Portrait Younghi Pagh-Paan



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for Alto Flute, Guitar and Frame Drum (1993)

In 1993, I composed HANG-SANG for Robert Aitken and the New Music Concerts in Toronto.

The Korean word "hang-sang", meaning endurance or continuity, is identical with the Chinese ideogram "hong", an extremely important cultural concept for the entire Far East: "constant recurrence".

But what does recurrence mean for our perception of time, our feelings? In one of his poems, Gottfried Keller incorporates some ancient Taoist wisdom: "Die Zeit geht nicht, sie steht still, wir ziehen durch sie hin…" (Time does not move, it stands still, and we move through time.)

Both in the calligraphy and traditional painting techniques used in the Far East, we find much philosophy regarding the stroke of the brush on paper. The painter's strength and rhythm cause the brush's bristles not only to produce visible marks in every shade of black on the paper, it also causes the whiteness of the paper to become more visible, more tangible. The white of the paper becomes visible every time the brush's bristles lose contact with the paper. The special beauty of this art lies in the fact that we are given a fresh view of something that has been there all along. These blank areas where the background becomes visible are called "flying emptiness". For me, this is one of the most beautiful metaphors of our perception of time.

"Time does not move, it stands still"

Younghi Pagh-Paan (1993)


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