Kanghee Choi and ninaian are two musicians who, along with their backgrounds in rock, post-rock and classical, are well-versed in the language of ambient music. Both of them are skilled at crafting absorbing soundscapes. At the end of last year, they collaborated on and performed a twenty minute ambient piece. The piece has a way of slowing time; it unfolds patiently, crescendoes into a raw roar of sound, and then huddles back into an introspective coda.

2015.12.20. ninaian + Kanghee Choi

Can you introduce yourselves to the readers? (Describe your individual musical backgrounds, influences, what other things do you do etc.)

ninaian: I was playing guitar in the band ‘We Got Underwears and Lots of Girls’ (a.k.a. Underwear Band), which was formed in 2000. In 2006, the band went indefinitely on a hiatus because members had to take care of their personal business outside of the band. That’s when I started working on personal projects. Around 2008, I began actively working on musical ideas and recordings as ninaian. In 2010, my first official album, For a Little Cruise, was released. Since then, I’ve been directing music for independent movies, dramas, and media. Currently, I’ve been performing with the Underwears Band after the hiatus is ended. I’m also working on the second full length ninaian album.

Kanghee: I was very involved in various kinds of music since I was very young, but the first time I composed and released my own material was in 2010 in New York. The initial reason that I went to the U.S. was to study Forensic Psychology; I did not plan on working on music there. However, there was an incident that made me veer back to music, and I transferred to another school to study classical music composition. Like I mentioned before, I debuted in winter of 2010 with multimedia performances and contemporary classical pieces. After that, I came back to Korea to be involved in the experimental music scene. My main focus since then has been sound, working at shows, and collaborating with various art forms. I’ve been involved a few international compilation albums but never have released a solo album. So I’d like to work on that this year.

ninaian: 2000년 결성한 ‘우리는속옷도생겼고여자도늘었다네(Underwears Band, 이하 속옷밴드)’에서 기타 연주자로 활동했다. 2006년 밴드는 멤버들의 사정으로 활동을 잠정 중단했고, 이후 휴식기를 가지며 솔로 프로젝트를 구상하게 되었다. 2008년 무렵 본격적으로 솔로 프로젝트 ‘ninaian’의 곡 스케치와 녹음 작업에 착수했고, 2010년에 첫 정규 앨범을 발표했다. 그 후 몇 편의 독립 영화, 드라마에서 음악 감독을 맡으며 영상 관련 음악을 작업해 왔다. 현재는 속옷밴드의 활동 재개와 더불어 간간이 공연을 하고 있으며, 올해 발매를 목표로 ninaian의 두 번째 정규 앨범을 준비 중이다.

Kanghee: 아주 어렸을 적부터 다양한 음악들을 쭉 해왔는데, 스스로의 작품을 발표하며 데뷔한 건 2010년 뉴욕에서였다. 사실 음악을 그만두고 범죄심리학을 공부할 생각으로 미국에 갔지만, 범죄심리학을 공부하던 중에 겪은 어떤 사건으로 인해 다시 음악으로 돌아왔고, 학교를옮겨 클래식 작곡을 공부했다. 앞서 말한 것처럼 2010년 겨울, 비슷한 시기에 멀티미디어 퍼포먼스와 현대음악 작품을 발표하면서 데뷔하였고, 이후 한국으로 돌아와서는 실험음악 씬에서주로 활동하며 소리에 더욱 집중한 개별적인 공연과 다른 장르와의 협업을 함께 해오고 있다.몇 개의 국제 컴필레이션 앨범에 참여한 적은 있지만, 단독 앨범을 낸 적은 없었는데, 올해에는 첫 단독 앨범을 준비, 발표할 예정이다.

This is a haunting, evocative work. What types of images or emotions did you have in mind while composing it?

ninaian: This piece called “마주 앉아 어슴푸레 경계에 선” is about a time at the end of the world where there are no further steps to be taken; you and I are standing on a clear boundary on a foggy day. We specifically wanted to express the “us” narrative. The emotions that we were trying to evoke are the anger from unacceptable realities in our life, and the ironic sadness coming from the fact that we have no choice but live within the realities forever.

ninaian: 이번 작품 <마주 앉아 어슴푸레 경계에 선>은 ‘한 치 앞도 내다볼 수 없어 더 이상 한 발자국도 나아갈 수 없는 세상의 끝, 희뿌연 안개를 머금은 그 선명한 경계에 선 나 혹은 너, 우리’의 이야기를 표현해 보고 싶었다. 용납할 수 없고 인정할 수 없는 지금의 현실에 대한 분노와, 또한 그것을 평생 안고 살아갈 수밖에 없는 우리의 서글픔을 떠올렸다.

How did your two different musical styles and backgrounds come out throughout the process of composing this piece together?

ninaian: The first time I got to know about Kanghee’s work was in early 2015 while I was planning a monthly event called ambient M.O.O.O., which started in April of 2015 at mudaeruk. I appreciated the dark tone and the dense texture of the music. I felt there was a common dominator between ninaian and Kanghee, so I suggested to him that we do a performance together. Initially, we had a basic idea of the theme, but the arrangements and fine details were incomplete. Having conversations about these manners was a good way to start the work together. It was very natural process to share each other’s music.

Kanghee: I also really appreciate works of ninaian that I got to learn through the planning phase of ambient M.O.O.O. . The colors of our music were different but the emotions behind it were pretty similar. I was excited when I was approached to do the collaboration. I would be lying if it didn’t worry me at the beginning, but when we first jammed together, my worries were long gone. I never felt so relaxed playing music with someone.

ninaian: 무대륙(mudaeruk)에서 2015년 4월부터 시작한 ambient M.O.O.O. 공연을 꾸리면서 강희 씨의 라이브 연주와 작업물을 접했다. 다소 어둡고 음침한 톤이나 밀도 높은 텍스처는 평소 내가 좋아하는 지점이었고, ninaian과의 공통분모도 나름대로 존재한다고 생각했기에 강희 씨에게 공연을 제안했다. 당시 기본 테마는 있는 상태였는데, 어레인지라든가 그 밖의 세세한 부분들은 서로 의견을 나누며 진행했다. 실제로 아주 편안하고 자연스럽게 서로의 음을 받아들일 수 있었다.

Kanghee: 나 역시도 ambient M.O.O.O. 를 통해서 알게 된 ninaian의 곡들이 좋았다. 색깔은 다르지만 분명히 감성적으로 공유하는 부분들이 있다고 느꼈다. 때문에 제안을 받았을 때 매우 기뻤다. 물론 조금 걱정도 되었지만, 그 걱정은 처음 소리를 맞춰본 순간 싹 사라졌다. 이렇게 편하게 연주한 적은 없었던 것 같다.

How much of your set was improvised and how much was pre­composed?

ninaian: We’d say half and half. Like mentioned before, the big strokes and themes were predetermined but everything else becomes quite spontaneous as we listen and feel each other’s sound.

ninaian: 반반인 것 같다. 언급했듯이 전반적인 흐름과 메인 테마는 앞서 정해 놓았고, 그 안에서 서로의 소리를 들으며 각자 즉흥적으로 연주했다.

Ninaian, can you tell us about the process of performing with guitar and loop pedals? What are some of the difficulties and freedoms that are involved with using them in live performances?

ninaian: There is nothing particularly profound about it. The process where you record phrases and layering them is fairly simple process. When adding the layers, the sound effects and their timing rely on spontaneity, although there was definitely a discomfort in which the tension rises in order really control rhythm and flow. I do not personally use looping often. In this performance too, with exception of a few moments, looping was used for a certain ordering in the chords. The tool that I used in the performance was an effecter that had looping functionality, instead of a loop pedal.

ninaian: 특별히 언급할 것은 없다고 본다. 프레이즈를 녹음해 가며 레이어를 쌓아 가는 지극히 심플한 과정이다. 레이어를 쌓아가며 추가되는 효과들과 그 타이밍은 즉흥적이고 자유로웠고, 한편으로는 원하는 대로 호흡과 흐름을 조절하기 위해 긴장해야 하는 불편함이 공존했다. 개인적으로 루핑(looping)을 자주 이용하는 편은 아니다. 이 공연에서도 몇몇 특정 부분을 제외하고는 주로 곡의 코드 진행을 연출하기 위해서만 간단히 사용하였다. 실제로 공연 때 사용한 장비도 루프 페달(loop pedal)이 아니라 루핑 기능이 있는 이펙터였다.

Kanghee, your keyboard provides many different textures throughout the piece. Can you describe what you were doing on the keyboard throughout the performance?

Kanghee: I was making fog (haha). I say that half jokingly but I do think it’s a good way to describe it. To put it simply, except the part where there were melodic fragments towards at the end, the keyboard is relentlessly played throughout the music. I think it’s fair to say that every little dot was connecting to make a line. The sounds project itself through multiple tracks with different values and settings. I control the dynamics of each keys being played and gradually change the settings at the same time; it can be seen as performing a live orchestration. I’ve discovered this way of playing at the start of my career and I’ve been using it since. So people think of it as my signature style.

Kanghee: 안개를 만들었다. (하하) 사실 안개를 만든다는 말은 농담도 섞여 있지만 한편으로는 가장 적절한 표현인 것 같다. 간단하게 보자면 어느 정도 멜로디가 드러나는 뒷부분을 제외한 거의 모든 부분에서 쉬지 않고 움직이며 연주했는데, 아주 작은 점들을 연속으로 찍으면 선 혹은 면처럼 보이는 것과 비슷하다. 소리들은 서로 다르게 세팅된 다수의 트랙들로부터 동시에 나온다. 연속적으로 키를 쳐서 연주하는 동시에 순간순간 그 세팅들을 조금씩 변화하는, 작은 오케스트레이션 같은 느낌으로 보면 될 것 같다. 활동 초기에 우연히 발견한 뒤로 지금까지도 애용하고 있어 사람들이 나의 시그니쳐처럼 생각해주는 연주법이다.

Do the two of you plan on collaborating more in the future?

ninaian: Nothing special for now. For now, we’d like to the show to be really memorialized in a certain form. There may be a chance that we’d work together again in near future so please keep an eye on us!

ninaian: 아직 특별한 계획은 없다. 우선 이 공연을 어떤 형태로든 기록하여 남기고 싶긴 하다. 둘이 함께하는 작업은 앞으로도 언제든 있을 수 있으니, 기대해 주길 바란다.


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A composer of music myself who has been inspired by Korean indie music for many years, specifically rock, electronic, and experimental music.