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Chaconne for Tokkae

  • "After I arrived in Phnom Penh, in Nov. 2012, I happened to hear a very weird sound which was totally new to me. It used to sound early in the morning, regular and strong, so much so that I even doubted if it was from a weird machine. However, as I could hear that sound near my house even after I moved, I concluded that it must be a cry or a song from an unknown animal prevailing in Cambodia which later turned out to be Tokkae, or Gekko, a kind of lizard.
    As time passed, it gradually drew my attention to a different direction because of its clearly artistic aspect, for the Tokkae living near my house made a cry which was in effect a descending chromatic scale spanning up to major third, whereby each note was immediately followed by a minor sixth lower note then with proper pause (maybe for breathing). And the beginning note was almost always B flat (!), while at the end a beautiful morendo (rit. + dim.) was heard.
    Have I just read into it or made it up in my brain? In order to verify it, I decided to record it which I did with success later. Meanwhile slowly it came to me as a well-designed musical motive which awaits further development in an artistic way... And I had to do it. While I was working on that, I noticed one common denominator between Tokkae cry and the motive of a well-known hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," if the second note is inverted so that third upward may turn into sixth downward, which is the characteristic interval of Tokkae cry. At the same time I was reminded of a Bible verse which read "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed" (Rom 8:19) which is saying in effect that even Tokkae is waiting for the revelation of God's Son as it cries through the lonely night...


    Dr. Johann Kim
    (composer)