Jung Sun Kang's New Spotify Track & JS Bach Event with HL Hix

Jung Sun Kang's New Spotify Track & JS Bach Event with HL Hix

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

KHN Alum (2020) Jung Sun Kang, composer/pianist, has announced the release of her new Spotify track, Ashti, as well as an upcoming recital/event, a collaboration with fellow KHN Alum (2018) H.L. Hix.

Jung Sun shared that a piece she wrote, Ashti, for carillon (a set of bells in a tower, played using a keyboard or by an automatic mechanism similar to a piano roll, a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower of a church or municipal building), has just been released on Spotify. The piece is part of a project from University of Chicago.

"Carillons can amplify the music carried by refugees across borders as they seek safety from war, discrimination, abuse, and human right violations. I met with Afghan refugee Ferdous Dehqan to learn about his upbringing in war-torn Kabul and the Afghan songs that tell his story.

I used the Afghan song Sarzamin Man (My Homeland) that Ferdous suggested as a theme. The piece gradually unfolds and goes back to the theme. Ashti means peace and unity, and it reflects my hopeful and positive feelings as I wrote this piece despite what has happened in recent months. Ashti is dedicated to Ferdous.

This is the live recording- When they sent me the track first, I was a bit worried because the helicopter showed up on top of bell tower out of blue and we could hear propeller at the middle of the piece! But our recording engineer did his magic and now it’s gone."(Jung Sun Kang)

In other news, Jung Sun and I recently spent quite a bit of time during an interview (stay tuned for her future episode of Humans of KHN!) talking about a collaboration she has been very excited about, with poet and friend HL (Harvey) Hix. HL Hix wrote set of poems inspired by J.S.Bach’s keyboard work, and Jung Sun will play Bach at the same time he’s reading his poetry. Jung Sun mentioned that the project has been very fun and inspiring for them to work on together, even long distance. They were sad that the original NYC event date was cancelled (March), but are happy that the event will be able to be postponed to late Summer/early Fall 2020. The event is tentatively planned for August, location TBA. Please follow their websites / sign up for Jung Sun's newsletter for updates as they become available. The following is more information from Jung Sun about the recital, the music, the words, and the artists.

JS Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 : Jung Sun Kang, Piano, and HL Hix, Poetry and Voice

The Program:

For full program of works to be played, see attached link. 

About the Music:

J.S. Bach’s ability to explore and develop musical materials is fully matched by the scope and power with which he explores moods, emotions and characters, and this is what has made his music so beloved by so many. His own contemporaries remarked how, in spite of formidable complexity, his mastery of ordering materials and of the arts of rhetoric was such that he could reach out and touch the hearts even of those with no special knowledge of musical techniques.

The 48 Preludes and Fugues (from which, a selection will be played) are the very sophisticated end product of many strands of a rich tradition, and an ideal vantage point from which to survey virtually all aspects of Baroque keyboard music. 

The 48 has been at the centre of music training and analysis since Bach’s time, and his general influence on composers is immeasurable.

About the Text:

The words spoken to Bach’s music in this performance are from a sequence of poems by H. L. Hix. The sequence borrows from Bach its title, “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” and its structure, 24 preludes and 24 fugues, one for each key. The sequence was first published in Hix’s collection Chromatic (Etruscan Press, 2006); the recital score derives from the revised version, published in First Fire, Then Birds (Etruscan Press, 2010).

The protagonist of the poems is a middle-aged heterosexual male, and the preludes are spoken by him. His wife is dying of cancer; he has a strong premonition that he himself will soon die in a car crash; and he is in love with someone else, but cannot be with her. His wife is a surgical nurse whose responsibilities include holding the patient’s heart during heart surgery. The protagonist discovers that if he holds her head while she is sleeping (cupping her head in his hands as she cups hearts in hers), voices speak through her. Most of the fugues are spoken by those voices.

Many of the poems are modified (by repetition of lines, and by other means) to create the performance score.

About the Artists:

Jung Sun Kang is a composer and pianist. She received a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, where she taught and also served as a pianist of the Eastman Musica Nova Ensemble and OSSIA New Music. An avid performer of early and new music, Jung Sun has given concerts in US, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia. Since relocating to New York City in 2013, she has been performing at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Yale Club, Manhattan School of Music, Shapeshifter Lab, Opera America, as well Duane Park in a part of TriBeCa Art + Culture Night, to name a few. 

Her music is recorded on the ArtistShare, Centaur, Delos (US) and Prima Facie (UK) labels. She has received awards from Faber residency, KHN Center for the Arts, Willapa Bay AiR, New Music USA, British Harpsichord Society, and Tanglewood Music Center.

H. L. Hix earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Texas.  He teaches in the Philosophy Dept. at the University of Wyoming and in the low-residency MFA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and has been a Fulbright Distinguished Professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.  His recent books include an essay collection, Demonstrategy(Etruscan Press, 2019), a poetry collection, Rain Inscription(Etruscan Press, 2017), an art/poetry anthology, Ley Lines(Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2014), and an edition of selected poems by Estonian peasant poet Juhan Liiv, Snow Drifts, I Sing, translated with Jüri Talvet (Guernica Editions, 2013). His poems and translations have been set to music by composers Kathleen McGuire, Lori Laitman, Timothy C. Takach, and Robert Maggio.


Congratulations on another Spotify release, Jung Sun! And Congratulations also to Jung Sun and H. L. Hix on the upcoming recital!



image credits: both images courtesy of Jung Sun Kang