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Interview: Joo Won Park wants you to listen closely (playing Studio 34 on Saturday)

Last Tuesday morning, the musician Joo Won Park was standing on the JFK Boulevard Bridge holding a small recording device near a flock of seagulls in order to capture the sounds they were making. “You have to be very quiet and very patient,” he said softly, trying not to startle the birds. “When I am making a field recording, I have one rule: I always wait until I think I have captured the best sound of the day, and then I keep recording for five more minutes. The best sound always happens after you think you already have it.”

Park, 33, grew up in Korea. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, and his doctorate from the University of Florida. He has lived in Philadelphia since 2008, and is currently an assistant professor in the music department at the Community College of Philadelphia. He also composes, records and performs using a computer, toy instruments and field recordings.

Park kindly shared with us the piece he made using his field recording from last week’s meeting at the 30th Street Station (stream it below). About the finished piece, he said: “The first part is a collage of field recordings I made that day. The ‘outside’ sounds (hail, seagulls) and ‘inside’ sounds (train station, resonance of the metal poles of the bridge) are mixed into one soundscape. As the piece progresses, the sounds become more unnatural: the hail sound turns into a hectic melody, the voice becomes incomprehensible echo, and the pole sound with larger-than-life reverb signals the end of the piece.”

Though Park mostly works as a solo artist, on Saturday night, he performs in a duo at Studio 34 with Julius Masri (Superlith, et al.). Before we went out on the bridge to chase seagulls, Park and I walked around the train station and talked about his music and the importance of listening closely to what’s happening around us. Continue reading →

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