program notes by composition > V > Variations on a Korean Folk Song

Variations on a Korean Folk Song

John Barnes Chance

Variations on a Korean Folk Song is based on the tune “Arirang” which the composer heard while based in Korea. Tempos of the five variations are Vivace, Larghetto, Allegro Con Brio, Sostenuto and Con Islancio (“with dash”).

The theme is based upon a pentatonic scale (five pitches per octave). Although the twelve-pitch per octave chromatic scale and its diatonic subsets are the foundation of European musical tradition, pentatonic scales are common throughout the world, including in jazz and popular music, e.g. “Ol’ Man River”.

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was educated at the University of Texas. He played percussion, conducted and arranged music in a U.S. Army Band in Korea. He taught in North Carolina and composed several important pieces for band, including “Incantation and Dance”. His brief career was ended abruptly when he was accidentally electrocuted in the back yard of his home at the age of 40.

Last updated on July 6, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band