Flow and Composition for solo piano is inspired by Asian calligraphy and is constructed of varied shapes of sonified dots, strokes, and lines – shapes that are fundamental patterns in this historic visual genre. The piece begins with several ‘dots,’ which are rolled chords (in and out): a dot in Asian calligraphy is never an actual dot but a dot-stroke which consists of attack, short stroke (body), and ending. Sparsely placed dots create spaces with energy/tension from which the musical drama grows naturally. Both the shape of dot-strokes and the concept of creating flow by carefully placing objects/events correspond to the idea of employing the natural flow of energy, 勢 (pronounced as shí in Chinese; written as 세 and pronounced as seh in Korean). Shí/seh is one of the prominent virtues in ancient Asian culture (music, visual arts, literature, politics, war strategies, and so on) and is still pervasive in modern (South) Korea.
In the first half of my piece, lines are fluid and curvy. These lines are in the form of trills that also become tremolos and bisbigliandos (rapid repetitions of notes in a given set), reflecting changes in the thickness of lines, another essence of Asian calligraphy. In the second half of the work, the lines become ‘dashed’ in that they are primarily comprised of repetition of notes (or ‘dots’ as in Ben Day dots, the hallmark of American visual artists Roy Lichtenstein), again, with varied thickness. Wavy or dashed, many lines in this piece display the basic envelope of lines in Asian calligraphy: beginning AND ending with accents. (Korean sentences, similarly, when spoken, often begin with accents due to the lack of articles in the language, and end with relatively stronger syllables.) Various elements interwoven in this piece convey, I hope, a convincing drama or flow.
Embracing the Asian visual art form of calligraphy and the concept of shí/seh, with which I feel almost innately familiar, is my attempt to identify elements of my identity – an opportunity for which I stay immensely thankful. This ten-minute piece is commissioned by and dedicated to pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, who premiered this piece at the Bachauer Concert series on October 8th, 2021.)