Do you know the story of stone soup? You know the one where a stranger comes into town, claiming he can make the most delicious soup with a stone … if only he had some water to boil ... some vegetables ... seasoning ... The villagers gather around, each adding to the pot, curious to see just how soup can be made of stone.
Let me share a new American version of this old folktale.
Nearly a decade ago in Los Angeles, singer/songwriter Joyce Kwon started studying gayageum, the traditional 12-string Korean zither, under a wise teacher whom she loved like her own grandmother. She envisioned herself playing gayageum on stage one day but put that dream on hold to hone her craft as a jazz singer in New York City. Meanwhile, her teacher became too frail to continue giving her lessons. She gave her blessing for Joyce to study with another teacher, with funding from the Berkeley community, and passed down her gayageum just weeks before she breathed her last.
With the precious gift in hand, Joyce went to Seoul for two years and spent her time diligently practicing the traditional repertoire and began writing songs on gayageum to comfort herself as she dealt with losing family and feeling utterly foreign in the country where she was born. A couple of friends encouraged her to record the songs: big sister HeeSung Kim insisted on making her a music video and old moss/keyboardist Ross Garren said he’d produce the record.
It was to be a solo album but Ross thought it would be even better with more rhythm and harmony. How about adding some tambourine and triangle ... Mellotron and Marxophone ... Harmonica and Harmonetta?
Ross and Joyce sought out the mixing wizard, Keith Armstrong of North Hollywood, for his audio engineering magic. Fellow townsman Erik Kertes came by with his pep and bass while drummer Gavin Salmon laid down the groove and garnished the songs with a shaker the volume of a few packets of salt. Bay Area legend Hitomi Oba added her tenor saxophone lines, at times fiery, at times fluttery, and trombonist/chef Nick DePinna threw in bold brass with the capacity to shock. Born and raised Angeleno Brandon Bae filled out the tunes with his informed and inventive guitar playing.
All of the ingredients together resulted in a novel, yet palatable collection of songs with a base of Korean folk, Black American Music, and contemporary production.
But the soup isn’t ready to be served yet. We still need spoons and bowls … a ladle ... We need your contribution to complete mixing, master the audio, manufacture CDs, and get publicity help to spread the word since the aroma can only spread so far on its own.
These are songs that will help restore a heart broken thrice over with grief, songs that will resonate with immigrants who feel alien in the land of their ancestors while simultaneously rebuffed from their home country, songs that will nourish weary souls in their search for an elusive home that no giant head in the Emerald City can help them find.
Wouldn’t you like to be a part of this new American tale?
If you pledge Little Bird, I'll email you a PDF of the sheet music and mp3 to the song.
As you can see in the snippet above, the top staff has the vocal part notated and the bottom staff, gayageum. Chords run across the top so that you can also play it on guitar or piano. It's easy to play and appropriate for beginners (helpful if you can read chords) on up! Even if you don't read music, this handwritten score will look nice printed on paper of your choice.
You can listen to the solo voice/gayageum version of Little Bird below:
Three Sister Bears
Pictured are prototypes of the gayageum bookmark that I designed, lovingly laser cut by my baby sister. The final product will be cut from bamboo plywood and look even better :) Use it to keep your place in one of the recommended Asian-American authored books.
More about the project
This will be an album of eight songs—a compact and complete statement. Other than two which are original arrangements of traditional music, the songs are my own which my producer Ross Garren and I collaboratively arranged.
Risks and challenges
The release date is yet to be confirmed as that is contingent on other agencies related to promotion of the album. The music has already been recorded and is currently being mixed though, so I wouldn't worry about receiving the album and rewards in due time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)