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For 16 instrumentalists (1987/88)

TA-RYONG II was written for the Ensemble Modern, at the request of the IRCAM and the Parisian Goethe Institute. It was first performed in May 1988 in Paris, under the musical direction of Hans Zender.

Younghi Pagh-Paan writes: “In 1977, I composed a little piece called TSANG-TA-RYONG (‘Market Music’) for a group of music students to perform in Freiburg. It was the first ensemble piece I wrote in Europe. I was inspired by a centuries-old Korean musical tradition. Namely, the peasant music that was traditionally played on the market square, the center of the village. These market performances were very versatile – along with music and song, there would be dancing, masked dancing, acrobatics and theatre. In the 70’s of this century,  the Korean student movement rediscovered and revived this tradition of public performance. Groups of musicians and non-musicians came together to create new content that reflected their protest, as well as causes such as support for the farmers, but in a traditional way. Since I am writing TA-RYONG II as a concert piece, I’m of course aware that it won’t be performed in the streets, on the market, and that it won’t involve lyrics, or masks, or dancing. Still, I want to infuse the music with at least some of the vivaciousness and the defiant spirit that those public performances used to have, which played an important part in our history when times called for rebellion or resistance.

About the title: TA-RYONG is one of the broadest terms in Korean music. It describes the repetition of a base rhythm in a recurring 4/4 or 6/8 meter. (When someone keeps repeating themselves while speaking, we say that they’re talking TA-RYONG. ) The true fascination of TA-RYONG lies in the endless possibilities of variation on this steady base rhythm, especially in peasant music (Nong-Ak.) I draw inspiration from this genre of music, which I remember vividly from my childhood. These aforementioned performances used to be impromptu events, with groups of six or more musicians playing together and the drums leading the music. On bigger market squares, they would sometimes play alongside other performers (tightrope walkers, acrobats), or masked dancers. The mood created by such music, spontaneous and deeply immersed in daily life, means a lot to me. But even though my work may be rooted in Korean musical traditions, I also try to reflect the strong influence of European art music. I’m aware of the problem of repetition in this musical style, and try to freshen it up with variations and changes. I tackled this problem with TA-RYONG, and took great care to develop the piece towards polytempic episodes in terms of rhythm and speed.”

Younghi Pagh-Paan (1988)


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