Monday, September 23, 2013


Arranger’s notes, 23 September 2013 

The concert, 18 September 2013: GENUS has pulled off another successful concert this semester in UCC Theatre, the one titled EMCC Food For Thought. It was marketed with a gigantic ice cream in the poster, conveniently despite the fact that ice cream was not one of the featured delicacies in the concert (but ice cream can go with all of them… it can be argued that way…). Yeonbap was second to play in the line-up and was generally well received by the audience and ensemble members.

The song: Yeonbap was one of the soundtracks, composed by Im Se-Hyeon, that were featured in the Korean historical epic Dae Jang Geum. In this serial, a sad orphan Lee Young-Ae enters a palace, becomes a cook, plays palace politics, becomes a doctor, lands a handsome dude, saves the king’s life, and does other pretty interesting stuff. By far the most recognisable tunes associated with the TV show are Onara in the end credits and Changyong in the beginning credits. I chose Yeonbap here because it shows up whenever the stunt double does the cooking, and therefore is the most suited to the concert’s theme (food). Yeonbap itself is rather well-designed for this purpose; the melodic theme progresses from soft to loud, from an appetizer titillating the appetite to a main course so rich it immobilises the guests with satiation.

The arrangement process: The problem was to make it work for a guitar ensemble. Certain flourishes in the original soundtrack were deemed unfeasible and were cut out. House A was grafted into the beginning as an intro, and was an allusion to the melodic theme of Sasom Fågelen, a song by the Swedish singer Lena Willemark. House F was originally intended for Changyong but I later wrote in an angsty wailing number that I thought up out of nothing one sleepless night. House G mops up the residual bloodthirstiness of its predecessor with rumbling basses and contrabasses and eases its progress back to normalcy; I meant it as a nod to the compositional techniques employed by the (Australian) Crooked Fiddle Band to bridge different movements of set tunes such as What the thunder said. The rest of the song stays fairly faithful to the original. Most of the arrangement was done during the exam season of EPFL, where I was studying for a semester-long exchange program; it could have been due to the stress of the examinations that the middle sections were so strident and torturous. The arrangement was completed jubilantly by yours truly while in Brugg, a quiet and uneventful Swiss town where one can finally find the inner peace needed to do such a thing properly.

The performance: Peiqi, Wan Ching and Bei Ying were mobilised to play the drums, the peng ling, the sleigh bells and the cymbals. The cymbals needed a high-pitched, slightly subdued sound and a pair of cymbals the size of a palm was chosen. The peng ling took the role of the triangle, and a barrel drum laid horizontally stood in as an ersatz Janggu. Liangshan was the flautist, playing the Chinese flute (dizi) for the theme and the concert flute for house E, where the notes were too low for the Chinese flute. In bars 154-156, he has decided to play a shrill trilling note to accompany the guitars, which turned out to be so fitting that I forgot that it was not written in the score. Some changes in dynamics were suggested in the course of the rehearsals and these are reflected in the present version of the manuscript.

Technical stuff: Certain difficulties were encountered in the process of translating the scores into playing, which I should explain. The lightly damp technique employed by A2, P1 and P2 is to rest the fleshy outer rim of the right palm on the bridge when plucking the string, allowing just enough flesh to touch the strings that the sound produced becomes muted, but not so much that the sound stops short (as in pizzicato). The marcato bar combined with the staccato dot, seen in the B and CB/Gr parts in house D, denotes a mezzo staccato. Mezzo staccato notes are just slightly separated. In this case, I recommend a little emphasis to be put on the mezzo staccato note, and “bounce” the string with the left hand.

House E has been left at 3/4 timing in writing. In reality, all the sections behave as if playing in 3/4 or 6/8 timing at different times. Where I have tried to indicate accurately when the tune is in 3/4 and when the tune is in 6/8 in other houses, the situation in house E is beyond my sanity tolerance level, and so I apologise for any confusion about the barring of quavers here.