© Texu Kim
How does a chemist become a composer? For Texu Kim (김택수), who graduated in chemistry before beginning to study composition, there is no contradiction between science and art. For example, the transformation of musical motifs reminds him of the chemical synthesis that turns different substances into something new. Born in Seoul in 1980, Kim left his hometown for the USA after receiving his Master degree in composition from Seoul National University. Upon completing the PhD program at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, he now teaches composition and conducting there.
Kim’s music has numerous roots – and not only in the world of classical composition. Texu Kim stresses the important influence of Korean contemporary Christian music that he heard in his childhood. He describes this peculiar musical style as “a weird mixture of new age, gospel, and popular music with a few Korean traditional features.” Latin, jazz, rock, computer music, Indian and Indonesian traditions and the works of contemporary composers such as Isang Yun and Unsuk Chin provide further impulses. Kim, winner of the Isang Yun International Composition Prize 2009, is particularly interested in short sound phrases; these simple musical elements, which he then modifies and – through various metamorphoses – synthesizes into new, sonic material. For example, the piece Sketches for Contredanse, commissioned by Ensemble Modern in 2012, is based on a simple dance rhythm. Following jazzy bass lines, the music increases in tension to culminate in a series of “overblown, whispering sounds and noise attacks,” as one reviewer wrote about the premiere in Frankfurt.
“Monastic Sceneries” for flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, French horn, piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass
© Texu Kim
“This piece begins with a scene of mothers sitting close to each other, singing a hymn together in a small gathering for a religious service called “kooyeok-yebae”. Neither pitch nor rhythm matters (to them). Between phrases of their expressive melodies with molto vibrato are added sigh-like reactions/exclamations. “Kooyeok-yebae”, “Incantation”, and “Prayers”, are the titles of each movement, respectively. This work is based on various rituals and personal reminiscences about them. I grew up in a conservative Presbyterian family, and the Presbyterian Church hugely influenced me, as well as my music and sound world. I was told that the first music I heard was the hymn I heard in my mother’s belly. Music moves from reminiscence to surrealism. A secret assembly in a cellar or a garret, and an imaginary (as opposed to quoted) incantatory melody is heard. The second movement “Incantation” is my version of Strawinski's Rite of Spring, where incantation, dance, and enchantment mingle. After the carnival comes “Prayers”. Movement 3 deals with diverse aspects and styles of prayer. This piece is written in memory of my beloved grandmother, whom I believe prayed more faithfully than anyone I have ever known. I hope my 15-minute prayer reaches her.”