May 24, 2024

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Interview with Jihye Lee: I don’t have a routine: Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if composer, problematic person Jihye Lee. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Jihye Lee: – I grew up in South Korea. There was no musical environment. My parents were not music fans, so I basically heard music only through the TV. Somehow I loved the music from cartoons; I would sing the themes all day long, playing on my recorder which was my only instrument.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JL: – My first instrument was guitar. In high school, I played for a year in a smelly, dirty basement rock club with college students. Later I started singing, graduating from a Korean university as a voice major. I became a singer-songwriter afterwards, but I didn’t feel I was living fully. My thirst for the unknown world got serious. I followed my gut feeling that I would become a composer – didn’t know what kind – by going to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. I was introduced to Jazz Orchestra soon after, and here I am, composing for jazz large ensemble.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

JL: – I don’t have a routine. Deadline has been working best for me.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

JL: – Even though we hear the same thing, the interpretation can be different based on our personality. I just try to be honest with myself. I believe the more personal I am, the more originality will come out. Since I didn’t grow up with the art form I am composing now, this is not a big matter to me.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

JL: – I try not to think of everything so seriously. If there is a mistake, I should embrace it. I am a perfectionist, that is why I feel more comfortable being a composer/conductor than a performer, but I also know that on stage, perfectionism doesn’t help. I try to see in 10 years from now, does this small slip matter? Probably not so much. I try to relax and enjoy the music coming from my band and connect with the audience.

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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JL: – For me, soul comes first. And I use the intellectual part to deliver the soul. But I don’t really think about this. It just comes out naturally as a whole.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

JL: – If someone has the ability to give what the majority of people want, that’s a blessing! I think in the end, it is a matter of taste. I write what I think is beautiful, and I will have listeners who can agree with that beauty. It is awesome that everyone is different, so we enjoy the diversity. In that sense, every artist gives certain groups of people what they want by being true to themselves.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

JL: – When I did my first big band gig, I felt a bit insecure about the complexity of my music. After the show, some people came to me, said how they related to the music. I asked if they were musicians, and the answer was no. I learned that music is really beyond the genre. It can connect us through its soul and energy.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JL: – Even though most of the standards are half a century old, the art form is timeless, still current with its own aesthetic.

Also we are seeing many young jazz musicians infuse other elements from music that they grew up listening to into jazz, creating new sounds. In the future, we might see all the genre categories blur. I mean, what is jazz? If jazz means the standards, I am not the one to answer.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

JL: – I used to think about the meaning of life a lot. Right now, I am living with “Don’t take yourself too seriously. I am a composer, who expresses my spirit through music, and by doing so, I do my tiny part on this planet.”

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

JL: – I don’t think I want to be responsible for that change!

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JL: – After the release, I am spending most of my time doing administrative work. I can’t wait to go back to listening to music. It will be mostly classical symphony works.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

JL: – It depends on what kind of life I live. My music reflects my personal life, and the ?me I live in and the message reflects the change.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

JL: – I want to go to Korea in 2050 and see how the jazz music there evolved through decades.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Republic of Jazz: Jihye Lee Orchestra - April (2017)

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