Within EarShot Part 3: Nicky Sohn & "Bird Up"

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY MAR 13, 2019

Four select composers come to Sarasota this month for a musical milestone, as the EarShot initiative, dedicated to identifying and promoting promising musical talent, teams up with the Sarasota Orchestra. Chosen from 127 applicants, Krists Auznieks, Nicky Sohn, Sam Wu and Kitty Xiao will spend a week in workshop with the musicians of Sarasota Orchestra, as well as three visiting mentor composers and LA-based conductor Christopher Rountree, all leading to a concert on March 16, where the young composers will hear their music performed by a full orchestra for the first time. In this four-part series, SRQ meets the minds behind the music.

A Korean composer splitting her time between Berlin, New York City and Seoul, Nicky Sohn finds as much inspiration in the world of jazz as she does classical, enjoying the likes of Bill Evans and Chet Baker next to composers like Michael Torke and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Her composition is entitled Bird Up.

What was the inspiration for your composition? Sohn: Bird Up encapsulates my perspective on the nature of New York City, as seen through the lens of the bizarre humor in The Eric Andre Show. Bird Up reflects the extreme end of the chaos that New Yorkers sometimes encounter with a humorous twist.

What was your biggest challenge in this piece? Overcoming my fear for writing for orchestra—trusting myself and my imagination and pushing through with my ideas. Even though writing for an orchestra is extremely exciting and stimulating, it is also very overwhelming.

Do you have a favorite instrument to write for? Clarinet and cello are my two favorite instruments to write for. They both are both extremely flexible with their wide range of register, dynamic, and expression. I love how they can be so delicate and elegant, but also rhythmic and athletic.

What does it mean for you, to take part in the EarShot initiative? Orchestra is the most effective, compelling and charming tool for composers to expand their music and themselves. Hearing my music played live helps me so much to grow my imagination and curiosity, and I always end up having hundreds of things I would like to try in the next piece. 

Where do you hope to take your art in the future?
 I hope to delve deeper into the genres of ballet music and opera, finding a way to develop my musical language to suit these mediums. I have always been passionate about raising my voice to tell the world the truth about Korean history, especially about comfort women and the independence movement in Korea. I would love to use opera as the medium to tell such stories and raise important issues.

Pictured: Nicky Sohn.

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