Mp3 Blog #45: Acrostic Wordplay

Unsuk Chin:
“Acrostic Wordplay” (1991/1993)
I. Hide and Seek
II. The Puzzle of the Three Magic Gates
III.The Rules of the Game – sdrawkcab emit
IV. Four Seasons in Five Verses
V. Domifare S
VI. The Game of Chance
VII. From the Old Time
7 scenes from fairy-tales for soprano and ensemble

Performed by Piaa Komsi and the Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Kazushi Ono

Available on this compact disc of music by Unsuk Chin

* * * * *

As typically happens at the end of each academic term, I’ve been ridiculously busy as of late. However, in the last few weeks I’ve gone to a few concerts. Among these concerts there was one piece that really stood out, the piece I’m featuring in the post.

Since studying with Ligeti in the mid-1980’s Korean composer Unsuk Chin has gone on to win almost every major International composition award include the prestigious Gaudemus prize and the Grawemeyer Award. The latter award has also been given to a number of my favorite lesser-known composers such as Chinary Ung and George Tsontakis.

Although I usually hate to do this in lieu of my standard comments on the work I’m just going to include a portion of the composer’s own notes and my hope that you enjoy this devilishly fantastic and dark work as much as I do.

* * *
Akrostichon-Wortspiel consists of seven scenes from the fairytales The Endless Story by Michael Ende and Alice through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The selected texts have been worked upon in different ways: sometimes the consonants and vowels have been randomly joined together, other times the words have been read backwards so that the symbolic meaning alone remains.

Each of the seven pieces is constructed around a controlling pitch centre but in their means of expression they are fully differentiated from one another. Seven different situations of emotional states, as described in the fairytales, ranging from the bright to the grotesque are brought to expression.

The tunings of some of the ensemble instruments are adapted from one quarter to one sixth of a tone to achieve a fine microtonality. The solo soprano fluctuates between these two tuning systems, depending upon which she perceives at any time.

Unsuk Chin, 1993

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