Composer Ji Bark (33) received the Jerry Goldsmith Awards at 23 to become the first Asian recipient. Many Koreans may not know him but he is known as a globally promising genius musician. He was the music director for President Lee Myung-bak's inauguration ceremony and also directed the event marking 150 years of French-Japanese diplomatic ties, for which he modified an abandoned school for a showcase of his distinguished ability.
Genius artist comes to Korea
Even before he uttered his first words, he was bestowed with musical talent. His parents were opera singers. His mother Kim Mi-hwa
, once a professor at Sookmyung Women's University, now teaches at the Christian Univ. of America in New York. His father, who was also a classical singer, turned to business after moving to the U.S. Ji Bark's music career may have been predestined. At 6, he was already fascinated by film music. He may forget the scenes and storyline of films such as "A Man and a Woman", "Love Story" and "Emmanuelle" but Francis Lai's film music stuck to his heart. Since then until this day, Lai is Bark's most respected musician.
At 8, Bark immigrated to America and majored in piano and violin at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. At 16, tempted by the handsome prize money, he took part in a BMG classical composition competition. Of 5000 contestants, he won the grand prize. He was stunned to see his name covering the entire BMG building on the day of the award ceremony. He was praised that day by many music officials and top artists including one of his favorites, Whitney Houston. At first he thought he was just lucky but he was awarded at every subsequent composition event he competed in. Realizing he had talent, he began to earnestly study. He studied classical composition at Juilliard but eventually turned to film music, advised by Professor John Corigliano, who won the Academy awards for the film "Red Violin". He studied at UC Berkeley and then at UCLA, which is known for famous graduates including John Williams. Then in 2000, Bark became the youngest and first Asian recipient of the prestigious BMI Jerry Goldsmith Awards. In 2001 and 2002, he received the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) awards for two consecutive years.
Confidence, Creative musical talent
Bark's musical talent shined from his very first album. "So Sad", released by the then 27 year old pianist/composer/New Age musician, was anything but sweet and bright; it was "heavy and dark" instead. He first came to Korea with a relatively less known genre, New Age. He proudly introduced himself as a "New Age musician". He said New Age is classical and has public appeal and called Chopin a New Age musician of the 19th century, among his other in-depth musical interpretations.
Upon hearing news of his award in the U.S., a Korean film agency invited him to Seoul. The first Korean film he worked on was "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring
" (by Kim Ki-duk
), which won the best original score along with the Harry Potter series at a 2004 film awards. He also produced music for the Korean movies "Samaria
" and "Dream"
. There's also a famous story about how Bark was appointed music director of the presidential inauguration. The inauguration's preparatory committee chief Park Beom-hun listened to Bark's CD for exactly 30 seconds and appointed him to the job, saying that "he need not gulp down the whole sea water to know its saltiness".
Bark wanted to be a truck driver when he was young. He liked trucks, such as the ones in the movie "Transformers", because of their appealing designs and the ability to tow other vehicles. His happiest place was the huge Lincoln library, not far from his house, where he could enjoy all of the world's music. For three years, he visited the library every single day. Few others have listened to the library's entire music section. He was proud to have accomplished that task. He believes the basic knowledge he acquired there made him who he is. He also has distinguished talent in composing songs the director wants in a very short amount of time. He wrote the 40 songs for "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring
" in two weeks, the 28 for "Samaria
" in four days and the 70 songs for "Dream"
in just ten days. But the people he admires the most are not the innately gifted. He says he has worked two to three times harder than others, sleeping less than three hours per night.
Currently, he's working on a joint Korean-Japanese musical to be performed at the 2010 Shanghai Expo as well as several films and drama music. He also plans a new pop album this spring with foreign artists. Bark is ready to rise on the international stage by conducting more activities in his native country, Korea.