Park Ji-ha, 35, who plays Korean traditional instruments, will perform in London on January 31. Organized by the Barbican Center, a world-renowned cultural center that Europe takes pride in, Park’s concert will take place at LSO St Lukes where the London Symphony Orchestra practices, performs and records. This is a cause for celebration for the Korean music industry.
“Last year, I was approached by a Barbican programmer who had come across my music on BBC radio,” the South Korean musician said at an interview on Thursday in Seoul. “I am glad to have a concert at the home of the London Symphony Orchestra.” As part of Barbican’s contemporary music series, the concert will feature Polish musician Wacław Zimpel and Park.
The Korean instrumentalist who writes and plays her own songs with piri, yanggeum and saenghwang earned international acclaim with her 2016 and 2018 solo albums. International media such as Guardian, BBC, Pitchfork and SPIN praised her music, listing it on “Records of the year.”
Park was introduced to music when she learned to play the flute in elementary school. She picked up piri at the Gugak national middle school and studied saenghwang as a minor at Korea National University of Arts. She taught herself how to play yanggeum, which makes sound by hitting strings.
Her composing style is deceptively simple. She improvises on a melody with an instrument based on an image that comes to her mind before recording and listening to it over and over. It is similar to meditation.
“Having a melody on repeat leads me to other melodies like magic. I installed a microphone outside while recording “Walker: In Seoul” in Yeomchang, Seoul’s Gangseo District to catch the sounds of passing motorcycles and buses,” Park said. “I love German musician Nils Frahm who blurs the lines between sounds of the piano, electronic music and scenes.”
Park has a busy year ahead. She is invited to the Asia TOPA Festival, which is scheduled in February in Melbourne, Australia and the Monheim Triennale which will be held in July in Germany. She will also perform at “Silent Film & Live” organized by Piknic, a cultural center in Seoul’s Jung District, on Saturday where she will play her new music over “Sunrise,” a silent film by the legendary German director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.
“I do not know what genre my music is. I do not think it is Korean fusion or world music anymore. I guess it can be best described as minimal and experimental modern music,” Park said. “I just want to keep searching for beautiful sounds.”