Cultural Event brings Composers, Ensembles from Around the World

MSU professor and chair of composition invited to attend inaugural festival of Asia Culture Center in South Korea.

MSU Professor of Music Ricardo Lorenz rehearses “Come Back Again” with the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Sharon Andrea Choa (cond.), and soloist Eom Yun Suk.
Ricardo Lorenz, center, poses for a photo with members of the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra after a workshop of new works written for Chinese traditional instruments.
Four guest composers pictured left to right in back row: Ricardo Lorenz (USA/MSU), Santa Buss (Latvia), Michael Daugherty (USA/U Mich), Joel Hoffman (USA/Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music).

Ricardo Lorenz of the MSU College of Music longed to return to South Korea after participating in two music festivals in the Asian country in 2013 and 2014. In 2016, the professor and chair of the composition area got the chance.

From Nov. 24-27, Lorenz joined composers from around the world in presenting new works for the first annual festival of the new and highly prominent Asia Culture Center (ACC) in Gwangju, South Korea. Two years ago, Lorenz was commissioned to do a work for the gayageum—an ancient Korean string musical instrument—and voice for the Young-Nam International Contemporary Music Festival. His charge this time was to adapt the piece for gayageum and string ensemble for a side-by-side performance at the ACC’s national theatre's Symphony for Asia Festival.

“I was very honored to be invited to this wide-reaching festival in this incredible, state-of-the-art center,” says Lorenz. “The organizers felt that what I originally did with the piece, incorporating Korean gayageum, expressed an international perspective of Asian culture, that I captured something valuable.”

The original piece “Come Back,” Lorenz says, was based on a poem by the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy and was composed for soprano voice and the zither-like Korean instrument. In preparing the composition for the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Lorenz renamed the piece “Come Back Again” to accentuate feelings of loss, nostalgia and longing he intended to convey.

“I renamed it, too, because I have this opportunity to come back to a country that I’ve grown to like a great deal,” he says. “This was simply a tremendous opportunity to meet colleagues, recruit potential students, and make valuable international connections for MSU.”

The ACC is considered among the most prominent venues in South Korea for performing arts. The government-funded establishment in the heart of Gwangju City consists of a newly constructed national theatre complex for the production, presentation and exchange of cutting-edge works in international performing arts.

The first annual festival brought together artists and music ensembles from around the world, including about a dozen composers from Western and Eastern Europe, Australia, Asia, and the United States. Lorenz was among three composers from the U.S. His composition “Come Back Again” was performed by gayageum soloist Eom Yun Suk and the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble to an audience of 200 people.

“This was a unique chance for me to feel part of a global community of composers and artists gathered to celebrate the birth of what is sure to become a magnet for international events of high caliber in the years to come,” says Lorenz. “The timing of an artistic event like this one, meant to bring harmony and understanding among people, became especially significant as South Korea was in political turmoil due to the probable impeachment of their current president. It was quite an experience to hear new music being played inside a gorgeous facility while hundreds of thousands of Koreans were protesting outside on the street. It was comforting and unsettling at the same time, the way great art always is.”

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