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A Korean and American Jazz Excursion: Five Directions

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Sounds of the Night (0:00–11:30)
Soyop Sanbang (11:53–22:10)
Moon of My Hometown (22:36–27:02)
Kayagum sanjo (27:25–46:02)
Harimsong (46:40–54:20)
Ch'imhyangmu (Dance of Aloe Perfume) (54:43–1:08:50)

This concert was made possible, in part, by the Korea Society and the Korea Foundation. Recorded live on June 5, 2007, Meyer Auditorium, Freer Gallery of Art.


The Tori Ensemble
Yoon Jeong Heo, geomungo (zither)
Ned Rothenberg, clarinet, saxophone, shakuhachi
Erik Friedlander, cello
Satoshi Takeishi, percussion
Kwon Soon Kang, vocal and gong
Young Chi Min, daegum (flute), janggo (drum)

I. The North as Black
II. The East as Blue
III. The West as White
IV. The South as Red
V. The Center as Yellow

This performance was a joint presentation of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and Asia Society Washington and was made possible, in part, through support from the Korea Foundation's Washington, D.C., office. Performances by the Tori Ensemble in New York and Washington were made possible with generous support from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of South Korea.

Notes on the Program

Yoon Jeong Heo, Artistic Director

The music of the “Five Directions” comes from the fundamental philosophy of East Asia, which describes the basic forces behind the formation of the universe and all physical phenomena. These consist of the cosmic dual forces, yin/yang, and the five physical elements (ohyeng): metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. The universe is sustained by the absolute balance and delicate order of yin/yang and ohyeng, which is reflected in the five spatial and dimensional directions (obang): east, west, south, north, and center. Each direction is also represented by the five basic colors: east (blue), west (white), south (red), north (black), and center (yellow). The music of this performance was created through interactive collaborations among three distinguished Korean traditional musicians and three renowned New York jazz and classical performers. The structure of this collaborative work consists of five sections drawing upon distinctive musical traditions from four geographic regions of the Korean peninsula: East, West, South, North, and the Center, a fifth region created to represent current music.

I. The North as Black
An important part of the five thousand-year history of Korea, the Goguryeo Kingdom (4th–7th century ce) encompassed a vast land in the north of the Korean peninsula three times larger than the current geographic boundary of Korea. The music of Goguryeo is described as vigorous and masculine, revealing the spirit of the vast fields and mountains and represented by an ancient instrument, geomungo, the six-string zither. The music for this section of the piece centers on the geomungo in combination with various Western instruments. The main melodic and rhythmic elements are taken from the shamanistic ritual known as bukcheong saja noreum, the mask dance and play of the lion king.

II. The East as Blue
The music of the East is based on shaman ritual traditions from the eastern region of the Korean peninsula, focusing on the music of the Gangneung Danoje folk festival, which takes place on the day of Dano, May 5, according to the lunar calendar. The Danoje festival has been designated one of the world's Intangible Cultural Assets by UNESCO, and musical performances play an integral part, led mainly by a type of percussion ensemble specific to the eastern region. For our performance, the rhythmic materials are taken from the shamanistic jangdan, characterized by complicated and irregular phrases that are some of the most challenging in Korea traditional music. Representative Korean percussion such as janggo (hour-glass drum) and kkwenggwari (small gong) lead the ensemble along with Western percussion, and they are joined by the vocalist demonstrating menarijo, a typical melodic style of the eastern region.

III. The West as White
The western part of Korea includes a number of important port cities and has been known historically as the entry point for other civilizations. Musicological evidence suggests that some existing genres demonstrate cultural assimilation between the East and the West. The music of the western region is typified by different kinds of improvisation, rhythmic patterns, and microtones that all bear striking similarities to music of the Near East and India. This kind of assimilation continues in modern Korea, with European classical music and Korean traditional music coexisting in a balance that embraces both differences and similarities. In this part of the program, the musical context is contemporary, urban Western music—especially in a minimalism that tries to convey and humanize today's busy, urban lifestyle—coupled with the ancient sounds of tranquility and nobility heard in gagok, Korean traditional lyric songs.

IV. The South as Red
Historically, wide fields for rice patties and abundant water resources have made the southern region of Korea rich not only in agricultural products but also in the cultural traditions cultivated by aristocratic patrons. Most of the representative traditional musical genres of Korea originated and developed in this region, including sanjo (improvisational solo instrumental work), pansori (storytelling vocal drama), sinawi (improvisational instrumental ensemble music for shaman rituals), and pungmul (the music of the farmer's band). The beauty of this region's music comes from its honest reflection of life experiences—sadness, despair, joy, hope, happiness, pain—depicted through a great range of artistic expression. Such expression in performance is imbedded in improvisation and spontaneity that reflects a performer's understanding of traditional performance practice. In this section, the six performers create an improvisational ensemble that reinterprets the musical tradition of sinawi.

V. The Center as Yellow
As the climax of this performance, the Center represents the state of music in the twenty-first century and demonstrates a musical unity between the contemporary and the ancient, between East and West. Each member of the ensemble has participated in the creative process through workshops and rehearsals, discovering a new sound that communicates with contemporary audiences and delivers the message of yin/yang and ohyeng—the laws of circulation and balance, harmony and discord.


Yoon Jeong Heo, geomungo [komungo] performer and composer, works to cut across genres and expand the possibilities of Korean music by fusing traditional music, impromptu music, and contemporary music. She graduated from the National High School of Korean Traditional Music and received her B.A. and M.A. from Seoul National University. She studied geomungo sanjo with the Living National Treasure Han Gap Duk, earning the master title of yisuja. Heo served as the deputy concertmaster of the Seoul Metropolitan Korean Music Orchestra from 1990 to 1994. Her collaborations include appearances with German artist Stephan Micus and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. With the KBS Korean Traditional Music Orchestra, she toured Germany, England, France, the United States, China, Japan, and Poland. Heo was awarded a Ministry of Culture prize in 1986 in the field of Korean traditional music as well as a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council, which is supporting her 2007–2008 residency in New York. She is a member of the Sangsang Ensemble, serves as art director of Bukchon Changwoo Theater, leads the project group “go-MOON-go,” and lectures at Jungang and Yongin universities.

Composer/performer Ned Rothenberg has performed internationally for twenty-eight years, appearing widely in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. He plays clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, and shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute, which he studied with Katsuya Yokoyama and Goro Yamaguchi. Rothenberg leads the trio Sync, featuring Jerome Harris on guitars and Samir Chatterjee on tabla. Recent recordings include Sync's Harbinger, Intervals, a double-CD of solo work; Live at Roulette with Evan Parker; and Are You Be by R.U.B. (Rothenberg/Kazuhisa Uchihashi/Samm Bennett) on Rothenberg's Animul label. Chamber music releases include Inner Diaspora and Ghost Stories (on the Tzadik label) and Power Lines (on New World), along with The Fell Clutch (on Animul). Other collaborators have included Paul Dresher, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Masahiko Sato, Kang Tae Hwan, and Sainkho Namchylak. Manfred Pabst, music critic for Neue Züricher Zeitung, writes that “other kinds of music might entertain you, cheer you up, or pump the blood, but his clarifies the mind and throws your soul wide open.”

Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer and an improviser, a classical musician and a jazz artist. A longtime veteran of New York's downtown scene, he has backed up John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and Courtney Love and recorded eight CDs as a group leader. Whether performing solo or with one of his bands, Friedlander furthers his vision of what the cello can be pushed to do while maintaining a firm grasp on both improvisational and classical traditions. His father, photographer Lee Friedlander, whose work included cover photos for Atlantic Records in the 1960s, passed his passion for R&B and jazz to his son. Erik Friedlander's earliest memories are of a household filled with the sounds of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. He's been playing the cello since age eight. If you have a concept of what that instrument can do, he says, he “will reshape it.” Pitchfork described Friedlander as “Rostropovich one second and Rottweiler the next.”

A native of Mito, Japan, Satoshi Takeishi is a drummer, percussionist, and arranger. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he developed an interest in the music of South America. He spent four years in Colombia, where he worked on the project Macumbia—combining traditional, classical, and jazz music—with composer/arranger Francisco Zumaque. Takeishi performed with this group and the Bogota Symphony Orchestra in series of concerts honoring the Colombian composer Lucho Bermudes. In 1986, Takeishi returned to Miami, and produced the CD Morning Ride for jazz flutist Nestor Torres on Polygram Records. He has also studied rhythms and melodies of Middle Eastern music with Armenian-American oud (Arab lute) artist Joe Zeytoonian. Since moving to New York in 1991, Takeishi has performed and recorded with Ray Barretto, Carlos “Patato” Valdes, and Marc Johnson, among others.

Kwon Soon Kang is a leading vocalist in both Korean traditional court music (jeongga) and contemporary music. She has performed with the National Orchestra, KBS Traditional Orchestra, Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Orchestra, Kim Duksoo Samulnori Group, and Nan Kye Traditional Ensemble. She has worked under such art directors as Ong Keng Sen, Jinhi Kim and Chen Shi-Zeng. Kang has participated in the Melbourne Arts Festival, the fiftieth Anniversary of Korea's Liberation, Young Musicians Festival, and the Korea Festival. She also has performed under the auspices of the International Cultural Exchange Foundation of Korea. Kang released the first CD of Korean traditional court music (jeongga), Sounds of Heaven, in 2004. She recorded with Samulnori group and received awards at such festivals as the Dong-A Competition and the Seoul Traditional Music Festival sponsored by Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).

Young Chi Min, janggo (hour-glass drum), has performed in Korea and Japan as part of the Korean percussion band Puri and as the music director of Reimei, a traditional Korean art group in based in Japan. He has performed with a wide range of bands and musicians, including Chong Myoung-Hun, Chong Myoung-Wha, Shin Hea-Chul, Ssai, Num Goong-Yon, Panick, DA PUMP, Shinjuku-Ryouzanpaku, Shanshan Typhoon, Kunihiko Ryo, Eitetsu Hayashi, and Okura Shonosuke. Yong Chi Min left Puri after their Japanese tour but now makes Japan the headquarters for his performances and musical activities. He currently directs the group San-Ta (meaning “scattering and hitting”), devoted to creating new interpretations of traditional Korean music.

Asia Society in Washington, D.C.

Asia Society in Washington, D.C., provides a forum in the nation's capital where diplomats, members of Congress, government officials, journalists, scholars, artists, business executives, and other interested individuals can exchange views on a wide variety of subjects concerning Asia. From Iran to Japan, from Central Asia to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, the society's programs look at contemporary issues and trends in the region and the cultural context for growth and change. Programs are designed to allow interaction among participants and questions from the audience. Visit www.asiasociety.org.

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