In 1999 I had the opportunity to write a piece for kayagum and changgu in combination with cello. The cello player of the first performance in fact was a baroque music specialist and performed on a baroque cello. At that time, the Korean-American composer Donald Sur with whom I had become friends when living in Cambridge, Massachusetts had just passed away. Donald loved the kayagum and had two of these instruments in his apartment along with a komun'go and piles of percussion. Professor Sur was a versed and ever curious scholar of Korean music. He was always, until his death, eager to share his insights into Korean music. in a way that would be fruitful for non-Korean music and musicians as well. He had traveled to Korea often where many of his new works for court ensemble were successfully performed. Following the Korean custom of saying the family name before the given name, in Korea, he was called Sur, Donald which at times amused him because of the phonetic parallel between his name "Sur" and the respectful English form of address "Sir." Thus I have called my piece which is dedicated to his memory, "Sir Donald."

The piece begins slowly with a variety of sounds from the cello. Then kayagum and changgu gradually join in. After a polymetric section with a melody played by the bowed cello, the first part ends with repeated notes in the cello and kayagum parts followed by a stretch of changgu solo. The changgu plays an energetic transition to a very loud section with a rock-music-like sound which then changes into a quieter yet always driving development culminating in kayagum glissandos and ending with a common pluck from the kayagum and the cello. The third part features a long, low melody line with scratchy sounds like wailing, grunts, and grumbling which leads into a short section echoing changgu and cello sounds from the beginning of the piece. After a common last note between the changgu and the cello, the piece ends In a codetta of new kayagum glissandi mixed with strummed cello chords and a final changgu tremolo.

(Stefan Hakenberg, 2000

Korean program notes by Stefan Hakenberg on Sir Donald for kayagum, baroque cello,...