Anecdote Programme Note by Donghoon Shin

When I received the commission from the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for a concerto for Sheng and Large Ensemble, the first thing that emerged in my mind was the scenery of Seoul, my hometown. The image of the sole Asian traditional instrument surrounded by Western instruments brought back my memory of the city which has been developed and westernised rapidly since the 1970s, yet still hides old palaces and traditional houses in the forest of skyscrapers.

The Sheng concerto, Anecdote is a self-portrait of my twenties, the wandering years when I lived in the strange city.

The piece consists of three different movements contrasting each other in terms of characters and lengths.

The first movement We Are All Nocturnal Creature is a nocturne as the title implies. Around dawn, on my way back home after guzzling booze, the shaking scenery of the city seen through the window of the bus used to send me into a delusional state in which the city became me, and I became the city. The movement begins with a Sheng solo and while being developed the boundary between the instrument and the ensemble becomes vague gradually. Finally, they become a large Sheng altogether.

The second movement Neon Nights refer to the glittering neon signs in the city. The movement is a colourful capriccio and long cadenza for Sheng and ensemble.

The last movement The Lost Song derives from the Ancestral Ritual music in Korea which was written and performed for souls that passed away. The movement begins with three different layers, the repeating rhythms in drums, the sustained chords in Sheng and strings and the dark melodies in Contrabassoon and double bass. As in the first movement, the boundary between three layers gradually collapses and the music becomes heterophonic, and finally dissipates. The movement is nostalgia and farewell for my twenties.

Donghoon Shin, 2019


Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with the support of  The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, PRS Foundation Talent Development Partners, The Leverhulme Trust, Arts Council England.

First performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on 21 March 2019 at CBSO Centre.

Murmurs (2019) Concert Programme (PDF)


Donghoon Shin

Donghoon Shin is a South Korean composer based in London. His music has been performed and commissioned by prominent orchestras, ensembles, and festivals such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Spanish National Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Ensemble Recherche, Riot Ensemble, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Tongyeong International Music Festival, TIMF Ensemble and Exaudi ensemble.

He has won numerous prizes including the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize in 2016, Goethe Award by Goethe Institut and Tongyeong International Music Festival in 2013 and the Grand Prix of the ANM-BBVA International Composition Concours in 2010. He was Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s Apprentice Composer in Residence (2017-18) through the Embedded scheme of Sound and Music.

Recent and upcoming commissions and premieres include Kafka’s Dream for the London Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Francois-Xavier Roth in March 2019 and a new chamber orchestra piece for the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor Peter Eötvös.

Donghoon Shin studied composition at Seoul National University with Sukhi Kang and Uzong Choe, and with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is now pursuing a PhD in Composition under the supervision of Sir George Benjamin at King’s College London. He is being mentored by Peter Eötvös through Sound and Music’s Embedded scheme and the Peter Eötvös Foundation. Unsuk Chin has been another influential mentor and supporter for Donghoon for over a decade. He also attended masterclasses of Tristan Murail, York Höller, Pascal Dusapin and Johannes Schöllhorn.

He is generously supported by the Daewon Cultural Foundation.

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