South Korean composer Park Jiha guides us through her genre-defying sound
18.02.2020

South Korean composer Park Jiha guides us through her genre-defying sound

Photo by Kim Jaewoo

Medling elements of classical and contemporary music, Park Jiha’s compositions are nothing short of groundbreaking.

Throughout January and February, the Immigration Museum has played host to an eclectic spread of performances and interactive experiences exploring the art of movement with its Summer of Dance program. This Friday will see South Korean musician Park Jiha deliver her genre-defying compositions as part of Summer of Dance, alongside sets from Melbourne-based electronic artist Moopie and Play On DJs.

Performing works from her recent acclaimed album Philos, Jiha will showcase her signature ambient soundscapes in what promises to be an unorthodox listening experience. We caught up with her ahead of the one-off Melbourne performance to chat music, dance and what we can expect when she hits the Immigration Museum.

When did you start making music and what inspired you to pursue it?

It’s been quite a long time. I started studying in a full music program very early, around 12 years old, so that’s over 20 years now. At that time it was a very simple and pure interest in sounds, but I think I kept pursuing it as it slowly became my main way to express myself.

Your work melds elements of South Korean classical music with a contemporary sound. How did you come to this sound?

I’ve just tried to go over the standards and usual forms of Korean traditional music on my own. I got frustrated by the lack of space for creativity in this field so, slowly, I tried playing differently and opening my perspectives and imagination, as well as the sounds of these instruments.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?

I would say moody, emotional and transporting, perhaps. I hope that’s what people can feel, but that’s at least what I try to let appear.

Your recent album Philos combines poetry, traditional Korean instruments and expansive, sonic layers. What was the inspiration behind this album?

Firstly that was the very first full album I created alone, except the poem of Dima El Sayed – all the music was done on my own. This was a personal desire for a while, to do an introspection and have a straight expression of my sounds without external interference. I think more than inspiration, it was a reflection.

Your previous album, 2018’s Communion, has been described as an acoustic take on electronic music, was electronic music a conscious influence for that record?

Not at all, I’ve had very little electronic music exposure and I was surprised a lot on the comments, but that was interesting to see a different point of view we did not have here in Korea. I think it made me listen to more electronic music as well.

You’re performing as part of the Immigration Museum’s Summer of Dance program. Your music is quite ambient, how will you translate that into a program dedicated to dance and movement?

I’ve already played in dance festivals and even though my music is quite ambient-ish, there is an energy that can also bring movement and a different form of rhythm. I think the music scene right now is a lot more open-minded to different kind of sounds, as well. We see more and more listening sessions and unconventional live acts, so I hope to be also part of this change.

What role does dance play in your life and your music?

Just the same as everyone. Dancing is part of my life when I feel like doing it and I do not necessarily think of it when composing, to be honest.

This will be your first time performing in Australia, what do you hope Australian audiences take from your performance at the Immigration Museum?

I hope they will connect with what I have to propose, take the time to concentrate and enjoy the trip.

What made you want to be a part of the Summer of Dance program?

I’m very curious about the scene in Melbourne as I’ve always heard amazing things about it. This is really an opportunity for me to see it with my own eyes and playing in such a great venue, I can only want to be part of it.

Park Jiha will perform at the Immigration Museum as part of Summer of Dance. For tickets and more information, visit the Immigration Museum’s website