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SORI

For full orchestra (1979/80)


First performed on October 18, 1980 at the Donaueschinger Musiktage

"Sori" is a Korean word describing "everything that can be heard" – whether it be a noise, shout, voice, tone, call, sound, strain. "Madang-Guk" a type of Korean folk theatre, inspired this piece. While I was working on MAN-NAM I and NUN, my thoughts constantly turned to "Madang-Guk".

Sori can be divided into 5 parts, the last of which echoes the first six measures of the beginning of the piece, thus bringing the composition a full circle.

There are three discernible elements that influence one another; they merge and overlap in the course of the music. A fourth element, a fierce chord spread over a wide range, opposes the musical development of the piece: it hinders, destroys, blocks the music unfolding. I would call this element the "foreign force", an attack on human life.

I call the first element "animosity", it permeates and unifies the entire piece. I am alluding to a character trait, which I consider typically Korean: harbouring animosity or resentment deep inside, carrying it around until the volatile load becomes unbearable and explodes. (The subservience in the face of injustice that characterizes especially Korean women to this day, seems, to me, to be the reverse side of their helplessness.)

The other two elements are rooted in traditional Korean folk music: "Nong-Ak" – peasant music – and "Hyang-Du-Ga", the music used in funeral processions. These traditional forms of music are fast becoming extinct – as is the fate cultural expressions found in many parts of the world that are increasingly being supplanted by western influences.

In SORI, I have used my own transcript of a recording from the Cholla-Do region.

From whence do I – a Korean woman – derive the incentive to create? Higher education and culture in Korea has always been dominated by upper class men and is based on a knowledge of the Chinese language, both written and spoken. It was only in the shamanism, which was highly practice among the common people, that women were given a position of respect as priestesses. Women known as "kisaeng" – common women that served the governing classes and aristocracy with their music and dancing – were also treated with a certain amount of respect and many were able to reach a surprisingly high level of emancipation. It was these women who made King Sejong's ingenious invention (middle of the 15th century), the Korean "Han-gul" alphabet, known to the people. This alphabet made a direct notation of the Korean language possible for the first time, as it follows the phonetics of the Korean language. It lead to an immense increase in literacy and education among the people and is used, unchanged, to this day.

Just as the priestesses contributed to our cultural history with their oral traditions on one hand and the "kisaeng" with their music and poems on the other hand, the women of the aristocratic classes made a unique contribution to our literary culture. Although they lived a secluded life behind the walls of the king's court or the homes of the aristocratic families and were part of a strict hierarchy, they were well educated. Women wrote the earliest popular literary works written in "Han-gul", in the form of novels, diaries, essays, and letters. This gave rise to a whole new Korean literary genre known as "Negantche".
In spite of centuries of oppression in a society dominated by male Confucianism, there never ceased to be women that were able to dedicate themselves completely to creative activity. Through their wisdom, their literature, or their music, women from extremely opposite classes of society contributed greatly to Korea's cultural heritage. These women are my role models.

Younghi Pagh-Paan (1986)



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