Gamin, the Korean master musician, curates this fall's MusicUnitesUS

gamin playing a flute in a of the artist

The artist gamin playing a saenghwang, a traditional Korean instrument.

The MusicUnitesUS residency runs from Nov. 11 to Nov. 16. A concert will be held Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. with a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. in Slosberg Recital Hall. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (781) 736-3400. This article originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of State of the Arts.

With a musical tradition as complex as its history and cultural values, it’s no accident that Korea has more than once been the focus of the MusicUnitesUS residency and world music series. From the elegant and refined music of the court to the intense, bold, folk-based p’ansori, this is a music of limitless expressive potential.

“There is a word I learned when I first started listening to the Korean epic song genre known as p’ansori: ‘han.’ While I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand ‘han,’ I believe it is a unique expression of deep and profound sadness,” says Judith Eissenberg, professor of the practice of music and artistic director of MusicUnitesUS. “To become a great p’ansori singer, to be able to express ‘han,’ the singer would spend years alone, living beside a waterfall, trying to sing over the momentous sound of the thundering currents — an impossible aspiration. Surviving austerity, exhaustion, loneliness and physical pain, the p’ansori singer hoped to transform her experience into an expression that manages to include grief and suffering, but also courage, beauty and passion.”  

The fall 2019 MusicUnitesUS residency, "From East Asia: Unforgotten Song," will bring that expression to new and significant meanings. Artistic performance becomes ritual as musicians and composers in residence at Brandeis from November 11-16 remember and honor the “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery between 1932 and 1945 in occupied East Asia.

Returning to Brandeis to curate the residency is the Korean master musician known as gamin, who performed at Brandeis in spring 2017 with the international PAN Project. Gamin, a virtuoso of piri, saenghwang and taepyungso, has assembled a cohort of musicians whose expertise includes Western and traditional instruments such as the Japanese shakuhachi, the bamboo flute (once the province of the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks); Chinese sheng; and the traditional Western string quartet. They will play contemporary works by composers including Theodore Wiprud, who writes for what he calls the shamanistic side of piri, describing the sound of the instrument as “earthy and otherworldly, so simple yet so rich,” capable of expressing meditation as well as ecstasy. Two new pieces, written by Korean composers Ki Young Kim and Yoon-Ji Lee, will be premiered. And a poignant and powerful video by Chang-Jin Lee will ask us to contemplate the experiences of comfort women survivors through a visual poetry based on words, images and expressive visual abstractions.  

Gamin and the other guest artists will visit open classes across campus, engaging with topics in anthropology, gender and sexuality, Korean language, sociology, studio art, and arts and social transformation.


Street art by Chang-Jin_Lee

Chang-Jin Lee, "Comfort Women Wanted," public art in New York City, 2008

About the artists

Residency curator gamin, who transforms the concert hall into “a place of deep enchantment, transcending time and space,” is a New York-based multidimensional artist performing across the genres of traditional Korean music, theater, collaborative projects and cross-cultural performances. A recognized master of traditional gugak (traditional Korean music), she commissions and performs new music and is in high demand for working with young composers as they extend their own compositional capacities.

The “borderless musician” Ki Young Kim has moved in and out of genres and across international boundaries while collaborating with dancers, theater directors and visual artists. He is the founder of CMB 567 (Contemporary Music Band 567), a group of four composers and seven musicians dedicated to exploring the interaction among various contemporary Korean and other Asian music and art forms.  

Composer Yoon-Ji Lee writes acoustic and electroacoustic music based on non-linear structure that juxtaposes disparate elements through the rapid transformation of different languages, noises, gestures, textures, harmonies and tone colors. Her chamber opera “Sunday Supper” for Western and traditional Korean ensembles was recently premiered at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. Lee is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music.

Chang-Jin Lee is a Korean-born, New York-based visual artist. Since 2007 she has been making artwork that investigates the history of World War II-era sex slaves or “comfort women,” traveling throughout Asia to interview Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Filipino and Dutch “comfort women” survivors.

Adam Robinson studies in the classical tradition of the Kinko school of shakuhachi with Ralph Samuelson in New York and with Tokumaru Jumei in Tokyo. To supplement his shakuhachi training, he studies Japanese ensemble music with acclaimed koto and shamisen player Sumie Kaneko. He currently performs with Columbia University’s Gagaku Ensemble as well as in diverse rock and jazz settings with his friends in Brooklyn.

The Lydian String Quartet, on the Brandeis faculty since 1980, is known around the world for its performance of contemporary music and for collaborations that extend across musical traditions and into disciplines such as visual art and dance.

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