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“Jennifer Koh is one of our most important violinists not just because she’s a very fine soloist, but because she is a prolific commissioner of contemporary music.” —The New York Times
The 38th Parallel, a large-scale, multimedia collaboration between celebrated violinist Jennifer Koh and composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, is named after the line of latitude separating North and South Korea, an arbitrary divide whose invisible and abstract borders transformed the lives of generations. The work incorporates the concept of pansori—a Korean genre of musical storytelling that combines music, visual art and movement—to recount a very personal story of the impact of immigration on three generations and two families, exploring the transformative effects of displacement and identity on both the individuals and families.
Koh was born into a Korean immigrant family in the U.S. Her parents were refugees from the Korean War—her father from Seoul and her mother from North Korea. Barrière was raised in part by his grandmother’s Korean partner, whom he considered his grandfather, who disappeared during an attempt to return to North Korea in the 1970s. The aural and visual material incorporated into the work are from actual texts from Koh and Barrière’s families combined with Korean poetry to create a libretto by dramaturge Aleksi Barrière.
Funds provided by Fariba Ghaffari and Kathleen & John Quisenberry.