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Music director, composer Jung Jae-il to showcase wide range of music at solo concert

Nov. 14, 2023 - 18:04 By Park Ga-young
Music director Jung Jae-il talks about his upcoming solo concert during a press conference at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul, Monday. (Sejong Center)

Jung Jae-il, music director, composer and instrumentalist, admits that Korean traditional music -- gugak -- is not an easy genre.

"I was exposed to the genre at a young age thanks to my friends. Like all forms of art, contemporary music may seem unconventional or different at first, but as you develop an affection for it, you come to realize that there is a depth and richness that unfolds over time," Jung, 42, said during a press conference on Monday, adding that one might find the charm of gugak more easily at a live performance.

Jung's upcoming concerts at the Sejong Center for The Performing Arts in December might unintentionally offer such a chance to those who would not naturally gravitate toward gugak, as it will be one of the concert's three components.

Jung, whose music career spans 25 years and is known as an "artists' artist," is set to take the stage at the 3,022-seat Sejong Grand Theater on Dec. 15 and 16.

His three-part concert comprises a medley of South Korea's most popular film scores, such as those from “Parasite” (2019) and “Squid Game" (2021), which he created, his piano compositions and gugak-inspired works.

His iconic music works for films and drama series will be offered without video references to allow the audience to fully focus on the music itself. The "Squid Game" and "Parasite" medleys will each run for 20 minutes.

"I'm rearranging the music to show the four elements -- introduction, development, turn, and conclusion -- just with music so that people still can feel the drama in the music," he added.

The concert will provide Jung with the opportunity to present live performances of his album, "Listen," released earlier this year under the label Decca.

On Oct. 1, Jung took the stage with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London, performing at the K-Music Festival's 10th anniversary opening concert.

There, he showcased music not only from “Parasite” and “Squid Game” but also new compositions from “Listen" and two tracks from his new EP album, "A Prayer," on which he collaborated with traditional musicians.

In London, Jung said he felt the "strong power" of gugak.

"Even before the performance, other musicians couldn't take their eyes off of our traditional instrument players in the waiting room. The audience also cheered as if they felt something like, 'Wow, such music exists in the world,'" he recalled.

"I felt that our traditional music, such as 'pansori' and shamanic music, have a strong power."

For his gugak performance, Jung will collaborate with top gugak artists like gayageum player and composer Park Soon-a, daegeum player Lee A-ram, and percussion group Samulnori Newdot.

Jung's longtime partners will also take the stage, including The First, a string ensemble who has been working with Jung since 2002, and stage director Yeo Shin-dong.