Portrait Younghi Pagh-Paan

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BI-YU

For soprano, bass flute, clarinet and violin (1999)

Goethe as a Korean poet?

When I was a girl of thirteen, I came across several translations of poems by Heine, Goethe and Rilke in a poetry magazine. I immediately became fascinated with them. I was so taken with Goethe’s poem “Ein Gleiches” that I knew it by heart almost instantly, reciting it over and over like a Buddhist prayer. I didn’t sense any difference between the Korean and Chinese poems I knew, and that of Goethe. The feelings he was expressing, the imagery and the strictness of the form felt very close and familiar to me …

Composing in foreign languages – Rose Ausländer (German), Anna Achmatova (Russian), Louize Labé (French) – is my attempt to expand my relationship to the sung word, making something foreign my own. Now I’m trying to go the other way, by dealing with Korean poetry: Chi Ha and Chung Chul (16th century). I’m striving to bring the foreign back to Europe in my own personal way. German listeners can ponder whether your own cultural heritage is still perceptible in a foreign language. Can you experience music in a new light by way of content? (…)

Classic Chinese poetry as well as grand Korean poetry are traditionally not read, in silence, in a quiet room, but in a specific recitation tone that’s characterized by stretched-out, melismatic vocals (GAGOK). Goethe’s poem invokes the quietness, the hush, the silence of the cosmic sphere, thus connecting the external with the internal, by reminding the reader of the brevity of human life. I tried to address this topic in my composition “BI-YU”. “BI-YU” means: the simultaneous observation of different things in comparison to each other.

Y. P.-P.

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