Dear Mother - 보고싶은 어머니께

for piano & orchestra (c. 9'30")

I. 보고싶은 어머니께 (dear mother)
II. 아픔 (pain)
III. 정 - 아리랑 (Jeong - Arirang)

Dear Mother is a suite of three simple songs intended as a gift for my birth mother. The first movement is a kind of imaginary lullaby. The week after I received my first letter from my birth mother, I reflected on what it meant to me to connect with her after all these years, and this is the music that came to mind.
The centerpiece of this suite is the second movement, titled 아픔 (ah-puhm), the Korean word for pain. This pain can be likened to a uniquely Korean word, Han. Han is thought to be a cultural object, ingrained in the psyche of all Koreans. To borrow from Soojung Jo, Korean adoptee and author of “Ghost of Sangju: a memoir of reconciliation”, Han can be thought of as:

“an intrinsic Korean emotion of sorrow, grief, oppression, isolation, loneliness, and resentment of suffering which leads to forgiveness and deep love... There is no literal translation [for han]. It’s a state of mind. Of soul, really... A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet, there’s still hope.”

There is a pain unique to Korean adoptees and their mothers. A pain of knowing something has been lost but never knowing what that thing is. A pain that must be forgotten if one is to survive. After love, this pain is the first bond that the adopted children of the generations lost can form with their birth mothers, should they be lucky enough to reconnect.

"I had to keep the guilt of having to choose your adoption and the thought of never being able to meet you buried in my heart.”

The third movement, Jeong - Arirang is my own personal setting of Arirang, a traditional Korean melody. Arirang is known as the unofficial national anthem of all of Korea, and there are an estimated 60 different regional variations of Arirang. Jeong is another word unique to Korean, and can be thought of as a deep love and compassion that all Koreans feel towards one another. I remember hearing Arirang as a child and feeling some distant resonance with it. It felt foreign to me, but somehow it also felt familiar. Arirang was the first connection I felt with my Korean heritage, so I decided this setting should be for cello, the instrument that my mother plays. Omma, perhaps you gave me music, so I give this to you.

Conducted by Jisoo Kim