This article written after an interview with itta was edited by Philip Gowman and first published on London Korean Links.
While I’ve come across some more or less experimental Korean music over the years, nothing had prepared me for itta (있다). I was swept away by the 11th track on her first official album, “11″, and asked her to do an interview with me. Fortunately, she accepted.
At 4 years of age, itta began to learn how to play classical piano. At Catholic church, she played the organ and sang alto in the choir. When she was at high school, she wanted to be a poet, and one of her friends suggested they start making their own songs. And itta did. Nowadays she does nothing but music: writing lyrics, singing lyrics, making album artwork, collaborating with other artists – every day she’s a musician, doing what she wants to do.
itta describes her music as very visual pop. Her first step towards a new song is to write lyrics and then she improvises her way from there. “Lyrics are not to change, but to deconstruct and reconstruct”, she says, although lyrics and sounds are equally important in her music. While itta wanted to be a poet when she was young, she has now become “a poet by music”.
It has now been 10 years since itta handed out her first demo cassette to friends, but she hasn’t always made the same kind of music. I asked her about 바람, a beautiful piano piece of hers, that I found on millim. It had been made as a soundtrack for a short movie, itta explained, and the plan was for her to make an album with such music four years ago. Then she was hit by a bus and had a stay in hospital, which caused that plan to disappear. After that accident, she “met experimental things” and changed, though she could not explain the music she made.
The scene for experimental music in Korea is very small, but there are some good artists, says itta. Her first meeting with an experimental musician was an event for free music where she played with Park Je Chon. Later she joined Bulgasari, a monthly event for experimental music which is sometimes visited by non-Korean musicians. Because of Bulgasari she met Japanese laptop musician Marqido, with whom she formed the unit “10″ (below). They have already released two CDs and toured East Asia together last year.
After hearing about Pink Flag, a sub label of Pastel Music, itta contacted them and got a record deal. “11″ was released on August 11 and features 11 songs. The first song is 0:11 and the song length increases with exactly one minute for every song, until the 11th track, which is 11:00. When asked about the obvious theme, itta answered that one day in November 2005, she had drawn two persons facing each other and it looked like “11″. Then she decided to make an album on the theme, with a love story. In fact, itta released the album herself that same month, with an additional VCD, after she’d spent 11 days making it. She already had several unrecorded songs and some of her friends helped with various things in the making, so the only difficulty with the theme was the first track, which because of the time limit couldn’t “express the hollowed space” as she had wanted.
When asked to put forward a song to represent her music, itta declared that all songs are her children, but settled for “nomad x 1900 = 1″ and “messenger” from “11″. “nomad x 1900 = 1″ was made in Korean, Japanese and English because she needs those three languages to love – “The lyric is making love”. As for “messenger”, both lyrics and sounds are ironic and have captured the feeling of fog as she intended. itta also mentions 10′s song “우주적 사랑을 실현시켜” (realize, the cosmic love) as a song she likes to sing. She says that the theme for that song is great as she wants to hug the universe.
“Keiji Haino”, was itta’s answer to the question on who is her favorite artist in the experimental realm. Along with Lee Sang, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, Björk and Marqido, he’s also one of her biggest influences. While she has collaborated with several artists in various genres of music, she considers working with Marqido the most fun as he’s got “power and purity like the eyes of a child”. Many people have asked the two to come to Europe and play as 10, so now they’re thinking about it. Other plans for the future, on itta’s part, includes a new album or project with her other sides, featuring some pop artists. There seems no end to what she’s prepared to explore.