Meet the Cone Composers: Bora Yoon
Described as “genre-bending” by The New Yorker, and to “expect the unexpected” by KoreAm Journal, Korean-American composer, vocalist and sound artist Bora Yoon is a hybrid interdisciplinary composer who forges classical, electronic and cultural intersections using elements from a variety of cultures and centuries to formulate a storytelling through music and song.
Q: What experiences have shaped your path as a composer?
A: I think the physical bodies we live in shape and sculpt the world we experience. My experiences—as a woman, a Korean-American in the diaspora, electroacoustic artist, interdisciplinary mind who is curious to understand many ways to see things—have all shaped my path as a composer. My access to perfect pitch has allowed me to see music/sound/noise as one continuous spectrum of sonic utterances capable of worlds of expression, through associations, memories, evoked sonic spaces and narrative implications.
Q: How would you describe your music to a listener?
A: To a new listener, I would describe my music to a listener as a type of soundscape. There is always a sense of foreground/background, environs/focal narrative, as well as many associative sounds and fragments of melodies to pad the musical atmosphere with resonant or paradoxical gestures.
Q: What inspired your Cone Institute work?
A: My Cone work is inspired by my Korean heritage and Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral language of timbres, angularity and abrupt shifts. The Wind of Two Koreas excavates further this idea of cultural blood memory and epigenetics—a theme present already in my performer/composer work (see Sunken Cathedral, 2014, Innova Recordings). In this symphonic expression of my work, I further explore the musical connection to my heritage, as a Korean in the diaspora, whose ancestry is from Jeollado province, where Korean “pansori” and shamanistic and folkloric forms of music-making originates. These themes in conjunction with the paradoxical tensions of Korean identity (ancient/future, past/present, North/South political tensions, Eastern/Western aesthetics) are the elements present in this work.
Q: What do you hope to gain from the Cone Institute experience?
A: I look forward to working with conductor Cristian Măcelaru, and gaining a working knowledge of the orchestral world, from effectively communicating musical ideas, rehearsing with large ensembles, artistic programming, institutional and organization workings, and peer-to-peer learning with my fellow composers, who come from different cultural and aesthetic backgrounds. I hope to engage in meaningful conversations with my colleagues of how Western classical institutions and the orchestral world can foster and embrace issues of diversity (gender, race, class, intersectional identities) in a genuine way to bring about a revision of change and a more equitable field—and expand the language of music to be more than entertainment, and sonorous music but a way in which we spark conversations, critical dialogue and foster unexpected interactions in the world.
Q: A left-field question: if you were a baseball player, what song would you choose for your walk-up music?
A: Ryoji Ikeda’s “data.matrix.” Listen here.
Connect with Yoon
Don’t miss the world premiere of The Wind of Two Koreas with the NJSO on July 20 at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton!
Meet the 2019 Cone Composers
» Bora Yoon