I recently met a very talented fellow from Korea, named Hyun. He attended the Composer Symposium in Atlanta, and wowed one and all with his music. Very intricate, rhythmic stuff – yet melodic, and dramatic. Now, I must point out, composing choral music is a part-time hobby for Hyun. We would say here in America that he “dabbles” in his spare time. Hyun might compose more, but he stays pretty busy as a research cardiologist at the Chonnam National University Medical School. (I wonder if I could take up cardiology as a hobby? Probably not a great idea.)
Unsurprisingly – much of Hyun’s music is set with Korean lyrics, making it a fairly tough sell for American choirs. (We Americans struggle enough with English – let alone Korean.) So, it fell to me to write new words for one of Hyun’s pieces.
I have had long-distance collaborations before. As in Nashville and New York. Or Nashville and Kansas City. Or Nashville and Los Angeles. But Nashville and Korea? That’s long-distance, folks.
Hyun provided me a literal English translation of his Korean lyric. But it didn’t feel like a subject that would resonate with American choirs. So, with Hyun’s blessing, I took off on my direction, following the Muse of Hyun’s music. I worked on it for two solid days, and I’m still making tiny adjustments. (Once again, I am reminded that “writing is rewriting.”)
The piece is rhythmic, multi-metered, and very quick. It was a genuine challenge to write words that trip off the tongue at that tempo, and manage to actually say something coherent. I felt a little like Gilbert to Hyun’s Sullivan. (Only Sullivan always composed music to Gilbert’s words, not the other way around.)
The result is a song called “The Secret Melody.” It began as “The Simple melody,” but with a wise nudge from Joe Martin (a pretty decent lyricist in his own right), “simple” became “secret,” improving the lyric – and instigating another round of rewrites.
I just heard from Hyun that he likes what I wrote for his piece. He thinks my lyrics are funny, which I hope is a compliment. (I definitely was attempting to be clever.) And he found a small mistake in my lyrics – so I guess I’m still rewriting.
Back to the salt mine.