Fantasy on Three Korean Bird Songs

for four flute players (2022)

Score and Parts

by Texu Kim


SKU: TK-CM011 Category: Tags: , ,


Perusal Score


Texu Kim: Fantasy on Three Bird Songs
Performed by Espiri Winds


9 min


2022 National Flute Association Convention, Chicago, IL
Espiri Winds


Espiri Winds


3 flutes (Fl 1=picc.), alto flute

Program Notes

This piece is based on three Korean songs (or part of them) that contain the word ‘bird’ in their titles, from the 19th (or before), 20th, and 21st centuries.  The first part (section) incorporates melodic fragments of Sae-ta-ryeong (bird song), which emerged from Jeok-byeok-ga, one of the Pansori (Korean folk epic sagas, dating from around 17th century) pieces that is based on a 14th-century Chinese novel, ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms.’  This song evolved into various styles of Korean folk music and versions thereof. Each version or genre of Sae-ta-ryeong maintains different parts of what is believed to be their original melodies, while displaying a wide array of characteristics of Korean folk music.

In the second part, a very simple melody of Sae-ya Sae-ya Pa-rang-sae-ya (bird, bird, blue bird) with only three pitches, dofa, and sol, undergoes various metamorphoses.  Widely spread in Korean peninsula in early 20th century, this children’s song laments the falling of the Donghak peasant revolution, an anti-feudalist and anti-imperialist movement at the end of the 19th century in Korea.

The finale interweaves the two aforementioned folk melodies with the hook of the modern-day K-Pop song by Psy, the singer-song-writer of Gangnam Style.  Titled Sae (bird), this pop song has nothing to do with a bird, ironically, with the exception of a single line in the chorus, “I have become a bird,” a modern Korean slang that could be translated ‘I am devastated,’ referring to the singer’s fear of losing his girlfriend.  A hip-hop musician at heart, Psy samples Venus, a famous song by Dutch rock band Shocking Blue.  The broad gamut of Korean musical traditions is re-mixed in a post-modern and festive way in my piece.

— Texu Kim