Yessori (Sound from the Past)
Soo Yeon Lyuh
50 For The Future:
The Kronos Learning
“When I first played the haegeum for Kronos violinist David Harrington, he commented that the sound seemed ‘ancient,’ and commissioned me to write a piece that explores aspects of Korean traditional music. With his observation in mind, I composed Yessori (옛소리), which is Korean for ‘sound from the past.’
“The first time I experienced Korean traditional music, the relative pitch relationships and fluid nature of the rhythmic cycles felt chaotic, perhaps because of my background in Western music. However, over the past two decades of studying the haegeum, I came to love these unique qualities and am excited to share them through Yessori.
“My compositional process began with improvisations on the haegeum in the style of traditional Korean music. I then adapted the distinctive techniques, vibrato, and articulations for string quartet.”
Soo Yeon Lyuh and members of the Kronos Quartet demonstrate key techniques for Yessori.
Soo Yeon Lyuh discusses her musical background, her composition process, her relationship with Kronos, and more.
Soo Yeon Lyuh is a haegeum (Korean two-string bowed instrument) player, composer, and improviser currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rigorously trained in court and folk repertories from a young age, Lyuh is known for her masterful performances of new compositions for the haegeum. In South Korea, she served as a member of the National Gugak Center for 12 years.
Deeply invested in exploring new musical possibilities via improvisation, she has collaborated with the Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Frith, Joan Jeanrenaud, and numerous other diverse international performers and composers. Lyuh has performed renowned contemporary and experimental concerts in festivals and venues all over the world, including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (MASS MoCA), Ecstatic Music Festival (The Greene Space at WQXR, New York), as a featured soloist with UC Berkeley Symphony orchestra on tour (Spain), Isang Yun Music Festival (North Korea), Büyükşehir Belediyesi Sanat ve Kültür Sarayı (Turkey), Siri Fort Auditorium (India) and the Seoul Arts Center (South Korea), among others. Lyuh has recorded multiple CDs of Korean court music, Jazz, and improvisation, as well as being featured on an improvisational recording with Henry Kaiser, William Winant, Bill Laswell, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Simon Barker.
Lyuh holds a BA, MA, and DMA in Korean Musicology from Seoul National University where she taught for six years. She was a visiting scholar at Mills College (2017–2018), UC Berkeley (2015–2016), and University of Hawai’i at Manoa (2011–2012). Lyuh seeks to continually expand contemporary haegeum possibilities through work with new media and technology.
Soo Yeon is such an eloquent and emotional player on the haegeum, and Yessori presents string quartets with the exciting challenge of trying to imitate that sound. There are so many little subtleties that need to be there. She has this incredible way of vibrating. Sometimes it's wild, sometimes it's delicate; it's so nuanced, the way she plays with dynamics and timing. And there's always great feeling behind it, it's just marvelous."