When I was given the opportunity by Gilseon Jung to write a new sanjo for her, I was both honored and humbled: Honored, because I was being offered the chance to work with an expert performer and to contribute to an important genre; Humbled because of my great respect for the sanjo tradition. As a foreigner, I am approaching this music from the outside. So, rather than writing a piece in a Korean style, I have instead chosen to emulate what – to me – are the key characteristics of sanjo. Faraway Sanjo is a sanjo seen from the perspective of one standing at a great distance.
In many ways, this piece behaves much like a traditional sanjo: The overall tempos move from very slow to very fast; The melodies are often written in an improvisatory, vocal style; Syncopations are frequent; The janggu plays a series of jangdan.
But the piece also behaves very much unlike a sanjo at times: Rather than beginning slowly, there is a quick introduction; a number of the performing techniques are not found in any sanjo; the piece does not go strictly from slow tempos to faster ones; The janggu plays newly-composed jangdan. There are many characteristics of this piece that separate it from the traditional sanjo, but it is my intention that this piece be heard as honoring the long tradition of the sanjo, whose unique melodic and rhythmic structure allows for a of host of interpretations.
This piece is dedicated to Gilseon Jung, an adventurous performer who is expanding the gayageum repertoire by championing the music of living composers.