Asia Tour 2014

Julia's Blog


Thursday April 3, 2014 — 3:39PM

On the plane now (Korean Air) heading back to New York. We had an incredible week in Korea. On the last day I went to the northern part of Seoul and spoke at a women’s university. An amazing sight to look out at an auditorium full of young Korean women musicians. I offered words of encouragement, psyche them up to do great things. Then Inhyun and Luna took me to a nice pedestrian shopping street where we had cold bean soup with buckwheat noodles in a little cafe that looked like someone’s living room.

The final concert was at the LG Arts Center – kind of like the BAM of Seoul. The audience was great – fantastic energy in the room and clearly an arts loving crowd. Beautiful performance by the All-Stars. We all liked Ken’s animated leaping. The band was really on. Lots of cheering. We went out for late night meal with our friends here. Inhyun a bit teary at the end. She felt very close to everyone and was a super terrific host. It seems that this is just the beginning of our Korean adventures. I am so happy to have been there, to see a whole new world, to begin to understand a very different and interesting culture. Wonderful to share that experience with Mark, Robert, David, Vicky, Ken, Ashley, Andy, and Kenny. More fun to come.

Thanks for reading!






Wednesday April 2, 2014 — 12:17PM

Ok – it’s our last day in Seoul and in Korea. We have had a fabulous tour. Had a great breakfast with Ken and Vicky. Vicky encouraged kimchee and fermented bean delicacy at breakfast – because well, we are in Korea. We closed the dining room – lingering to talk philosophically about music and playing sports. Working in my hotel now – chugging away on orchestration for Anthracite. About to go out with Inhyun to give a talk at a women’s university (go girls!) and then to the hall to get ready for our last concert here. The hall tonight is a bit like BAM – cutting edge arts presenter. Should be exciting to connect with this audience. I hope to wander around a bit with Inhyun after the lecture – maybe a little shopping to bring home presents. Will report back in after the concert and beers. Here is a photo from last night – hanging out at the sky bar outdoors. Wrapped in blankets and looking down at the city:


Tuesday April 1, 2014 — 11:34AM

We are now in Seoul – feels a little more like home with all of the city energy. Lots of modern towering buildings, lots of neon, lots of coffee houses, and beer halls. We rolled in yesterday afternoon.

Went to the hotel gym with Ashley Bathgate where we ran on treadmills and danced to music with a throbbing beat. Last night Mark Stewart, Kenny Savelson, and I gave a talk about Bang on Can at the LG Arts Center. There were about 100 people there – seemed like composers and composition students, many of them women. There was a lively discussion and they asked some interesting questions. We headed out to a tofu house afterwards where Inyun Kim, Ashley, and David Cossin joined us. Super fresh tofu! We sat on the floor at low tables, and then went out to a local beer hall for local beer.

We have two concerts here. Tonight we have a kind of private concert in a smaller hall. It seems that political types and business people will be in attendance – but also the Pina Bausch dancers who are here performing and have the night off. We see them at breakfast as they glide around the room to get their coffee and smoked fish. Always wonderful to cross paths with the other artists at the festival.

Then the following night is the big concert for the general public. Spent a good part of the morning at the hotel working out guitar parts with Mark (plus a special singing solo!) for my upcoming piece Anthracite Fields. Always a great musical experience to have Mark Stewart in the room.

Looking forward to seeing Seoul today!


Sunday March 30, 2014 — 4:46PM

The All-Stars are rockin’. They just played their second concert here in Tong Yeoung – knocked it outa the park. Great house. The band was joined by the lovely Korean flutist Luna Cholong Kang.

Tonight we are heading out for Italian food (which seems funny in this small Korean fishing village) – but there you go. And then to a concert of music by Sciarrino who is here at the festival (from Italy). We have chatted a bit with him at breakfast. That is one of my favorite things about the trip – the long relaxing breakfasts. It has been so great to sit around with the band – hear what they’ve been up to in their lives, share stories. I am probably the only one who has made every breakfast. First of all it’s included, and there’s always food that I like – like hard boiled eggs and toast and orange slices and roasted barley tea.  How often do you sit and have a leisurely breakfast?

Tomorrow we head north to the big city, Seoul.

Photo: Heading back from today’s concert:


Saturday March 29, 2014 — 6:30AM

Last night was the All-Stars South Korean debut! The concert was a part of the TINF Festival and took place in this beautiful new hall that opened this week in this little fishing village. The hall sits majestically on a hill by the water and there are lovely patios overlooking the water where everyone hangs out until concert time. The concert was really something new to this audience – they had no idea of what to expect from this thing called Bang on a Can. From the moment Mark Stewart greeted the audience with a hello in Korean the house was warmed up and the reception was huge. There is a real openness here – no set idea of what new music is or should be. They are responding purely to the music, the energy, the performance. One-on-one there is a kind of quiet reserve to their enthusiasm – people came up to me graciously – telling me how much this meant to them – lots of bowing. For our composer/host Inhyun Kim this was a very important night. We played her beautiful piece, Feel my awareness, with a stunning video of New York subways. She joined me on stage for the final bow with the group. And I could feel that she felt that she had brought something special and unique to her country. The All-Stars were just brilliant and soulful – playing Bang on a Can classics by Michael, David, and me followed by a set of Field Recordings (they also rocked the house with an encore of Thurston Moore’s Stroking Piece.)

Afterwards we were taxied to a little restaurant that was kept open late to serve us in a private room. The chef made special dishes for me – surrounded me with beautifully prepared plates of vegetables, tofu, and pickles. Somehow because I was eating special food (no animal) he took the opportunity to go over the top to show that his art can translate to my world. There was lots of merry making – Mark playing a three-note tune blowing over glass bottles, everyone playing metal chopsticks by boinging them on the table (who do you think started that?). We were joined by Inhyun and Luna Kang (wonderful flutist who will join us to play in the concert today) and Luna’s parents who arranged for this lovely dinner. 
Today brings another concert – our last in this seaside village – and then we head up to Seoul. More from up north!
here are some photos:
the lobby of the concert hall, followed by shots of the dinner:


Friday March 28, 2014 — 1:35PM

It is interesting to be in a place where people for the most part do not speak English. Lots of picture drawing to communicate. All-Stars had a good sound check in the hall. I stayed back in my hotel room to write music (ok – I am a nerd), then took a walk through the town. Here is a photo of the little harbor here in Tong Yeoung and a photo of the concert hall.



Thursday March 27, 2014 — 10:00PM

After dinner Kenny, Robert, Ashley, Ken and I took a lovely walk through the town.

Lots of rustic little fishing boats, some funky blinking neon signs, piers with small lighthouses at the end, and on the street there are lots of tanks with live fish.

Then Mark joined us for a late night drink of the Korean version of Saki which you can mix with a kind of yogurt drink. (Andy, David, and Vicky busy preparing at the hall.)

Here are two photos. First is of the concert hall taken from a pier. Second of a cat having his dinner from a bucket of discarded fish shells.


Thursday March 27, 2014 — 5:00PM

They have slippers. There are soft cotton slippers at the entrance of my hotel room and there are jewel-like slippers at the entrance of my shower. I take my shoes off at home in nyc (you don’t even want to think about what has been on the sidewalks of nyc…). But we don’t have slippers at the door – we just go in socks. I like the slippers – a signal that it is time to relax, take care of your feet, away from the streets.

There is a general peacefulness to the design of my hotel room. Everything is tile and stone. In the room there is a lovely little alcove with a small desk (yes, I am writing music here.) 
It took me a while to see that the walls moved – instead of shades there are wood panels that slide to shut out the light.
My window looks out onto the sea. There are hills in the distance. It is extremely quiet.
I had the nice woman at the desk write down the words “vegetarian – no pork, chicken, or beef.” I put fish down too (even though I eat fish) because there are many fishy looking things here that I do not eat. This seems like a foreign concept to everyone so far – but they are very gracious to help me.
I am joining the All-Stars for an evening stroll through this small fishing town.

Thursday March 27, 2014 — 8:00AM

Bus just pulled into a magic little seaside town at the bottom of the Korean peninsula.

Like a cross between old Cape Cod, Miami Beach, and a small Mexican town if you can imagine that.

Huge cranes by the water. Hard to know what to eat (vegetarian). Found some rice cakes. Seems like lots of fishermen. Buildings are starting to look exotic. Funny roofs. Lots of colors. Narrow streets. More later.

Thursday March 27, 2014 — 6:00AM

Landed in Seoul at about 4AM. Wonderful to be greeted at the door by the elegant Inhyun. She is our host here – a young composer who was one of my students when I taught at MSM.

She has just moved back home to Seoul after spending 15 years in NYC and she is full of inspiration and energy.

Right now I am on a bus with the Bang on a Can All-Stars heading out to the opposite end of South Korea – to the Tong Yeong festival. It’s very misty outside, passing large lakes frozen with ice, followed by industrial parks – very remote.

The band is mostly asleep (they flew in from Macau). The driver does not speak English but seems to know where we are going. Amazing how you can communicate with a few hand gestures.

It is our first time in South Korea.

There is a kind of quiet here that is unlike New York – at least so far.

Will keep you posted.


Thursday March 27, 2014

Hi Everyone!

It’s amazing to be on this side of the world. My first time in Asia. Wonderful to be here with the gang (Bang on a Can All-Stars).

It’s their first tour to Korea – though they’ve been globe trotting to China regularly.

We’ll be doing some exciting concerts (already sold out!) and I’ll be doing some talks. We are welcomed here by composer Inhyun Kim. Her beautiful new piece will be featured on our Field Recordings project. There’s real excitement here about this Bang debut. 

We start off in a small fishing town at the very southern tip of South Korea – a town called Tongyeong.
Please come back each day for new content about the All-Stars rehearsals and concerts, my talks, the cities, the people, plus food and lots of fun!
Thanks for reading!