other organizations including Winsor Music, Sound/Icon, and the Ludovico Ensemble. Rafi is featured on over two dozen recordings, which include the premieres of Robert Erickson’s Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra, Thomas Oboe Lee’s cello concerto Eurydice, Malcolm Peyton’s unaccompanied Cello Piece, and Yehudi Wyner’s De Novo for cello and small chamber ensemble. Hismost recent recording is of major unaccompanied works by Kodaly and Boston-based composer Ralf Gawlick, Musica Omnia. Rafi has been a member of A Far Cry since 2017. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and two children. His hobbies include semicolons.
Brazilian violinist Omar Chen Guey has performed internationally as a soloist with orchestras, in recitals and chamber concerts throughout Brazil as well as the United States, Europe, Qatar, Taiwan, Kenya and the Seychelles. He has been a featured soloist with the Brazilian, Campinas, Goiania, Minas Gerais, Claudio Santoro National Theater, Sao Paulo University, Sao Paulo Municipal, and the State of Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Amazonas Philharmonic, Petrobras Pro-Musica, Experimental Repertoire, Qatar Philharmonic, Manhattan School of Music, Stony Brook University Symphony, Maidstone Symphony and the Seychelles International Music Festival Orchestras. Following a recital in Oslo, Norway, he had the honor of performing for the King of Norway, Harald V. He is a prizewinner at both Tibor Varga and Lipizer International Violin Competitions in Switzerland and Italy, respectively. Mr. Guey premiered the Violin Concerto by Jean-Charles Gandrille with the Qatar Philharmonic. This performance has been released on the French label Paraty. He released the Bach Concerto for Two Violins on the Paulinas Label with the Brazilian soloist Elisa Fukuda and the Camerata Fukuda, of which he was also concertmaster. He premiered and released a work for solo violin of renowned French Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife on Nagan records. He participated in the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop and has collaborated with such renowned musicians such as Lynn Harrell, Ani Kavafian, David Finckel, Lawrence Dutton, Kikuei Ikeda and Colin Carr. He is a member of A Far Cry, a two-time Grammy nominated self conducted chamber orchestra. A Far Cry performs multiple different programs in Boston each season and has toured extensively throughout the USA, Canada and Austria. He is the assistant concertmaster of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and member of the New England Camerata Trio, which performs several chamber concerts in Vermont and New Hampshire each season. He is a regular guest artist with various ensembles around Boston, including the Walden Chamber Players, Radius Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Boston Lyric Opera, Odyssey Opera and the Monadnock Music Festival, among others. Mr. Guey’s principal teachers were Philip Setzer, Ani Kavafian and Pamela Frank, Robert Mann and Sylvia Rosenberg. He was awarded a full scholarship from the Brazilian government, the Juilliard School and the Aspen Music Festival Fellowship. He was assistant concertmaster of the Orquesta de la Comunidad Valenciana, in Valencia, Spain, under the direction of Lorin Maazel. He has served as concertmaster of the Jerusalem International Symphony Orchestra in Israel, and guest assistant concertmaster with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet.
Established in New York City in 1998, ETHEL quickly earned a reputation as one of America’s most adventurous string quartets. Twenty years later, the band continues to set the standard for contemporary concert music. Known for its enlivened playing, blending uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing, ETHEL has been described as “indefatigable and eclectic” (The New York Times), “vital and brilliant” (The New Yorker), and “infectiously visceral” (Pitchfork). Since its inception, ETHEL has released ten feature recordings (one of them nominated for a Native American Music Award), performed as guests on 35+ albums, won a GRAMMY® with jazz legend Kurt Elling, and performed in 14 countries, 45 states, and 250 cities.
At the heart of ETHEL is a collaborative ethos – a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. In addition to premiering 21st century works by a broad range of groundbreaking composers, the quartet creates and tours rich, often multimedia, productions in which community engagement is a key element. ETHEL is currently touring the evening-length ETHEL’s Documerica, inspired by the tens of thousands of images shot as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s decade-long Project Documerica. Launched in 1971, the initiative commissioned photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. Directed by OBIE Award-winner Steve Cosson, with projection design by Deborah Johnson, ETHEL’s Documerica features new works by ETHEL members and music the quartet commissioned from other uniquely American artists. The quartet released the album Documerica (Innova Recordings) in 2015. Other current evening-length programs include The River, a collaboration with Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal (The River [Innova Recordings] was released in 2016). Grace, a journey toward redemption in music, featuring ETHEL’s own adaptation of Ennio Morricone’s moving score to the 1986 film, The Mission, works by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Hildegard von Bingen, and Zuni and Hawaiian ritual chants; and Circus: Wandering City, which explores the phenomenon of circus through the eyes and insights of people who have created its special thrills and illusions. Co-commissioned by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling) in Sarasota, Florida, and Brooklyn Academy of Music, the immersive work combines projections of stunning images, films and interviews from the Museum’s archives, the words of circus performers past and present, and original music composed and performed live by ETHEL. Circus: Wandering City made its world premiere in January 2018—the 250th anniversary of the modern circus—at The Ringling, and its New York premiere at the BAM Next Wave Festival in November 2018.
ETHEL is Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Tema Watstein (violin)
Canadian accordionist Michael Bridge is internationally-renowned for his warm stage personality and versatility. One of CBC’s “30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30”, he made his solo debut with the Boston Pops and gives 100 concerts annually in Europe and the Americas. His debut solo album, “Overture”, was named CBC Album of the Week. Bridge’s broad repertoire of ‘concert music’ includes baroque, classical, jazz, many folk genres, and over 50 world premieres. A doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, Bridge’s first accordion was purchased at a garage sale for $5 when he was five. Two decades later, he is redefining the perception of his traditional instrument.
Executive Director: Gerald Chenoweth
Anna Pidgorna and Florent Ghys (Birds of Paradise)
Rob Friedman (Jungmori Blues)
Randy Crafton (Mudang)
Tarik Mahrour / Assistant engineer, Protools
Operator: Caleb Stein & Hanbo Hong (Bagooni / Two pieces for Piri and Strings)
Rob Friedman (Bird of Paradise, Jungmori Blues)
Randy Crafton (Mudang)
Mastering Engineer: Rob Friedman at
littlelife music, New York
Kaleidoscope Sound, Union City, NJ (Mudang, 2014)
Princeton University Department of Music (Bird of Paradise, 2018)
Shames Family Scoring Stage -studio1, Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA (Bagooni / Two Pieces for Piri and Strings, 2019)
David Cossin’s Studio, NY (Jungmori Blues, 2020)
Supporters: Hyun Tak Lee, Hong-Woo Lee, Unnamed Kim
Photography: Kangryeong Lee
Innova is supported by an endowment
from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn, director, design
Chris Campbell, operations director
Tim Igel, publicist