Donghoon Shin:
“High heels: Not even anything room”

Donghoon Shin © Donghoon Shin Donghoon Shin (신동훈), born in 1983 in Seoul, does not see himself as a “classical” composer. In retrospect, his musical education feels like a long visit to a well-equipped record store; Shin’s father, whose love for music ranges from Wagner to Heavy Metal and Battle Rap, introduced his son to the highlights of his record collection at kindergarten age. Later, Shin listened to experimental jazz music by Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. A fan of classic Korean rocker Shin Jung-Hyeon, the Korean Jimmy Hendrix, Shin joined a rock band in high school, as a singer and keyboard player. Looking back, Shin, who studied at the Seoul National University composition, describes this variety of musical influences as a seedbed for his creative work. A musical “omnivore”, he also gets inspiration from literature (Tolstoy) and cinema (Almodovar); recently, he was impressed by Kim Ki-Duk’s latest film Pietà. Based on these different sources, Shin’s resulting works feature a postmodern mélange of quotes, references, subtle allusions and transformations of existing material.

His violin concerto Kalon, winner of the first prize at the international competition Auditorio Nacional, Fundación BBVA in Madrid in 2010, follows in the footsteps of Romanticism, particularly the early Brahms. His most recent work Pop-up (2012), premiered by Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös in Seoul, takes a harder approach: using motifs from Led Zeppelin’s rock milestone Dazed and Confused, the composer transformed the entire chamber orchestra into a “massive guitar”, reinterpreting the psychedelic riffs and solos in a surprising new way, as one review noted in the Korean newspaper, Hankook Ilbo.

“High heels: Not even anything room” for flute, clarinet, French horn, piano, two violins, viola, cello, double bass and percussion

Inspiration Donghoon Shin © Inspiration Donghoon Shin “For a long time, Jorge Borges reflected on the “Library of Babel”. In this imaginary library, an infinite number of hexangular rooms hosts an infinite number of books. If the number of books is infinite, the result is of course, that the number of sentences is likewise infinite, as is the number of words and, finally, languages and writing systems. This last twist seems hard to accept – the idea of an infinite, an endless language implies nothing else but that in the beginning, there was nothing but books (that is, nothing but sentences, words, languages). Consequently, all books exist solely as mutual references, ultimately the meaning of any language does not go beyond language itself.The Library of Babel is an impossible place, with the exception of human imagination. Ironically, it can be easily found in Korea. In the same way that an infinite number of books is stacked into the endless bookshelves of the library, here an endless variety of people are living in what seems to be an (almost) infinite number of cubic housing complexes. The apartments of Babel…

I was inspired to create this composition by the sound of high heels passing by my home, when reading Borges one afternoon. The theme of this piece is the musical depiction of the click-clack sound made by the shoes. This theme is transformed, passing through an echo room that contains the endless sounds that I can hear in my room – and in my imagination.

Thus the piece is about the composer’s room, a story of the innumerable tones and sounds he hears during his work. Occasionally I get deceived by the illusion of hearing the sounds of the whole universe – all in my room. On the other hand, there are moments where I do not perceive anything at all, like falling into an acoustic vacuum. Countless contradictory sounds and echos are reverberating through my room. This “Not even anything room”, which has nothing at all in common with Borges‘ impossible library, save the countless rows of books.”