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U-MUL/The Well

For 7 instruments (1991-1992)

For the composer, U-MUL (The Well) is the starting point for a new series of pieces that deal with the ideas of Taoism (a school of thinking that has influenced her for a long time).

Younghi Pagh-Paan sees the well as a symbol for social agreement, something that seems anachronistic and utopian in our time of conflicts over distribution of material wealth: a place where a life-giving good is shared, and at the same time a center of communication. It’s obvious that this touches on political ideas, and the composer points out that peace researcher Johan Galtung cites the equal distribution of water as one of the most pivotal conditions for peace. It might be possible to live without oil, but not without water.

The music reflects this process of non-egoistic giving and taking as a theme, and also structurally, when right from the start, the musicians take part in the world of sound created by the percussion which is central to the Ensemble. In that way, the music becomes a medium for positive memories, reflecting an archaic, simpler relationship between man and nature, as it is expressed in Taoism, and still unexpectedly relevant today.

Serenity; it means not putting the music into a demonstrative order in favor of an  intellectual “new complexity”; it means withdrawing to the point of “invisible construction”, a flow as natural as water; not out of carelessness or laissez-faire, but as the result of a long process of focusing and filtering. As it says in the Tao Te King: “Water overcomes the stone/Without substance it requires no opening/This is the benefit of taking no action. Yet benefit without action/And experience without abstraction/ Are practiced by very few.”

Peter Niklas Wilson

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