Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Friday, 5 May 2017

Musique Concrete and Silk Paper: a Percussionist's Kit

  'Allegro ma non troppo: 

version for solo percussion and tape'

by Unsuk Chin 

You wouldn't think cataloguing a new piece of music would cause so much intellectual activity!  In a recent consignment of new music, appeared 'Allegro ma non troppo: version for solo percussion and tape', by south Korean composer Unsuk Chin.  

Music using everyday objects is called musique concrete, and the list of instrumentation certainly places this piece into that category: the instrumentation list includes a kitchen grater, teaspoons, a 'thin, inexpensive wine glass' (we studied the score - you throw this particular glass into a trash bin), not to mention 2 large wine glasses and a small sturdy water glass, 2 clocks, a paperback book, 4 metal chains and sundry other items - oh, and some 'proper' percussion too.

Of more concern is the requirement for at least 81 pieces of silk paper.  We're not talking of silk-finish printer paper - not at all.  Rather, a YouTube video demonstrates it's a more delicate kind of paper.  Although silk paper can be hand-made,* it's probably not necessary to go to these lengths for your performance of this piece.  (Try Googling "silk paper".  It appears to be a kind of Asian tissue paper.)  Only one piece of the paper is required to be crumpled at the start of the performance, suggesting that the rest is crumpled 'en passant'.  So you'll need another 80 sheets for your next performance. 

Another list informs the enthusiastic percussionist of their technical requirements - a stage, 3 tables, 2 lighting zones, an assortment of hardware and a stereo tape, which can be obtained by emailing the publisher, Boosey and Hawkes.  (It comes with, and without the click-track.)  You'll need an in-ear monitor or playback monitors as well as 4 loudspeakers, which must have subwoofers.

Now, all we need is an enthusiastic percussionist to try this out for us.  The score uses standard percussion notation, with very clear instructions - it's not improvisatory.  Anyone up for adding it to their solo repertoire?

* Making Silk Paper, website by artist Lisa Volrath

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