Composers take personal bonds with their instruments. There aren’t many cellist/composers around over the history. What roles did cellists play over the history? The Classical era’s cellist/composer Luigi Boccherini retained courtly and galante style, but the creative activities by cellist/composers in the Romantic era; Duport brothers, David Popper, Alfredo Piatti, were mostly remained at Etude and encore writings. The Modern era was indebted to Mstislav Rostropovich’s friendship with the twentieth-century composers such as Segei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Benjamin Britten. Indeed, not to forget about British contribution of the modern era would be correspondences between Steven Isserlis and John Tavener.
Little known in the UK until this date, the Korean-born German composer Isang Yun also was a cellist, who had significant personal bonds with his instrument, the cello. He used the cello as a metaphor of expressing his struggled emotions.
The use of cello as a metaphor could be related to how the range of cello (also have a look at my earlier posting that explains the Korean traditional instruments and their equivalent Western counterparts) is similar to masculine voice. Besides, it would be also related to cello’s accesibility to the Haupttöne which uses ornamental figures such as glissando, vibrato and pizzicato. He appeared to make compositional notes of his frustrated emotions through the cello during the crucial creative timescale. It is interesting to notice how his political emotions are evolved.
Table 1. Isang Yun’s metaphor
The Table 1 indicates how metaphors evolve in his creative period. Metaphors change from celebrating the South Korean Presidential visit in 1964, expressing the fearful memory of 1967-9 in 1970, and in 1975/6, to indicating his frustrations over his homeland’s (South Korea) continuous cold shoulder towards his hopes for a visit in 1992, despite the change in regime.
Isn’t it extremely interesting how cello as a metaphor indicate his politically active expressions were formed through external aspects? I find it would be stimulating to find out how his structural expressions were evolved in his pieces written for cello through cultural analysis. Indeed, it would be possible to discover the impact of Haupttöne in the development of the European avant-garde from this selection. Next posting will be on what kinds of analytical and critical methods would be appropriate for investigating Isang Yun’s musical insights.