Sunbin Kim: Slow Cancellation (2020, Copland House CULTIVATE commission)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 5pm EDT

Performed by Music from Copland House
(Moran Katz, clarinet; Pala Garcia, violin; Alexis Pia Gerlach, cello; Margaret Kampmeier, piano)


Notes from the composer

The title of my piece refers to concept found in the writings of Franco Berardi and Mark Fisher of the “slow cancellation of the future”–the shrinking ability of culture, beginning in the 1980s–to create new ideas. Without feeling that a better world (or future) is even thinkable, much less within our reach, the same ideas will be constantly retreaded, resembling the output of a procedural generation algorithm–code in a machine that holds up extreme inequality.

Slow Cancellation is constructed out of fragments of three “lost” pieces, which symbolize aspects of humanity “killed” by the grinding machine: the Piano Sonata No. 3 by Nicolas Roslavets, the 1920s Soviet Futurist who sought to abandon old traditions and create an entirely new artistic language; the unfinished Contrapunctus XIV of J.S. Bach’s Art of Fugue, which would have climaxed in the unbroken cycling of four themes in four voices; and Buddha by Julius Eastman, not lost, but written while the composer was homeless, and laid out strangely on paper, with no performance instructions, making it difficult to interpret. (My piece offers hypothetical impressions of what the Roslavets and Bach would sound like.) A discordant, serial “machine music” interrupts the collage of these pieces, along with sketches from one of my old pieces, as a kind of bystander. Roslavets represents the ending of “the era in which people trusted in the future,” always progressing towards a better world. Bach represents the idea of the past or tradition, painted as a towering master of the most intricate Baroque masterpieces, but now played on repeat in the Port Authority Bus Terminal to instill fear in the homeless. Eastman represents the consequences of the previous two losses; left without the future and rejected by the dominant culture’s artistic scene, the debased human life is ground to dust.


About Sunbin Kim

Korean-born, New York-based SUNBIN KIM aims to create philosophical works that challenge preconceptions about art music, aesthetics, and the social norms within them, juxtaposing different styles, particularly those unexplored in the Western canon. His compositions have been heard at the Aspen, Tanglewood, Charlotte, Zodiac (France), and Uzmah/Upbeat (Croatia) Festivals, and been commissions by the New Juilliard Chamber Ensemble, Quartet Indigo, Iktus Percussion Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, and Smash Ensemble. He has also performed his own Fantasy Concerto with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra. He has received the Charles Ives Scholarship from American Academy of Arts and Letters, North/ South Consonance Award, and seven ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.


About Music from Copland House

Hailed by The New Yorker as “bold,” “adventurous,” and “superb,” MUSIC FROM COPLAND HOUSE offers ear-opening, mind-expanding experiences gathered from its journeys across 150 years of America’s vast musical landscape. Whether celebrating classic or forgotten voices from the nation’s past, or reveling in established or rising artists from the present, this wide-ranging American repertory ensemble creates memorable and richly diverse narratives in sound, linking music to the wider worlds from which these works emerged. “Illuminating essential truths about the music” (The New York Times), MCH has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, Euro-Radio, and other major media; and engaged by Tanglewood, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, University of Chicago, Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, and the Caramoor, Bard, Ecstatic, Bowdoin, and SONiC Festivals. It also records for the Arabesque, Koch International, and COPLAND HOUSE BLEND labels. Called “one of the leading champions of contemporary music” (Louisville Weekly), the ensemble presents two mainstage concert series in Westchester County, NY (now in its 12th season), and at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (in its 2nd season). Inspired by Copland’s peerless, lifelong advocacy of American composers, MCH presents a wide variety of educational and community outreach activities. Launched in 1999 by flutist Paul Lustig Dunkel, clarinetist Derek Bermel, violinist Nicholas Kitchen, cellist Wilhelmina Smith, and pianist Michael Boriskin, MCH boasts a stellar roster of Founding, Principal, and Guest Artists, of whom, The Chicago Tribune raved, “Copland would have been proud of all of them.”


About Cultivate

CULTIVATE, now in its 10th season, is Copland House’s flagship annual emerging composers institute, directed by Grammy-nominated composer-clarinetist Derek Bermel. Embracing exploration, process, and community, this weeklong, all-scholarship creative workshop and mentoring program is an important destination on the early-career paths of gifted young composers of all artistic and personal backgrounds and identities. Linking creation, performance, and education, Copland House commissions six CULTIVATE Fellows to compose a short new chamber piece that is the heart of their work during an intensive week of rehearsals, workshops, discussions, and other individual and collective sessions with Bermel, the Music from Copland House ensemble, and prominent, visionary arts leaders. The institute concludes with public concerts where all the new works are premiered and filmed for delayed telecast. CULTIVATE is also a portal for additional performance, recording, commissioning, and other career-development opportunities.

Support for CULTIVATE 2020 and Cultivated Spaces comes the ASCAP and BMI Foundations, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Friends of Copland House, Jandon Foundation, and NewMusicUSA.  Additional program support comes from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Amphion Foundation, ArtsWestchester, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts. Donate to CULTIVATE.


Sunbin Kim – Copland House Cultivated Spaces [4.20.2021]