Various Artists

Crystal Drops: Music by Hi Kyung Kim

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The music heard on this disc of music by Korean-born composer Hi Kyung Kim, who moved to the U.S. in 1980, is written in a modernist American idiom but displays Korean influences at both local and structural levels. The role of the Korean elements is nicely summed up by another Korean composer, quoted in the booklet, who said that he "did not have to think about his musical elements intentionally utilizing Korean music, since [these were] already embedded in him." The Korean elements in Kim's music -- an orientation toward percussion, the use of Korean instruments or playing techniques, and a sectional structure in which new music is texturally or motivically linked to the end of the preceding section -- combine to give entry points to the listener uncomfortable with atonal idioms; presenters trying to balance the goals of greater diversity and incorporating challenging modern works should check this disc out. The two-movement Crystal Drops, for two pianos, may be the most immediately attractive for most listeners, with its overall vigor and its use of the extremes of the piano keyboard, but sample also the concluding Primitive Dance (1999). Its reference point is a folk percussion form practiced by Korean farmers and often presented by Korean student groups in the U.S. Kim's piece, however, is a string quartet, including no percussion at all. The transformation from one medium to another involves abstract procedures (much of the music is not dancelike) but retains the visceral, colorful appeal of the source form. Especially recommended to listeners who have encountered a bit of traditional Korean music.

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