for piano and percussion (1982)
PYON-KYONG are the ancient Chinese-Korean tuned stones made of nephrite. They are hung from a wooden frame in sets of 16 stones. The feet of these frames are traditionally sculptures representing white wild geese. The tuning of the tuned stones and the bronze bells, which are also in sets of 16 and always accompany the tuned stones, is unique: they are tuned to a chromatic scale covering a minor tenth interval, whereby the half-ton steps are not equal in distance. Nephrite was discovered as a material for musical use in Korea in 1425, and within two years, Korean stone masons had produced no less than 500 tuned stones. The stones give an exceptionally clear and lucid sound, it is the sound of our history.
What brought these extraordinary, archaic tuned stones back to my memory was certainly in part the fact that I was searching for a bridge between my Korean musical viewpoint and the extremely European concert grand piano, as I had been commissioned to write a composition for piano and percussion. The clear sound of the stones, which are hit with a horn stick, gave rise to the vision of a shimmering, finely tuned, ever-changing body of sound. I tried to record this sound in a series of chords on the piano, accompanied by the metallic sound of the high pitch crotales - tiny cymbals. I also wanted to base the piece on the Taoist concept of the eight material levels of sound: metal, stone, string, bamboo, clay (earth), gourd, skin, wood. From this, I attempted to create transitions and connections between the different sound character of the piano and percussion.
The percussion set encompasses seven metal, six wood, and five skin instruments, in addition, there are rattles made of glass and shell. The piano represents the String instrument, and when struck at the same time as the high pitch crotales, its sound is transformed to the "stone" sound. By strongly muting certain ranges of the piano's strings, sounds can be produced that come close to the bamboo, gourd and clay sounds. In this way, I attempt to create a range of sound that, although produced by a piano, run the gamut of our musical culture as defined by the eight materials.
Younghi Pagh-Paan (1982)