Mung Music draws attention. Whether you listen with your mind drifting away somewhere or paying close attention, it completely enchants you. It is a new label, which started its business last fall. It has released 12 albums so far, all of which are avant-garde jazz or free jazz. It is indeed a unique label, similar to those often found in Germany or the U.S. where niche music markets are well developed.
I met the head of Mung Music, Lee Sun-jae, at his naturopathy clinic on Tuesday. Mung Music’s Zen-like covers were all painted by himself. As somebody who has many titles, including painter, saxophonist, album producer, and a naturopathy therapist, he seems to know much about Mung or meditation.
Mung Music’s philosophy is as Zen as its covers. The label showcases DIY, impromptu, and lo-fi music. It also records improvisation by musicians in an empty live club with an old-style four-track cassette tape recorder. Lee does recording, mixing, and mastering all by himself.
He said he was quite surprised how many young and talented improvisers are in South Korea after his return to the country. However, their lives were not easy. Many of them folded their musical wings to make living by playing nice jazz or sessions with more popular appeal. As performance stages for them became unavailable for them due to COVID-19, Lee created Mung Music.
Mung Music’s name came from the Korean word “Mung,” which means being in a daze. Lee studied naturopathy and became interested in medication.
“Once you immerse yourself in playing music, meditation begins. When listening to free impromptu music, you need to pay attention to its texture, rather than harmony as if you listen to a rainstorm or the sound of waves. You need to let go of all of your expectations and prejudices and open your unconscious mind.”
Mung Music will launch albums by new musicians, including Kim Do-yeon, a gayageum player, and Shim Un-jung, a janggu player.