이랑 - 신의 놀이 // Lang Lee - Playing God

I don’t remember how I ended up watching this music video. The only possible way that I can think of is from probably having seen Lang Lee’s tweet on one of my favourite illustrators, Nho Sang Ho aka nemonan’s Twitter.

I learned about how she won the 2017 Korea Music Awards Best Folk Song Award with this song, and how she won ₩50,000 (or ~$58) for her trophy during her thank-you speech. She said: “My friend told me there would be no reason to go to the award ceremony if it doesn’t satisfy two of the three things, money, honour, and fun.” She went on, saying how the ceremony doesn’t have both fun and cash prizes, but she greatly appreciates the honour and would like to put her trophy up for auction at that moment for ₩50,000, which is her monthly rent. And apparently someone actually did purchase it.

Just from reading about this, I already formed a fascination and curiosity for this artist, as well as respect for what she did, even before listening to her songs. She wrote on Twitter how she gained honour and money that night, and everyone else got some humour out of what she did - therefore, fair game. I would love to know how the audience, or rather the organizers/judges of the event thought about her action.

The more I read about her, the more I read her tweets, and the more I watch her performance, I am so intrigued about her character. There’s something odd and weird about her as an artist, a person, and about her aesthetic and vibe. But I don’t say it in any negative way, but to emphasize her stray away from the typical mainstream indie music scene, and her distinctive uniqueness (I feel the need to use two synonymous descriptive words to put a greater emphasis).

“한국에서 태어나 산다는 데 어떤 의미를 두고 계시나요
때로는 사막에 내던져진 것 같은 그런 느낌이 드시나요
좋은 이야기가 있어도 만들어지지 않는다면 그 좋은 이야기에 대한
신념이 무너지는 순간이 찾아오기도 하나요”

“What meaning do you give at the fact that you were born and live in Korea
Do you ever feel like you are thrown in the desert
Even if there is a good story but you can’t make it, have you ever faced
That moment when your belief for that good story collapsed”

When I first heard “Playing God,” I was drawn to her calm and composed voice relaying an endless array of words in a rhythmic manner, as if a rap of sort, which strangely and perfectly accompanies the body movements of the dancers in the music video. The aesthetic of the music video recalls Japanese indie drama films, especially the works of Naoko Ogigami and the scene in one of my favourite films, Megane (or Glasses) (2007), where the grandma leads a group of people in basic stretching on the beach. The mundanity highlights the simplicity of bodily gestures which is so serene and calming to watch.

The album explicitly points its arrow at our society. Lang Lee takes mundane stories and experiences as she renders them with a complexity of diverse instruments and sounds, playing with overlaps and taking acute awareness of the importance of pauses. She throws questions at us - questions which at first seem irrelevant - but slowly you find yourself perking your ears at the heaviness of their topic. 

“여전히 사람들은 좋은 이야기가 나오기를 기다리고 있죠
좋은 이야기는 향기를 품고 사람들은 그 냄새를 맡죠
모든 이야기는 제물로 바쳐지기 위해 만들어지는 비극”

“People are still waiting for that good story to come out
A good story harbours a scent, and people sniff that smell
The tragedy of how every story is created only to become a sacrificial offering”

Within the words of denial, discomfort, and disappointment, the sound of the cello rings melodically throughout the song. And the tinge of comedic render as she questions herself if she makes movies because she wants to “play God” adds a great charm.

“어쩌면~ 난 영화를 만드는 일로
신의 놀이를 하려고 하는지도
여전히 사람들은 좋은 이야기가 나오기를 기다리고 있다
나는 좋은 이야기를 통해 신의 놀이를 하려고 하는지도 모른다”

“Maybe perhaps, with my filmmaking work
I am trying to play God
People are still waiting for that good story to come out
Maybe I’m trying to play God through a good story”

이랑‘이라는 아티스트는 더욱 알수록 궁금증을 일으키는 매력이있다. 이랑을 알게된 계기는 트위터를 통해 이번년의 한국대중음악상 시상식 기사를 통해서다. 음악을 통해서도 아니고 트로피 경매한 이야기를 통해서 처음 알게되며, 솔직하고 현실적인 아티스트의 이미지를 갖고 음악을 듣기 시작했다.

이랑의 곡들 속에는 일상적인 테마의 가사들 속에 사회적인 질문들과 고민을 질문같지않은 질문들을 던진다. ‘신의 놀이'에서 이랑의 담담한 목소리로 끝없이 이어지는 가사와 뮤비에서 나오는 스트레칭 비슷한 기본적인 몸의 움직임이 정말 잘 어울린다. 내가 좋아하는 오기가미 나오코 감독의 _안경 _(2007) 영화에서 바닷가에서 운동하는 장면이 떠올린다. 일본 감성영화에 특유인 차분한 느낌과 색감을 딴 연출에 코메딕하고 엉뚱한 분위기가 흥미롭다.


박정현 - 미아(迷兒) // Lena Park - Lost Child

If I had to pick one Korean musician who I respect, it would definitely have to be Park Jung Hyun, or Lena Park. She has become more than just a musician and an incredible ballad/r&b singer, but someone who I admire as the person she is and with the life stories she has.

I discovered her also through I Am A Singer (apparently this show is where all the best musicians were at), and for such a small body and delicate voice she has, she blew my mind, if to use a cliche, with her powerful vocal. She sings as if she’s playing with the rhythm and leading the instruments with her voice, with her operatic fortissimo and dramatic projections.

“벗어나려 접어든 길에
기억이 없어서 좋지만
조금도 못 가 눈앞에 닿는
너의 손이 이끌었던 그때 그자리”

“The path I close in order to escape
I’m glad there are no memories
But it’s not far until my eyes lay upon
The place your hands used lead me”

One of the fourteen songs in her fifth album, On And On (2005), 미아/Lost Child is a story - despairing, yet hopeful story - of someone - who? you, me, her? - lost - where? on a path somewhere, somewhere known or unknown - yet seeing glimpses of hope and walking on.

I find it impossible to decipher the metaphors embedded in this song, even in the title, but the lyrics remain to be given meaning by the listeners, with her stories and experiences. All I can say put out there is how important the words are for me, and has been since I first read them; the metaphors of a “lost child” and “a stroll in the maze/labyrinth,” and the likes, have a resonance I cannot unscramble myself. “Lost” seems insufficient to describe 迷, which also means confusion, bewilderment, and wandering.

“길을 잃어버린 나 가도가도 끝없는
날 부르는 목소리 날 향해 뛰던 너의 모습이 살아오는 듯
돌아가야 하는 나 쉬운 길은 없어서
돌고 돌아가는 길 그 추억 다 피해 이제 도착한 듯해”

“I’ve lost my way, I go on and on, but it’s endless
The voice which calls me, the image of you running after me still remains alive
I have to go back, there is no easy path
Going around and around to avoid the memories, I think I have finally arrived”

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the lyrics were written by Yoon Jong Shin. Whenever I hear the song - more than just reading the lyrics, but with Park Jung Hyun’s vocal and the piano - something triggers inside me, nothing alarming, but a melancholic sanguine affect takes over - especially at the moment when the octave increases with the words, “with my eyes closed, where is the path” (3:18).

The four-minutes of the song is a journey of itself. That first sound (which I have no clue what instrument, if an instrument, it is) immediately swishes you in - like a wind, a breeze - as the piano keys and a wind instrument (clarinet?) comes in, followed by the violin and a cymbal-like sound which leads you in further. And you are brought along a journey of a “lost child” - a lost you.

나는 가수다를 통해 처음 알게된 박정현. 퍼포먼스를 보면서 그녀의 탁월한 독특한 가창력과 감정에 빠져들었다. 한국에서 이런 가수가 또 어디있을까. 작은 체구에서 뿜어져 나오는 파워와 에너지, 호소력있는 창법과 매력이 정말로 대단한 가수라고 생각할수 밖에없다. 

5집에 수록된 ‘미아’를 틀면 나는 벌써 한 동화같은 애석하지만 긍정적힌 힘과 희망이 담긴 곡. 처음 들리는 바람소리에 휩싸이면서 피아노 건반 배경에 클라리넷과 바이올린이 들어오며 한 사람의 - 그녀? 혹은 너? 나? - 미아가 되버린 - 삶에서 미아? - 이야기가 시작된다. 이 곡을 들을때마다 느껴지는 감정은 정확히 무엇인지 모르겠지만 가슴 안에 소중히 담고있는 곡 중 하나다. 


김윤아 - 꿈 // Kim Yoon Ah - Dream

"마치 나의 꿈은 꿈이 아닌 것처럼"

“As if my dream isn’t even a dream.”

I remember watching I Am A Singer (Season 1) in high school and watching Jaurim’s performance in awe. I found myself immediately drawn into the beautiful harmony of the band, and the narrative and the affective experience of the song. 

I had a huge Jaurim phase in high school. I had all of their albums on my iTunes. I wanted to be like Kim Yoon Ah. I still want to be like her. But the band disappeared for awhile. Until finally last month, vocalist Kim Yoon Ah came back with her fourth solo album, 타인의 고통 / The Pain of Others (2016)

As one production director states, “I like her. Actually, to be more precise, I like her facial expression.” Kim Yoon Ah sings with her face. No, she tells a story with her face. Her eyes, her eyebrows, her lips, her breath, and the way her face cringes or opens - every part of her face moves along with the melody to express every detailed emotion the lyrics carry. Along with the simple harmony of her vocal and the instruments, emotions are heightened and she draws us in while creating a small world for us to immerse, even for that short three or four minutes.

From the title to the songs, this album is a reflection of current social landscape (in South Korea). She tells us to sympathize with the pain of others, and to seek strength through loss, sadness, and empathy. Her words may be cold and distanced, while simultaneously, her words are efforts to come close to you, to consolidate you, to tell you you’re not alone.

때로 너의 꿈은
가장 무거운 짐이 되지
괴로워도 벗어 둘 수 없는 굴레
너의 꿈은
때로 비길 데 없는 위안
외로워도 다시 걷게 해 주는

Sometimes your dream
becomes the heaviest burden
a harness you can’t take off
despite how painful it is
Your dream
sometimes an unsurpassable comfort
helping you to walk
despite your loneliness

She describes how we live in a society where people tell you, you just have to try hard and then you can achieve your dream. But all these people who haven’t achieved their dream - haven’t achieved the work, the love, the life they have dreamed of - have they not put in their efforts, passion and energy? What if you tried hard - and then of course, others will tell you to “try harder” - but what if you did try the best that you can, but couldn’t achieve your dream? Is it the case of your own lacking or failings? Or what if certain social, political, and economic barriers - external barriers which you have no control of - restrict you to reach your dream? 

She never really mentioned external barriers or influences, but I believe the process of (trying to) achieve your dream isn’t always a matter of your own doing or will.

원하는 건 이뤄진다고
이룬 이들은 웃으며 말하지
마치 너의 꿈은 꿈이 아닌 것처럼”

“If you very much crave it
it will come true
says those who have already achieve it
with a smile
as if your dream isn’t even a dream”

I heard her speak alongside a talk by mayor Lee Jae Myung who described how young adults in South Korea are increasingly losing hope for the future and for what they can do in the future (and to explain the reasons becomes a longer discussion). Maybe the order of the talks had an impact, but hearing Kim Yoon Ah speak about “dreams” and listening to her song after his talk, I found a sense of vulnerability and empathy within her lyrics, especially as someone who has recently been struck by reality and contemplating about her future and the future world, and as someone who is very much dependent and connected to Korean culture.

I want to say more, but I can’t put my feelings and affect into words.

I’m glad she’s back.