Monday, May 5, 2014

In the zone with Miyeon and Park Je chun

Korea is really lucky to have this couple. Miyeon and Park are not only outstanding artists, but also heralds of cultural diversity* who reconcile musics that Koreans are not used to consider on the same plane.

Miyeon the pianist, Park Je Chun the percussionist
To start with, few people can work with the best in the field in free jazz, contemporary, classical, modern or traditional musics from Korea and all over the world. Because Je Chun and Miyeon respect music like great chefs respect food, what you get is neither a tasteless 'bibim' nor some 'world music soup', but new realms for creation, composition, and improvisation, new dimensions for each genre or 'cuisine'. They live, eat, breathe music, and that's at the same time very sensual and very cerebral. I'd really like to visualize how their brains react to new sounds.

They perform all over the world, but decided to stay in Korea to help the local ecosystem grow from within. 

You just have to see how great masters in gugak / traditional Korean music join them "in the zone" in this amazing concert with AHN Sook-sun (pansori), KIM Cheong-man (janggu), and LEE Kwang-soo (kkwaenggwari). See how they all enjoy the moment, how they push their art as they explore new levels of Korean improvisation, something that reaches much further than a simple 'jazzy version of gugak'. And it's as if Je Chun's western percussions and Miyeon's piano had always been with them. The main impro starts at 1'35", but around 1'10" there's a close up on Miyeon's hands. Look how she morphed gayageum into her piano, as if she were plucking the strings.

Sitting close to Je Chun when he performs is also quite an experience, and I had that chance during their concert in Tazak Madang. Many videos are available on Park Je Chun's website: 


A couple of years ago, the Jeonju International Sori Festival chose PARK Je Chun as its creative director, and the event, previously stuck in purely traditional gugak, evolved into an international reference and a major cultural crossroads (among the World's 25 best international festivals according to Songlines). It didn't only bring to Korea musics that had never been played there, but raised awareness for Korean traditional music, and generated previously unseen artistic encounters. Don't miss the next edition (October 8-12, 2014):
Jeonju International Sori Festival:

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* They are the perfect illustration of what I wished for Korea in "Heralding cultural diversity - a stronger and more sustainable Korean wave (Part I)", Part II, Part III. Typically, they offer solutions to what I called Korea's 'wonjo syndrom', which opposes tradition and modernity and where sticking to a mythic 'original' destroys 'originality'.

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