Hyung-ki Joo

Find out why pink is quite manly after all, the story behind Hyung-ki's new piece for the piano; a sonnet titled Chandeliers and discover his ultimate movie list...

We all know HELLO STAGE’s favorite color! What’s yours?

I’ve never really had a favourite colour. I do love wearing pink, though. And if anyone thinks pink is not a manly colour, apparently in the old days, men would fight in war and return from battle with their blood-stained shirts and washing them would turn the red blood stains into…pink.

What was the best advice a teacher ever gave you?

I’ve had so many inspiring and generous teachers - I know I’m luckier than most-who imparted so much great advice to me that it's hard to pick the “best” advice. Recently, a student of mine was worried about all the demands that were being made on him by his regular teacher. In a similar instance in my life, my teacher, Nina Svetlanova, who taught me as much about life as the piano, advised that instead of saying, “I don’t want to”, I should just say, “I can’t”. So I imparted this advice, amidst skepticism, to my student. A few weeks later, he called me up and said that his teacher expected him to learn a massive amount of pieces in a very short amount of time. At the next lesson, my student had failed to fulfil the target, and the teacher was angry. Then my student remembered my advice and when he told his teacher, “I’m sorry but I can’t”, the teacher backed off, took the time to explain things and was much kinder. My student was so thankful for my nugget of advice!

How has your practice changed with time?

I’m trying to practise now in a way that is not repetitious, and to make the most of every second with super concentration.

What do you think is the most important trait of a successful artist in today’s modern world?

Being one’s authentic self. And being gracious to everyone around you.

How much time do you spend every day on Facebook, twitter, and which other ways do you use to promote yourself?

I probably spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, etc., but the business I’m in demands it that we do, I also use Instagram.

When did you start composing music?

I started learning music when I was 8 and I wrote my first piece when I was 10. I became a musician because I wanted to compose and conduct.

You new piece for solo piano, Chandeliers, has just been released on Universal Edition. Congratz! Tell us more about it!

The year 2001 was a big year of change for for me. After 9/11 everything changed. I was living in New York at the time and one of the things that struck me profoundly was how full of light that time was, in spite of the darkness that was towering over all of us. I remember vigils and ceremonies full of candles and lanterns, and a spirit of positivity and solidarity that was touching to witness and experience in a city that was often aggressive and detached from human emotions. I pictured swirling chandeliers hanging from the skyscrapers and thus I began to write this musical sonnet for piano, Chandeliers. The title also comes from someone bearing a similar name, someone I was longing to see but who lived too far away.

We have heard that you are quite the movie buff! What would be your ultimate movie list for a rainy day?

There are way too many films that would make this list so I’m going to mention a few which most likely people would not have heard of.

Man Facing Southeast (Argentinean Film)
Black Orpheus (L'Orfeu Negru)
Portrait of Jennie (with Joseph Cotton)
Reunion (with Jason Robards)
Le Diner des Cons (one of the funniest movies ever)
The Man with Two Faces (with Roger Moore)

And one of my absolute all-time favourites:

The Apartment (with Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon, directed by Billy Wilder)
I did once watch Mission:Impossible, eight times in a row. This took 23 hours...

You wear many hats - composer, pianist, comedian, narrator...one half of the hilarious duo, Igudesman & Joo - a musical "all-rounder". In your show, The League of X-traordinary Musicians you have managed to gather many multi-talented individuals - would you say that this is the exception or the norm on today's international classical music scene?

Musicians with more than one talent are becoming more and more common. However, there are still not enough platforms to cater for multi-talented musicians, which is a sign of how blinkered the music business is, refusing to venture outside its comfort zone. With the project, “The League of X-traordinary Musicians”, Igudesman and I wanted to give the stage for each musician’s many talents to shine. In the future, I hope that more musicians would be encouraged to be versatile.

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Author: Nina Lucas HELLO STAGE
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