The long awaited new album by Byungki Hwang, Darha Nopigom, has been launched by a tour of the Northeast, with lectures and concerts in Boston, New York, and at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. This was something of a whirlwind tour fr0m May 30 through June 5th.
Hwang is the consummate quintessential Korean composer and performer, a highly original voice whose work achieves the immediacy of a masterpiece possessing a timeless and permanent presence. In his work we relish every pitch, every nuance, every texture that seems to resonate on a canvas of time and space, all the more precious because of its fleeting temporal existence emerging from and disappearing into silence.
This paradox of permanence and ephemeral transiency defines the special quality of Hwang's poetic vision. His body of work seems integrated and whole, much like the way Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass embodies the work of the poet throughout his lifetime. All of Hwang's work seems related, serving as a remarkable index into the sensibility of an artist who has journeyed through uncharted regions and left a path for us to follow. His musical works transcend performance, existing as enduring soundposts of life deeply engaged with the essence of the world and committed to sharing it with us if we are willing to embrace it with our full attention.
Although we often associate his music and performance with Traditional Korean Music, he is in fact one of the leading composers of contemporary music in Korea. His conceptions incorporate and extend tradition, establishing a new frontier for the Korean Identity. This new CD, Darha Nopigom, provides eight compositions(Darha Nopigom, Sigyetap [The Clock Tower], Hamadan, Jasi [Night Watch], Nakdoeum, Moon of My Hometown, Chahyangije [Two Poems on the Frangrance of Tea], and Chucheonsa [Swinging Song]), 23 tracks of music so original it will challenge you to engage with musical expression on a personal level, assimilating a sensibility that has something profound to say about the world that the composer inhabits.
It is impossible to single out highlights. Every work is distinctive, and one might add, definitive. The beauty of the Gayageum tone with its expressive accents and sliding pitch reveals an instrument of intimate emotional power, but also tones of such elegance that we are captured in the sheer splendor of the sound itself.