Deutsche Telekom - erleben was verbindet
Telekom Electronic Beats

Okkyung Lee’s Winter Solstice Mix Is a Funeral Song to 2020

Traditional shamanic music from South Korea and piano standards from the blues and jazz era collide in a contemplative mix to commemorate the winter solstice.

Marking the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice is a day that calls for a moment of calm and contemplation. For Okkyung Lee this is certainly the case. “My immediate response was to make some kind aural ritual to send off this year by fully embracing all the pain and heartbreak before we can start next year anew,” she says.

The South Korean cellist, respected by experimentalists and electronic music heads alike, is known for her singular musical language, built on contemporary cello and improvisational techniques. Her ecstatic compositions are the starting point for a holistic deconstruction of her instrument, peeling every imaginable note out of it and exposing its physicality and expressivity. Through such methods, Lee’s raw sounds range from disturbing to claustrophobic, appearing on labels like John Zorn’s Tzadik imprint and Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O)))’s Ideologic Organ.

 

By loading the content from Bandcamp, you agree to Bandcamp's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load content

 

Lee’s 2020 has been marked by personal upheavals and hardships, having lost her father at the beginning of the year and subsequently being marooned in South Korea after the funeral without her cello for the next six months during the country’s lockdown. This separation marked the longest period of time she has spent away from the instrument since 1993.  “It was kind of embarrassing trying to record after not touching it for so long. I got so depressed when I finally went back to New York in September that I didn’t touch the cello for another two months,“ she admits over email. Lee has since viewed the interruption as a reset, saying, “but I’m curious where this new connection will take me.”

  • 꽃상여 (Flower Death Carriage) - 원장현 (Won Jang-Hyun)

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • I Loves You, Porgy - George Gershwin, performed by Keith Jarrett

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Cucurrucucu Paloma - Tomas Mendez, performed by Caetano Veloso

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • African Flower - Duke Ellington

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Jesus Maria - Jimmy Giuffre 3

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Sonata for Violoncello solo: Dialogo Adagio rubato, cantabile - György Ligeti, performed by Pieter Wispelwey

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable To Lunch Today) - Cole Porter, performed by Ella Fitzgerald

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Peace Piece - Bill Evans

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • 23. Aldo (Bennici), 24. Carlo (Chiarappa) and 29. Massimo (Mila) from Duetti per due Violini - Luciano Berio

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • Black in The Color (of My True Love's Hair) - Nina Simone

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • II. Mäßige Achtel from Drei Klavierstücke, Op. 11 - Arnold Schönberg, performed by Maurizio Pollini

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee
  • 초가망석 (Choga Mangsuk) - performed by 김대례 (Kim Dae-Rye)

    WinterSolsticeMixbyOkkungLee

Despite these obstacles, she reappeared in May with Yeo-Neun, a quietly radical record (featured in our Top 20 Records of 2020 list) that surprised her listeners once again with a melodic serenity she hasn’t explored since the release of her debut album Nihm. Yeo-Neun marks a sonic return to her classical training in film scoring and composition at the Berklee College of Music, but in her personal life, Lee has experienced a return as well, relocating from New York, where she spent the last 20 years, back to South Korea.

Her Winter Solstice Mix, a blend of traditional shamanic funeral music from Korea and placid yet quietly devastating piano melodies performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, and Nina Simone, is a testament to sitting with discomfort and pain in order to find something more hopeful and true on the other side.

 

Additional graphic design by Ekaterina Kachavina.

Follow @electronicbeats

Published December 21, 2020. Words by Caroline Whiteley.