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for clarinet, violin, viola and violoncello (1977)

Dedicated to my mother on her 70th birthday

It was only at the turn of the previous century that the Korean people were confronted with European music, namely by a German kapellmeister. This was mainly a matter of military music. Since then - even in our education - we have experienced a continuing conflict between our traditional Asian musical culture and the Euiro-American one, with the latter having gained ever greater ascendancy.

In my piece MAN-NAM I, I tried to shape the encounter of these two cultural worlds, so as to overcome my own sense of cultural shock. This piece was inspired by a Korean poem by the poetess Sa-Im-Dang Sin (16th C.), in which she describes her affection for her mother. It was written in Chinese script. I have placed some of the Chinese characters as symbols over individual parts of the composition.

MAN-NAM I is divided into four parts, of which the third leads into the fourth via a cello cadenza. In the first part, I cautiously tried to overcome my anxiety. The second part is a flight into the protective solitude of the mountains. In the third part the torment and struggle that the cultural shock has awakened in me is brought to the fore. The fourth and final part turns more strongly towards Korean tradition. (For example, the cello plays only pizzicati, evoking the sound of two Korean drums.) The music finds its own centre and calm stability: reconciliation. 

Younghi Pagh-Paan

English Translation: Richard Toop

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