Helen Hwaya Kim and clarinetist Ted Gurch performungGenshiin 2017. (source: video still)

An EarRelevant Interlude, #1: Genshi

Mark Gresham | 20 MAY 2020

Number 1 in a series of audio and video presentations curated by by EarRelevant’s publisher and principal writer Mark Gresham as part of his “Composer’s Notebook.” Several of our writers are also composers, and in this preocess we’d like to introduce you to some of their music during this time in which we are absent live concerts.

Mark Gresham: Genshi

Violinist Helen Hwaya Kim and clarinetist Ted Gurch perform “Genshi” by Mark Gresham on April 3, 2017 as part of he 2017 SoundNOW Festival, Kopleff Recital Hall, Georgia State University..

Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)

I don’t reall exactly what year I wrote Genshi for violinist Helen Hwaya Kim and clarinetist Ted GUrch, but it received its premiere by them on June 25, 2011 as part of Sonic Palooza — a massive, all-day concert of contemporary music organized by Tom Sherwood, at the time the principal percussionists of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and co-founder/percussionist of Sonic Generator — which was held in the Galleria in front of the entrance to Symphony Hall, at the Woodruff Arts Center in midtown Atlanta.

Helen and Ted have played Genshi on multiple occasions since then, most notably as part of the 2017 SoundNOW Contemporary Music Festival. In that instance, they were representing the Atlanta Chamber Players in a concert at Georgia State University’s Florence Kopleff Recital Hall, sharing the program with GSU’s neoPhonia ensemble.


One interesting aspect of Genshi is that it pairs the E♭ clarinet with the violin, rather than a B♭ clarinet. That was deliberate, to create more chamber repertoire for the E♭ clarinet, but over the years since its premiere I’ve personally come to view the E♭ instrument is a more directly compatible musical companion to the violin than its far more familiar sibling. That observation will surely play into some future compositions.

The title, Genshi, comes from a Japanese word which roughlytranslates into English as “original thread.” That relates to the the piece growing entirely out of an original musical motif which is played in original and inverted forms played against each other by the two instruments. There are A and B sections, which increase in apparent tempo with each iteration through temporal modulation, like a long pair of threads, until some more obvious sets of variations take over in the latter art of the piece, which concludes in a cheerful manner.