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at184    Kunsu Shim   ‘LUFT.INNERES’       

Luna String Quartet   Janneke van Prooijen & Jellanntsje de Vries (violins)

                                Elisabeth Smalt (viola)  Katharina Gross (cello)

Chamber works for strings by and for Kunsu Shim

1     Kunsu Shim   RELATIONS   (1995)    8:00

2     Kunsu Shim   LUFT.INNERES  (2019)   13:14                 youtube extract

3-5  Kunsu Shim   AUF DER KLEINSEITE l, ll , lll   (2016)   7:52

6     Arnold Marinissen   Drahtseil  (2018)   1:27

7     Amnon Wolman   For Kunsu  (2018)   2:46

8     Anton Lukoszevieze   It is  (2018)   1:17

9     Alwynne Pritchard  up without an insistent casting away #13  (2017)   0:48

10   Nicolaus A. Huber   Die schwarze Partitur  (1962)   1:10

11   Gerhard Stäbler   Nachtstück ll  (2018)   0:38

12   Kunsu Shim  LUFTRAND  (2000)   12:47

Kunsu Shim

Sleevenotes by Elisabeth von Leliwa

Kunsu Shim’s compositions explore the beauty of imperfection and fragility, of simplicity and complexity in natural life, operating at the peripheries of sound and noise. Perception, not purpose, lies at the core of this music. The creation of such sounds is happening in extremely soft and quiet volumes with small changes of character either in a structural or textural form.  In his scores Shim asks his musicians to act with tenderness, care and warmth, lightness or gracefulness - thereby evoking the utmost sensitivity and attention in players and listeners alike. Perception is a kind of attentiveness. Attentiveness is concentration. Concentration is - according to Walter Benjamin - the soul’s natural prayer.

RELATIONS for string trio consists of 60 three-part chords, played in regular intervals of about 8 seconds (embracing the sound and following the silence). The notation defines a precise varietyof playing instructions. All notes are to be played non-vibrato, without artificial expression. Shim compares the (un)moving sound constellations with 60 tableaus to a ‘breathing’ tree, attracted by the wind, but held by the earth - a continuous interplay of correlating elementary powers.

LUFTRAND (literally: air’s edge) leads the three string players with microscopic changes of pitches within the chord structures even further to the edges (‘Rand’) of sound, as Shim describes: “a music of air, of breath, of soft light, up and down, pacing, to a place where this breath of air dissolves. There, on the edge of nothing, this music waits for an encounter with that which wasn’t lost.”  LUFTRAND transforms an apparently incidental action - the loosening of the strings to about an octave lower - into a sound junction between the first and second part of the piece. The inevitable cracking of the tuning pins becomes a welcome and specific element of the composition.

The image of small creatures - like insects crawling, rustling, lovinglly playing on the edge of a wood - gave the structural idea for AUF DER KLEINSEITE I, II, III (inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem of the same name, literally ‘on the small side’). The three parts of the composition can be played consecutively (as on this recording) or separately as ‘intermezzi’ between other pieces on a concert programme. Again the score offers a variety of ‘Aktionseinheiten’ (musical action units) of about 5 seconds, giving the musicians certain choices among fixed tone materials and articulations. Furthermore, Shim demands physical interaction: the three players are divided into a main player and ‘shadow players’. The shadow players are supposed to react with their respective musical material on what they actually hear from the main player - not as an echo, but acting nearly simultaneously, like bodies uniting into one. The impossibility of this task and the resuting imperfection of gestures is an organic feature of this composition - “a music of the poetic play of eroticism” as Shim claims.

LUFT.INNERES (literally: air.inside) for four strings, composed for his partner Gerhard Stäbler’s 70th birthday, refines and transcends many of these features onto a new level. A web of the finest micromovements of sounds creates diverse levels of points, lines and flections. Each player is asked to arrange 36 musical units of about 12 seconds in a new order for every performance. Pitches are only partially fixed, the actual duration of each unit might slightly vary. Luft.Inneres is one of Shim’s works exploring the unity of variabilities: “roots arising towards the sky“. The intention is to create a “life laboratory of musical molecules”, a transitional space finding an equivalence in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari: “day and night, the constructed and the naturally grown, between mutations of the inorganic towards the organic, of plant towards animal, of animal towards the human race, without this sequence being a progression” (from A Thousand Plateaus). The listener is invited to let “oneself drift in the flow of sound” – to proliferate, to experience oneself as part of a growing, living organism.

Collaboration is an essential part of Kunsu Shim’s artistic life. Four friends composed miniatures for string quartet reflecting aspects of his work and thereby emphasizing the uniqueness of Shim’s approach: Arnold Marinissen’s Drahtseil (literally: tightrope) opens a pulsating space, intermitted by ricochets concentrating on a single pitch. The last chord opens into a new infinity. Amnon Wolman creates a nearly static space – like a recurring breath, at first very light, then with the soft rising and falling of the dynamics moving towards and from the listener. Anton Lukoszevieze translates William Carlos Williams’ poem It is into a fading music, contemplating the lower sounds of the string instruments. Alwynne Pritchard offers a conceptual work with nine short textual indications as the basis for the performance.

With Nicolaus A. Huber and Gerhard Stäbler, two other highly influential artistic companions are featured. Die schwarze Partitur (literally: the black score) gives the essence of music for violin solo: each of the six actions condenses a variety of articulations on just one pitch and individual string. Nachtstück II (literally: night piece) sets forceful sound eruptions against the silence opening and ending the piece.

The Dutch Luna String Quartet, founded in 2018, has worked intensively with Shim before. The tenderness, simplicity, sensation the composer is asking for can be felt and heard throughout this recording, the musicians creating an intense experience of listening on the edges of sound.

The Luna String Quartet with Kunsu Shim

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