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Welcome to Hasla

5-channel Electroacoustic Music, 2007-2008

 The Great Khan has dreamed of a city; he describes it to Marco Polo… and says: “Set out, explore every coast, and seek this city,” the Khan says to Marco. “Then come back and tell me if my dream corresponds to reality.” “Forgive me, my lord, there is no doubt that sooner or later I shall set sail from that dock,” Marco says, “but I shall not come back to tell you about it. The city exists and it has a simple secret: it knows only departures, not returns.”

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Welcome to Hasla! A faraway land in which everything appears to be as strange as familiar; a place to which you have never traveled, yet one that resembles eerily every town you have visited before; a town at which as soon as you arrive, you realize that you have already left.

Welcome To Hasla is a 5-channel electroacoustic music that is loosely based on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Ever since I read the novel, I have been thinking about, dreaming about, and imagining about an electroacoustic music that can somehow realize any of the cities about which Marco Polo told King Kublai Khan. Each story about cities that Marco Polo deciphers is a metaphor for regrets, memories, relationships, and other human conditions that have been inflicted on a traveler, who is presumably Marco Polo—and eventually Khan as he is the listener of these stories and the King of all these cities. At first I thought about a piece based on one or a few specific cities described in the novel, but quickly came to a realization that what I have had in mind is not any city Calvino wrote in his storytelling, but a city that I was able to conjure up while reading his book.

Sungeun, my wife, wrote for me a list of 76 imaginary cities. Though the list bore only names, these names were intriguing to me. One particular name among these 76 names that caught my imagination as soon as I saw was Hasla. Strictly speaking, Hasla is not an unknown city. It is an ancient name for Gangneung, Sungeun’s hometown where I had spent my high school years and met her for the first time. However, the name had a more eerie and stranger vibe on me. And then, one day I dreamed of a writer:

I am imagining a writer, who has just returned from a city of which name is very slippery for him to remember. In the middle of a night, he wakes up from a strange dream. Trying to write about the city he has been to and dreamed about, a name suddenly occurs to him: Hasla! But, at the same time, he is no longer sure whether he actually made the travel or his dream has finally caught him for good!

Welcome To Hasla was commissioned by IMEB, Bourges, France, and composed at IMEB and VICC, Sweden.