In early 2008 I was asked to write a dramatic piece for singer or narrator and string orchestra, drawing on some kind of Korean element (for performance at a music festival there). Knowing little about the nation or its culture or language, I turned to Korean folklore for inspiration our house contains volumes of folk tales from many cultures and learned some interesting facts. Not only did the folktales embody a quite different set of values and "just so stories" than those I was familiar with, but no Brothers Grimm had ever come along to bowdlerise them. The original violence, tragedy, and sex (which had undoubtedly existed to a much greater extent in European folklore as well before the Victorians came along) were still intact, and the stories seemed to my Western eyes, anyway refreshing and free of the clichés I had become familiar with.
The singer or narrator was to disappear, and I chose to reduce the string orchestra to eight soloists for which I later made amends with the Symphony for Strings but what emerged was nonetheless what could be considered a set of musical folktales. Each one focuses on developing certain themes or ideas we could call them "morals" and the set is infused with more atomic, recurring motives let's say "values." Each piece, moreover, has a separate character: by turns assertive, whimsical, pathetic, and nostalgic. While it would be difficult to correlate any of the scenes to a literal story (let alone an actual folktale), each one has (I hope) a fairly obvious narrative progression towards final resolution, and the last piece's C-major fadeout has a definite sense of "over the hills and far away."
Four Scenes was commissioned by the Sejong Soloists and received its world première by that ensemble on 15 August 2008 at the Great Mountains Music Festival.
I. Allegro (ca. 4')
II. Presto (ca. 1'45")
III. Adagio non troppo (ca. 5'30")
IV. Andante con moto (ca. 4'30")
August 15, 2008
Great Mountains Music Festival