Entertainment » Highlights » Vol. 14

The Ahn Trio


Excerpts from an Interview by Beth Franklin

1. Who came up with the title for your latest CD, “Lullaby for My Favorite Insomniac?”  And is there actually a favorite insomniac?

We heard “Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac” written by Kenji Bunch by chance and decided at that moment all together that it has to become an entire album around it.

Traditionally, a lullaby is a mother’s love for her beloved child translated into music.  It  is quite powerful emotionally even though it usually consists of very soft and simple melodies.  We thought this would be a great concept for the album.  To have a collection of modern lullabies, melodies and songs that have that special ‘lullaby’ quality, not always for a baby, but for our favorite insomniacs of all ages.

Our favorite insomniac is our mother – and then, individually, we all probably have our other favorite insomniacs!

2. All three of you attended Juilliard ~ was there ever concern that you might not all be accepted?  Was there healthy competition amongst the three of you during your time there?

None of us has a competitive edge.  Luckily, I think our levels of playing were quite similar.  Our only concern was losing our individual identities, being grouped into three Ahns while we were all at Juilliard.

3. Musically speaking, is there an era with which you most identify?

We all love the Romantic era.  We also love all the other different time periods, because, every era at that time was “Modern” and “new.”  For example, what we call “21st Century New Music” will become a Classic as the time passes.  We do identify ourselves with performing music mostly written for us, “music by living composers” of today.

4. Although music is foremost in your lives, do you have other artistic outlets?

Maria: I love to paint, draw and am starting my own jewelry design with a friend.
Lucia: I love to design, paint and am delving into writing songs.
Angella: I love to cook and garden.

5. At what ages did you pick up the instrument that you now play?  Did you ever try other instruments, or was “love at first note?”

Lucia saw the piano at Kindergarten and begged our mother to let her take piano lessons.  Soon after that, Angella and I wanted to learn instruments too, but  not the same instruments.  We always had to have something of an equal value but different.  We all chose our own instruments that really fit our personalities. We knew about all the instruments from our mother taking us to many concerts, dance, art exhibits, and shows as young children.

6. Do you ever feel as though you are old souls in young bodies?

Lucia : Actually,  I have imagined that when we used to play Brahms trios or Tchaikovsky, and even now, lots of different compositions take you away to a totally different world all together, I have this experience not only when I play but also when I hear a piece of music.  So it’s not just about feeling like an old soul or a young soul, but more about the range of emotions that you experience and places that it takes you to.

7. Has there ever been a time when music either frustrated you or struck you as something you needed to step away from for a while?

Music is never frustrating, maybe sometimes what comes along with being in a touring group ~  flying every day ~ can be frustrating if the airlines are being not so pleasant to deal with.  We had one airline that refused to fly us because of the cello, even though we always buy a seat for the cello.  We nearly missed a concert because we could not fly from Paris to New York on time.  That was definitely a very frustrating situation!

8. In addition to presenting the works of great composers, do you compose any of your own music?

So far no, except Lucia co-wrote lyrics for Tata Bojs, a Czech rock band that we made an album with.  But Lucia wrote the lyrics in Korean and they might be the first Czech band to sing a song in Korean.  Lucia is really interested in writing music so one day she will.

Lucia : I admire all the pianist composers such as Nikolai Kapustin and Marc-Andre Hamelin and Keith Jarrett.

9. You are known for collaborating with all different kinds of artists ~ from DJs to photographers to dancers ~ most notably, with the David Parsons Dance Company.  How does a collaboration like that work?

David listened to lots of our music and first chose which selections would work.  Then he made new pieces for the dancers (together with his company of dancers) and then we started to rehearse together.  It was really great that we were not in the pit, we were all on the stage together, which made it more exciting to watch.  He had to choreograph in such a way that allowed enough space for the trio to be on stage with the dancers.  We absolutely loved working with them.  We love all our collaborations, it’s so inspiring to share ideas with other composers, electronic music artists, DJs, bands, singers…etc.  It makes our job so much more fulfilling!

10. Are there modern day composers who write music specifically for you to perform?

There are many modern composers who write music for us.  The composer that we work most with is probably Kenji Bunch.  We met Kenji at Juilliard where we were all studying around the same time.  He is a brilliant violist, fiddle player (plays in a Bluegrass band called “Citigrass”), and composer.  He writes highly intelligent music that all people love (traditional and non-traditional alike).  He draws from previous classical styles and also incorporates styles from the pop world and more mainstream genres.

Most recently, the legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny wrote us a trio.  As far as we know, he has not written for any other classical music group.  He even gave it a Korean title (“Yu Ryung”) because we’re Korean!  It is a very beautiful and evocative piece.

We also work regularly with composers such as Michael Nyman, Nikolai Kapustin (he wrote us both of his piano trios), Paul Chihara, and Mark O’Connor.

11. With all the traveling you’ve done, is there one place that has profoundly affected you?

Angella: It’s hard to choose one place that has profoundly affected us.  Every place affects us in some way. If I had to choose one, I might choose Sweden.  We were there a couple of years ago and played 25 concerts all over Sweden in a month.  We couldn’t believe how open-minded and accepting our audiences were.  It was our first tour there so most of the people we played for hadn’t heard of us (we’re going back in 2010) and they also had not heard of some of the composers (some young American composers) but they were so receptive.

12. Can you put into words what music means to you?

Angella: Music is something that is a basic necessity for me.  I wake up with music, go to sleep with music, and think about music pretty much all day.  It’s the biggest part of my life.

13. What goes into developing the program for a particular tour?

It’s not so difficult because no matter where we play (America, Germany, Turkey, etc…),  the audiences are pretty much the same. Usually we get a range of people from all different ages and musical knowledge. Because music truly is the universal language, we simply try to put the pieces (old or new) into an order that makes sense emotionally.

14. Is there anything that you would like our readers to know about you or the music you play?

We feel truly honored that we are able to work with some of the greatest artists of our generation and also that we get to see so many parts of the world, while doing what we enjoy the most.

15. What’s next for you?

None of us is a great planner but we do have several recording projects in the works.  We have always had an agreement with each other to stop touring as a trio if we aren’t having fun doing it.  So far, it’s been more fun than we had hoped.

Music Worcester brings The Ahn Trio to Tuckerman Hall on Wed., April 14, 2010 at 8pm.


Special thanks to Janise Loell

To read the full interview with the Ahn Sisters, please visit www.thevitalitymag.com.

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