Professor David Evan Jones discovered traditional Korean music in 1996, at the first of now six UC Santa Cruz Pacific Rim Music Festivals, the last held in 2017. Organized by Professor Hi Kyung Kim, Jones's Music Department colleague and fellow music theorist and composer, the festivals bring to campus musicians from Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and Korea, among other countries, to share and perform new music. It was there, Jones said, that he began to form lasting friendships with a community of Korean musicians, leading to the professional premiere of his chamber opera, Bardos, in downtown Seoul.
That first trip to Korea in 2004, Jones said, sparked his interest in composing music for traditional Korean instruments, including the daegeum, a long bamboo flute, and the gayageum, a 12-stringed zither. “I have technical and theoretical curiosities about the ways music can be and is put together in different cultures,” said Jones, who also creates music compositions using computers and unconventional sources such as audio from news broadcasts.
Writing music for Korean instruments required multiple attempts to get right, Jones said. Ultimately, though, he said he was very pleased with the 2017 performances in New York, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Seoul of his Dreams of Falling for a full Korean orchestra. His favorite instrument? The gayageum. “It makes the most beautiful sound in the world,” Jones said.