• Percussionist Curt Newton (left) and cellist Jeff Song use the chang-go and kayagum, traditional Korean instruments, to create 'music inspired by and drawing upon a huge range of influences.' They will perform on campus on Friday, March 18.

    Photo / Curt Newton

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Concert to showcase Korean instruments


The distinctive sounds of traditional Korean instruments will be used to create innovative new music at an Artists Behind the Desk concert at The List Visual Arts Center this Friday, March 18, at 5:15 p.m.

The concert is being held in conjunction with "Kimsooja: Seven Wishes and Scenes," a current exhibition by Korean-born artist Kimsooja that focuses on large Iris prints of fabrics traditionally given to Korean newlyweds.

Percussionist Curt Newton, who recently began playing improvised themes on traditional Korean instruments with cellist Jeff Song, saw an opportunity for a different kind of union.

"I wondered if some pertinent connection might be made around Korean-American themes," said Newton, a department liaison for MIT's OpenCourseWare program. In a marriage between art forms, Newton and Song will present the concert on Korean instruments--the chang-go (an hourglass-shaped drum) and kayagum (a 12-string zither)--at the List Center galleries in Building E15.

"Our stuff is not traditional Korean music in the least," says Newton, nor is it even a Korean/Western fusion. "It's improvised music inspired by and drawing upon a huge range of influences that happens to be played on traditional Korean instruments," he says. Those influences include jazz, rock, folk, avant-garde and 20th century classical music. "Because of this choice of instruments, the way the instruments work and sound together, on a surface level it sounds Korean to the casual listener," says Newton, "but that's not what we're about ultimately."

As a Boston-based drummer and percussionist Newton has been playing uncompromising original music since 1986. A versatile ensemble player and soloist, he integrates innovative sounds and extended techniques with the jazz and rock drum set traditions. Musician and composer Song is becoming well known for his contributions to the world of contemporary improvised music and to the growing body of creative music by Asian Americans. Originally from the Midwest, Song has been active in the jazz, folk, rock, funk, new music and contemporary improvisation scenes in the Boston and New York areas since 1982.

The evening will include a discussion of Kimsooja's exhibition by List Visual Arts Center Curator Bill Arning and will conclude with a question-and-answer session about Kimsooja's work and Korean music.

Gallery talks and film

A number of public talks and a film night will round out the activities accompanying Kimsooja's exhibition and "Pavel Braila," an exhibition documenting contemporary life in the Republic of Moldova (located between Romania and Ukraine).

List Visual Arts Center Director Jane Farver and Arning conduct a Curators' Talk today (Wednesday, March 16) at noon; Arning will lead a Gallery Talk on Friday, March 18, at 6 p.m., and List Center Education/Outreach Coordinator Hiroko Kikuchi will hold a Gallery Talk on Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m.

Kimsooja returns to the galleries to talk about her exhibition on Wednesday, March 30, at 6:30 p.m.

In conjunction with the "Pavel Braila" exhibition, the List Center will host a film night presenting "Building Heaven, Remembering Earth: Confessions of a Fallen Architect" on Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in Bartos Theater. Directed by Oliver Hockenhull, this Canadian film presents a crosscultural, panhistorical reflection on the philosophy of architecture. The List Center's film nights are organized by John Gianvito, a Boston-based filmmaker, teacher and curator.

Both exhibitions are on view at the List Center through April 10.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 16, 2005 (download PDF).


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