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Lee, Okkyung: Na-Reul (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Extremely personal and passionate, cellist Okkyung Lee recorded this album after separation from her instrument for months as she traveled to Korea to be with her dying father during pandemic; the 9 pieces are layered with strings, instrument sounds, voice and with profound timing, creating an intensely beautiful album reflecting the anguish and loss of the time.

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product information:

Liner notes by the artist and artwork and design by Christopher Wool.

Label: Corbett vs. Dempsey
Catalog ID: CvsD CD082
Squidco Product Code: 31069

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Linden Underground, by Jeff Cook.


Okkyung Lee-cello

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Artist Biographies:

"Okkyung Lee, a New York-based artist and South Korea native, has created a body of work blurring genre boundaries through collaborations and compositions while pushing the limitation of contemporary cello performance techniques. Her music draws from noise and extended techniques, jazz, Western classical, and Korean traditional and popular music.

Since moving to New York in 2000, She has released more than 20 albums including the latest solo record Ghil produced by Lasse Marhaug on EditionsMego/Ideologic Organ, Noisy Love Songs (for George Dyer) on Tzadik.She has performed and recorded with numerous artists from wide ranges such as Laurie Anderson, David Behrman, Mark Fell, Douglas Gordon, Jenny Hval, Vijay Iyer, Christian Marclay, Ikue Mori, Lawrence D "Butch" Morris, Marina Rosenfeld, Jim o'Rourke, Evan Parker, Wadada Leo Smith, C Spencer Yeh and John Zorn to name just a few.

Since 2010, she has been developing a site-specific duo project with New York based dancer/choreographer Michelle Boulé. They have performed at Issue Project Room, Mount Tremper Art Center and send+receive fesival in Winnipeg, Canada and scheduled perform at The Met Breuer Building on March 12th, 2016 as a part of the inaugural program, curated by pianist/composer Vijay Iyer. She opened for a legendary experimental rock group Swans in May, 2015 in Northern Europe and UK. In early 2015, Okkyung presented new compositions commissioned by London Sinfonietta as a part of Christian Marclay's exhibit at White Cube Gallery in London.

Okkyung was rewarded with prestigious Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2015 and received Foundation For Contemporary Arts Grant in 2010.

She received a dual bachelor's degree in Contemporary Writing & Production and Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music in 1998 and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from New England Conservatory of Music in 2000."

-Okkyung Lee Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:

1. ..... (Ari) 3:58

2. Drifting 5:08

3. Mountains 4:11

4. .... (Mirage) 5:00

5. Burning 3:54

6. Lorelei 4:08

7. 날개 (Wings) 3:06

8. Pisces 3:03

9. Grey 5:29
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Okkyung Lee's is perhaps the most harrowing of the Black Cross Solo Sessions stories. At the onset of COVID, the cellist was called to travel to Korea to be with her dying father. The trip was sudden and didn't allow her to bring her instrument, but once there she was unable to return to New York because of the stringent lockdown. For months she was stranded without her cello, unable to practice or make any music.

This intense alienation took a long time to lift. Indeed, even after she made it back to the States, Lee found it impossible to reconnect with the music for a period. The invitation to make a new solo CD for BCSS inspired her to jump-start her playing and in the process, she has made one of the most profound and beautiful CDs in recent memory, an almost impossible to describe amalgam of string and wood and voice and magic.

Lee does not release many records, so each one is a major event. A stunning studio production, Na-Reul is that and more, its nine tracks, as Lee puts it, a "raw and direct" response to the traumatic events of 2020 and the turbulent emotions that accompanied it."-Corbett Vs. Dempsey

"As a norm, I try not to get overly governed by liner notes when tackling a record to review. However, what cellist Okkyung Lee wrote to introduce these nine tracks - composed and autonomously performed by overlapping all the parts - struck me personally and profoundly as the most unfeigned self-analysis from an artist about mental positioning in the current mayhem, and propensity to react in a cursed period for ingenious minds.

The music in question materialized following many months of not being in contact with that cello which, over the years, has been defining Lee's sonic, expressive, and inner universes. For the near-entirety of 2020, the Korean virtuoso was unable or simply not wishing to play. This state of reclusive numbness subsequent to important losses had become - unbeknownst to her - a symbol of the distress of sensitive people suddenly looking at life as something useless, stuffed with horrible occurrences generated by sick brains. Not everyone is capable of smiling fake in the name of an "it's gonna be alright" philosophy one doesn't believe in. There are also insightful realists around.

The last resort for a committed musician is trusting the ability to reconnect with sound, the only entity that never betrays those who respect it. After having been commissioned this recording, Lee's renewed drive gradually started to yield ideas and compositional cues. She went on without dwelling too much on "finesse", trying instead to follow the signs of rebirth that would have pulled her out of the creative stasis, an extremely dangerous condition when the quicksand of depression tries to swallow you up. The resulting episodes, one more beautiful than the other in their often melancholic linearity, represent quite graphically Lee's first steps towards a complete recovery of the management of an inventive act. The cello's full timbral gamut is exposed, from solid pitches to murmurs and undertones, up to the purely rhythmic or noisy components; even the latter possess a deeper intrinsic musicality than usual. The instrument seems to respond to the old friend's touch with emotions of its own, as if grateful to have found again the quintessential energy required for its wood and strings to sing.

I could easily ramble on exquisite pieces such as "Mountains", or the ominously droning ebb and flow of "Grey". But that would be a disservice to the need of considering NA-REUL as a whole body suggesting the reaction force and discipline necessary to continue on a chosen path under frightening circumstances. You will not find gratuitous cheerfulness or cheap positivism herein, certainly not. The influence of suffering made Lee bring out her best just when everything appeared doomed to utter stillness. It's the lone possible answer to those who trigger mass extermination while pretending to be concerned about survivors, and sorry for the dead. A valuable listen and a lesson for us: nothing can erase the healing properties of sound, as long as we can keep our aerials free from the lowest level of human interference."-Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

Liner notes by the artist and artwork and design by Christopher Wool.

Get additional information at Touching Extremes
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Stringed Instruments
Electroacoustic Composition
Compositional Forms
Solo Artist Recordings
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