"Music is like air. I cannot imagine the world without music. Music makes me feel comfortable and sets me free. I have various jobs related to music. The work can be quite stressful at times. However, I get rid of the stress which came from music by listening to music. Somehow it may seem nonsensical," says Lee Hun-suk, at the jazz cafe where he works as a music director. Actually, he has a few jobs related to music. He is in charge of some music radio programs, where he usually arranges music for a special theme, a musical journey which leads listeners to both attentive listening and active appreciation. He has published and translated several books related to music. He is also a music director at a jazz cafe near Daehangno. "I do not come from a family of musicians; I cannot even play an instrument, but I have always been a good listener," says Lee. The musical fever takes him over entirely. That fever drew The Sogang Herald to share his stories on music.
The Sogang Herald (The S.H.): You are doing a lot of work related to music. What caused you to be captivated with music?
Lee Hun-suk (Lee): My parents said that my hidden talent for music dawned as I sang the oldest form of Korean pop music, teuroteu. When I hummed melodies, music filtered into my soul. I have experienced all kinds of music, such as pop music, classical music, heavy metal music and so on. Those are my steady friends that complete my life. I have been influenced by people who were interested in different kinds of music which were new to me. I envy people who are deeply learned in music, even though the person is well-informed in only one type of music. When I look back upon my school days, my primary concern was how to acquire a good knowledge of music and how I could be equal to my friends who had a deep knowledge of music. Then, I used to indulge in the novelty of music. Actually, it was the first step bringing music to my mind.
The S.H.: How do you value work related to bringing music to people?
Lee: I think it is a great pleasure that I introduce appropriate music to people. It is like inviting people to my own music castle. I am overwhelmed with joy when I inform people about music and share musical thoughts. I cannot find the words to describe how moving it is. My heart is too full of words. I get satisfaction from offering music and valuable information. Also, the same attitude exists toward musicians and their music themselves. I guess the circumstances of the time that music was composed and then write down the endless rush of story which flows from my brain. And, it can become a book of music reviews. It means everyone can be a music critic; furthermore, everyone can be a music coordinator.
The S.H.: Which musician is the most impressive to you?
Lee: Well, It is difficult to choose the most impressive musician because there are a lot of great music masters. But if I have to choose just one, I can say that Mozart is the best. As you know, he was a prolific and influential composer of the era, known as the "Golden Age of Music (from 1750s to 1820s)." In fact, the central traits of the classical style can be identified in Mozart's music. Clarity, balance, and transparency are hallmarks of his work. A more simplistic notion of the delicacy of his music obscures the exceptional power of some of his finest masterpieces, whereas the work of Beethoven is the most elegant and sophisticated of all music. Each of Mozart's works is extremely outstanding. Mozart's music has no pretensions of showing off, but it is so charming in its simplicity and sincerity that I learned it from beginning to end.
The S.H.: As a person who has adopted various types of music, would you put a good word in for the people who listen to music in an unbalanced way?
Lee: It is neither good nor bad to listen to one type of music. Some genres are to some people's tastes, but others are not. Tchaikovsky once said, "Man can appreciate music as they know about it." In addition, there is an old saying, "You can see only as much as you know." Anyone who has interest and keeps on with it can experience its essence. There are a large number of musical works which are not limited to specially fixed genres. For me, folk tunes that have been "filtered" through the years are so beautiful that I cannot ignore them. If there is a gem of a work which is not covered by a genre, I willingly disperse the music evenly in all directions.
The S.H.: Do you have an ideal which you want to attain as a lover of music?
Lee: Firstly, of course, it goes without saying that the best achievement as a musician is getting a music space on my own even if it is a garage studio. It is better for setting musical conditions to budding musicians. I hope to help fill a lack of performance stages that has become a major concern among prospective musicians. By offering a kind of opportunities to developing musicians, I may have an invaluable experience during my life time. Sometimes, I tell myself, "What an undeserved honor it would be if I could find talented people like the Beatles!" If that happened, I would encourage the person by using all my strength to make him become the greatest musician.
Secondly, If I have enough energy and time, I would like to compile my own CD. I would be happy if people enjoyed my CD and took the opportunity to listen to the music.
The S.H.: What do you think about true music?
Lee: True music should contain the truth and true heart of the composer and be easily understood by listeners. It means true music must not reflect only the deeds of sponsors. For example, music mixes a musical pattern with a popular formula, and recruits big singers to ensure success. But the weak feelings and emotions suggest that it is not necessarily rewarding to hear and collect. It is a disguised music which is misused for commercial success. I dare oppose the opinion that all kinds of musical works are the same. Music which makes people awaken and reconsider the meaning of music can be called "real music." I was moved by Seo Taiji and Boys' song, "Dreaming of Balhae." At that time, it attacked not only musical issues, but also social and cultural issues from all sides. Even though this may have a negative influence on society, people could recognize Balhae as a correct perception of Korean history. This music lets listeners think through criticism of reality and social satire. Also, listeners need a sense of musical insight. To be profoundly affected with music, they should be open to all genres of music. Whatever the fields of music, true music can easily absorb the other areas of music. I regard this as true music.
The S.H.: Thanks for doing the interview. Lastly, would you give students some tips enjoying music?
Lee: Listen, listen, and listen. Someday you can attain the stage of having an ear opened. Music is not beyond the limits of potential ability. Music itself serves the answer. There will be a moment where you can get an important "inner echo" when you listen to the music. Internally, the identity of music needs to be structured. It is clear that a generous attitude is everything which improves access to unfamiliar music. Moreover, through a balanced intake of various kinds of music, we can redefine musical boundaries, and be heralded for what classical music had sought in the late 18th century, the era of great composers.
By Kim Min-jeong email@example.com (Reporter of The S.H.)