Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address 2020 vol. 2
Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is an annual forum for ideas relating to the creation and performance of Australian music. Named after the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, it has been igniting debate and highlighting crucial issues since its establishment in 1999.
In 2020, the AMC commissioned not one but two Addresses, delivered online. Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey's Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address, in September 2020, took the form of an inquisitive, intractive work of art. This was followed by a second Address by Sunny Kim on 8 December.
Sunny Kim: To Dance with Our Others in Embrace
Tuesday 8 December (Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address 2020, vol. 2)
The second Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address for 2020 was presented by Sunny Kim - a Korean-born singer, improviser, and educator, now based in Melbourne. In her address, she shared her knowledge gained through years of creative collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian musicians, to bring to light the power of music-making as a medium of relationality.
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address by Sunny Kim was streamed online on 8 December. You can watch it below - the full transcript can be found further down on this page.
Sunny Kim: To Dance with Our Others in Embrace (transcript)
[At St Kilda Beach – Sunny sings as an offering to the Country.]
Hello fellow earthlings!
I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of this land and the richness of the cultural diversity that flourished for tens of thousands of years. I offered my singing to pay my respect to the Elders past, present and emerging, and to express my gratitude for the call to be here in this beautiful and thriving country.
I am speaking to you today on the traditional land of the Yalukit Willam, one of the five clans of the Boon Wurrung of the Kulin Nation.
About 100 years ago, on this traditional land of the Yalukit Willam, Peggy Glanville-Hicks was born. She began composing at an early age, with her tiny fingers picking away at the keys on her piano, inventing melodies as her teacher sat beside her, writing down in notation the imagined sound world of the young Peggy. In her vital musical imagination, I wonder if she could have heard the sound of the ocean waves that we hear now. Could she have been inspired by the ancient songs resonating from the sun, the waters, rocks, plants, sands, winds and clouds - the songs of communion that constantly renew themselves through the passage of time? Could she have stood on this beach, looking out across the ocean and dreamed of pursuing a new life overseas? Could she have foreseen that one day she would make her name known as an internationally influential composer, critic, presenter, researcher, entrepreneur, and supporter of new music?
Just a few years ago I could have never known that I would be called to cross the ocean over to this ancient land, to root down and meet my new families, to learn from and to share knowledge and music with peoples of Australia. I could have never even have dreamed that I would be given an Indigenous skin name and learn of the deep joys and sorrows embedded in this land. Yet I stand here today, before you, humbly accepting the invitation to speak. I am deeply grateful and honoured by this invitation and pleased to share with you the knowledge which I have gathered by walking through many open doors to the unknown.
Accepting the call to share my truth before you, I walk once again, through an open door, to sing out with courage and to see the reverberations, to hear the echoes of my true voice. I speak, knowing that my truth is not an absolute truth, but a small puzzle piece which might help us to see a bigger truth.
To tell you the truth, I have to start by confessing that it was not easy for me to decide to accept this invitation. In fact, if, in the first meeting with Australian Music Centre’s Chair of Board of Directors, Genevieve Lacey hadn’t asked me to share my perspective as a newcomer in the Australian music community, I might have used that same fact of being a newcomer as an excuse to decline the offer.
In truth, I had considered refusing the invitation because of a scream I heard. From the very first thought of standing up and speaking my truth in front of this community, a loud, screeching scream took over me. It was a kind of a sound whose unpleasantness made my heartbeat run wild through the body, tightening up my veins, pressing my lungs, choking me with fear. It was a scream that yelled out from deep within my bones. A scream that I’m all too familiar with.
It was a scream that I had been too ashamed to talk about, a scream that told me to keep silent. 'I’m trying to keep you safe', it would say. Perhaps it’s right. Why should I break the silence which has kept me safe all these years? Yet, if I only listened to this scream, I would have never crossed the oceans and walked through the doors onto the unknown territories. I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t know what I know, I wouldn’t see what I see. I wouldn’t think the way I think, or feel the way I feel, if I didn’t take my chance to go against this scream.
But why should I keep hearing the scream? Why shouldn’t I reveal and share my thoughts, my vision, and my passion with others? What is it that I’m really afraid of? And then I heard a small voice inside saying 'I’m afraid of not being accepted'. But why? Why should I still feel so afraid of rejection? Haven’t I enough proof that I have something valid, significant and valuable to share? Over the past two decades I’ve made so much music with so many collaborators from all over the world. Why is it not enough? I began looking back as far as I could.
Being born, as a girl in the 1970s, in Korea, I was not completely welcome to the family. In a society that so confidently valued men over women, women were forced to bear children until they had at least one son. Luckily, my mother had my brother after me, but many of my aunts had to have three or four to have a son, so that they felt their places in their new families were secure. Under Confucian ideals, if you couldn’t have a son, you could be abandoned by your new family. Thankfully, over the past few decades, things have changed drastically, because women started educating themselves and their daughters, and took on non-domestic jobs to contribute to the finances of the households.
In my youth, however, I couldn’t help but to feel there was something profoundly wrong and shameful about who I was that made me unacceptable. I hadn’t chosen to be a girl, and I couldn’t do anything to change the reality. Growing up, no one asked me what I thought or how I felt. In fact, whenever I took the courage to offer my thoughts, I was punished, sometimes quite severely. Feeling unsafe and insignificant, naturally I kept quiet.
A whole new challenge was awaiting in my adolescence, when my family moved overseas for my father’s job. Starting out with Kuala Lumpur for three years, then Bangkok for two, I’ve had to relocate and adapt to many places on Earth. My own studies and career in music took me to Denver, Boston, New York, back to Seoul, then finally to Melbourne. I spent two to five years in each city, learning and adapting to the unique cultures within including the various musical scenes and styles.
Through my life journey as a nomad, especially through my teens and twenties, I struggled to feel comfortable in my own skin. In each place, I found a unique ecology of cultures which I tried to navigate through by developing receptivity. Being a cameleon was my usual choice of strategy, to feel accepted and to experience another perspective to the fullest, but the art of camouflage was often tiresome and also quite confusing at a young age. Wanting to feel included and the need to find my own self often seemed to conflict with one another. I yearned to feel belonging even in the moments of painful realisation that I was actually quite different to those around me. In dominant cultures, too often uninterested in minority perspectives, my identity defined by my appearance was something I had to overcome. I worked very hard to be accepted, to compensate for my apparent 'otherness' and to mask my inapparent differences. But even after I became quite fluent at English, it was always easier to keep silent. The desire to be heard became a great source of motivation to develop my skills as a musician.
I learned, in my first years of being a stranger, that I could feel deeply connected to people through music. When I sang or played with others, the boundaries drawn by the physical or cultural differences seemed to vanish. In harmonising my voice with others, I felt a sense of belonging and trust. The sense of separation that I would see with my eyes would completely disappear when I sang with my eyes closed. I felt close and in harmony with all the sounds around me. This is the very reason I still make music.
['Guguk' by Hand to Earth - see https://vimeo.com/312462316 ]
I met Daniel Wilfred in September of 2016 at the Creative Music Intensive, an annual workshop hosted by the Australian Art Orchestra. Daniel and I had been invited as faculty leaders by the Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra, Peter Knight, whose beautiful sounds you just heard in the performance.
I was immediately taken by Daniel’s singing. His voice was unlike any other voices I’d heard and studied. I could not understand how his voice was produced by his body, even with all the conservatory training I’ve had in voice pedagogy. Nor could I imitate it. It was the strangest voice I had ever heard. It was not clean or simple; it shivered and shimmered in unexpected ways, with sometimes smooth and often rough edges. It seemed to travel far into the open space in a seemingly effortless way. I was also mesmerised by his presence. It was clear he was connected onto a plane of existence strange and unknown to me. I wanted to understand and began to listen intently. I quietly followed him around, standing nearby to listen to his voice singing and speaking, attempting to engage in simple conversations, sitting at the same table to eat with him. I listened to his voice as well as to his silence.
Towards the end of the workshop, a fortunate moment came by chance. It was at a pop-up concert one evening. I saw Daniel in the back of the room, where he usually stood to watch everything and everyone. I heard a voice from within. 'Go to him. Ask him if he would like to sing with you.' I approached him and, in my usual shy way, asked him if he would like to sing with me. 'Sing with you?' he asked back. In the darkness of the room, I thought I caught a spark in his eye and a mischievous smile following. He took a few steps away, as if thinking, then he came back. He whispered in my ear, 'We sing about stars.'
In a few minutes we walked up to the stage in front of the curious eyes. There was nothing that was talked about or decided upon, except that we were to sing about stars. I closed my eyes and imagined seeing the beautiful bright stars of the Tasmanian night sky. Then I heard my voice sing. Daniel joined in. Moment after moment, carefully listening to the morphing imagination of one another, we travelled together. When there was no more sound, I opened my eyes to the roaring audience. Daniel and I smiled shyly at each other. It was one of the most magical musical experiences I’d ever had.
Then we parted ways. I went back to Korea to my family, friends, colleagues and students, and Daniel went back home to Ngukurr to his community of families. The busyness of everyday life quickly absorbed me back to all the urgent things I needed to take care of, and the memories of meeting and singing with Daniel faded into the background of my life. Exactly a year had past when I saw him again. He and I were both invited again to the same workshop in Tasmania. We got to hang and sing a bit more together, still shy strangers to each other, but becoming a bit more familiar. We kept being invited back year after year. Although there was always much to discover, we no longer felt like strangers to one another.
One day I found myself sitting next to Daniel on the grass right outside of the hall where everyone else was attending a workshop. I was feeling a bit troubled by an opinion from a participant I had heard the night before. The participant had argued that privileged non-indigenous musicians should not try to collaborate with the Indigenous. She asserted that the Indigenous have had enough taken away from them, and that we shouldn’t take further advantage by integrating their traditional songs with our own new music. She insisted that the Indigenous cultures were better off left alone.
At the time, I was still not very familiar with the history of colonisation in Australia, and her opinion shocked me. In post-colonial Korea, whenever outsiders were interested in our tradition, we were proud to show and share. It gave us a reason to feel better about ourselves. But, of course, Korea gained independence, and even though many colonial pains remain unresolved, it is a completely different story here. I could appreciate where she was coming from, yet I couldn’t feel completely convinced. What good would it do for all of us to stay in our own little corners because we are afraid of causing damage to one another? Shouldn’t we come together to learn of each other’s way of thinking and feeling the world, to gain deeper understanding of each other, so that we can begin to heal our wounds? Isn’t music-making one of the most precious human endeavours through which all can meet as equals regardless of our differences? Shouldn’t we attempt to collaborate and communicate to see exactly where we differ from or relate to one another? I wanted to talk to Daniel about these thoughts but didn’t know where to start. The language barrier between Daniel and I had only allowed us to engage in short and simple conversations. In frustration, I searched through my mind for a common interest for both Daniel and I, in spite of our stark differences. Then I remembered the Earth.
Years prior to meeting Daniel, I went through a personal crisis, which motivated me to find a new home in a mountain on the edge of Seoul. The unexpected mid-term miscarriage I had while on a tour in the United States had drowned me in great shame and sorrow. For the first time in my busy life, I withdrew from all work-related activities. Alone together with my loving partner I stayed in seclusion, trying to process what had happened. It was a sorrow too difficult to talk to anyone about. Remembering my tiny baby turning into ashes, I felt a part of me had died too.
Each day I woke up with no agenda but to listen to the needs of my own body and heart. I did things not because I should but because I felt inclined to. I listened to music that I really felt like listening to. I only ate food that my body wanted to eat. I took walks and didn’t pressure myself to practise or to compose. I mostly stayed isolated, except for occasionally inviting the people that I really felt like being in the company of. I tried to be as selfish as possible. And I observed myself. The short walks I took became long. I walked and explored many nooks and crannies of the mountains nearby, until I started walking confidently into the woods not knowing where I’d end up. I began meditating in the sweet evening fragrance of the cool breeze from the nearby pine tree forest. I began to heal. I also began to hear songs from the sunsets, the trees, the insects, the rocks, the birds, and the winds. And they called to me to sing along. I sang, not because I should but because I felt like it. Singing, which through my intense studies had become a craft to perfect and master, became a source of relief and pleasure.
During the two years living in the mountains, I regained my health, both physical and emotional, and safely gave birth to a new life, a healthy and beautiful daughter. Seeing a vibrant new-born baby, I realised that I had also been given a new life. A life that felt much better for me. A life closer to nature, the great Mother Earth who had given life to all the myriads of voices in this world. After the two years I went back to the busy urban life but kept my sense of connection with her. My wish to keep connected to mother Earth became daily rituals of singing meditations and, eventually, a new foundation for my creative practice. The two years of living in the mountains also birthed musical creations, later documented as an album entitled Dream of the Earth.
Sitting on the grass in Tasmania, looking to the greeneries and the sky above, I began talking to Daniel about my loving relationship with Mother Earth. He sat quietly listening, nodding, then gently smiled and said 'I’ve been waiting for you to come and talk to me'. I saw his eyes sparkle again. We sat there for a while and talked. We talked of our love for Mother Earth, her magnificent beauty and power, and of our duties to protect and nurture her. It was the first time we really talked with open hearts, sharing our deepest feelings. After a while, we stood to walk back to join the rest of the group. It was then Daniel suddenly turned to me and said, 'Sunny, wait, I hear a song, sing along with me.'
marraliya yuwen (crying with our wings out over the country)
ngati malamirr (as families we come together)
yupunungmirr malamirr (calling on our families to gather)
guguk gululululu (Bush dove crying by the flowing waters)
When I asked him what the song was about, he said 'One bird from Arnhem Land, one bird from Korea, flying together, singing for the country'. Since then, we’ve been singing this song together, becoming two birds, calling out to all those on Earth to come together as Earthlings, becoming one with the winds, the elementals and spirits of the land, wherever we fly over. We’ve performed the song in many places in and outside of Australia.
Daniel’s also shared with me some of the old Wagilak ceremonial songs, and I’ve shared my own songs with him. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Daniel keeps amazing me with his wisdom, his intuition and insight, as well as his adaptability. Meeting him has changed my life, and I’ve seen the changes in him. He speaks English much more fluently than before, and always encourages everyone to come and learn what he has to share. And he has so much to share. The many songs he knows contain great knowledge and history. His perspective is as wide and deep as the enduring tradition of the manikay songs. He’s strong, generous and kind. He’s a fast learner. I’m proud to call him my brother, as he has given me my skin name as his sister. I’m his yappa, he’s my wawa. By being adapted by him, I’ve been adapted to his entire web of community and history. My voice has been weaved in with his. Through my voice, I bring all the perspectives I’ve experienced and embodied. Everyone I’ve met, whose perspectives have influenced and transformed my thoughts, feelings and beliefs, have also been weaved in with Raki, the webbed string that Daniel has been handed down by generations and generations before him.
In the past few years of singing with Daniel, I’ve experienced great wonders but also many pains. Witnessing the deep colonial wounds and the painful realities of the Indigenous communities have often left me fragile and disoriented. I’ve seen many good-willed people struggling with the shame and guilt of the colonial past, wanting to run away from the brutal history, and baffled to know how to contribute to undo what’s been done. The poverty, suicide, and violence all seem to wail the silent songs of displacement, dispossession, and dissociation. Too much has changed too fast. Too much has been taken away for anyone to feel safe in their own skin. Broken and lost, the wound seems too deep for anyone to heal.
I’ve seen many misunderstandings taking place in the process of collaboration. From the different ways of music-making to the differences in relational protocols, my 'third', and more neutral, position has allowed me to observe the nuanced and constantly shifting attitudes caused by the difficulty in interpreting the interactions. Navigating around the ideas of ownership and artistic control especially seem like walking on thin ice. It’s a work-in-progress in which we all try our best and still make mistakes. It’s a learning experience for all.
It took me a while to see Daniel as I see him now. He is an Indigenous Australian man, but he also isn’t just that. He’s a wise, playful, inquisitive, proud, charismatic, emotional, devoted, loving, generous, and intuitive person, trying his best to navigate through the challenges of the shifting realities. He cannot be defined or identified simply by his race, gender or cultural background. He is a singular being in a constant state of flux, embodying a unique assemblage of experiences, circumstances, thoughts, feelings, fears and desires, just like the rest of us.
Identity can be a dangerous concept, especially when the superficial differences separate us from those who seem like our others. I observed this danger intimately at the beginning of the pandemic, when people of Asian race were unfairly blamed and abused for the spread of the virus. During the time, simple tasks such as taking a walk in the park or going grocery-shopping became quite confronting and dreadful. I often caught myself irrationally discriminating those with Caucasian looks, afraid that they might be the ones who would suddenly turn to abuse me. This fear became so consuming that I almost wished I could walk blind-folded. Our eyes can indeed be misleading and will never become tools for discerning integrity in people, for integrity is not determined by race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, physical abilities or disabilities or any other categories of identity seen by the eye. I wondered, if integrity is not visible, then how am I to keep myself and my families safe from those who might suddenly turn to unfairly judge or abuse us?
The pandemic has revealed many faces of humanity. Under physical and financial threats, many of us had to be confronted with deep fears, often reacting in many ways that surprised ourselves. We experienced living under control and isolation and yearned to feel connected with our communities and environments. We all struggled to find another way to live. This new way for many of us required technology and machines to feel a sense of belonging, or to meet new people and to explore unknown territories. Confined to small areas, many of us have spent much time in virtual spaces and found that it was possible to travel quite far in those spaces. We have been confronted with our emotions in many depth and hues and have been learning to deal with them mostly on our own. Health and safety have become our first priorities. We’re living through something enormous and we know we’ll never be the same.
In the following premiering performance, I’m joined by two of incredible Melbourne-based musicians and artists Tina Stefanou and Emily Bennett, in an interdisciplinary and collaborative work entitled Distance.
[The work starts at 35'30'' into the embedded video above.]
As musicians, we develop our perceptivity through the ears to sense subtle changes of energies and emotions around us. We learn to tune in intimately to the ecology of sounds around us in which our hearing sense takes primacy over other senses. We strive to refine our ear, mind and body, to be able to deeply relate to the sounds of our own voice and instruments as well as to those made by our collaborators. We spend much of our time trying to relate to each note within a composition as well as to the intension of the composer behind the notes. We train our ears in hopes to find the perfect resonance in relation to various venues and audiences. Hence it is not uncommon that we experience a profound sense of connection to musicians whose worlds are far apart from our own. One could say that musicians are experts in relationality. Each sound we make - high, low, loud, soft, long, short, bright, or dark - takes on significance and meaning only in relation to other sounds. In our music contrasting gestures meet and dance with one another to enrich the sonic ecology and to create the necessary changes in the narrative. Each sound with its unique characteristics meets its others on the equal plane of vibrations. Differences can truly be celebrated in music as sounds are transversal in nature. Through our ears and our voices, we can relate to anything that holds frequency. Through music, we can dance with our others in embrace.
In attempts to free myself of the fear-based reactions triggered by COVID-19, I stopped seeing and started to listen. Whenever I walked into public places and found myself being triggered by the faces I saw, I tried to quieten the fearful thoughts and instead listened. I focused on listening to the energies and emotions of the people around me, and to my own emotions reacting to the energies around. I pulled from my experiences in music-making – holding my breath to hear my collaborator’s softest note, waiting patiently for the perfect time to enter into the unfurling of improvised melodies, or listening while composing to the hopeful silence out of which inaudible inspirations finally become audible. In my practice of listening, I could hear an array of subtle frequencies of emotions – helplessness, anxiety, frustration, anger and panic, as well as hope, patience, kindness, and joy - that we carried within us. Underneath our vulnerabilities, I could also hear resilience, strength and good will. I found myself swimming in these invisible frequencies, just as I do when I make music with the sounds around me beneath my closed eyes.
Eventually what I learned is that I emanated my own frequencies to those around me, and that I could choose to sing out silent songs of compassion, love and peace to whomever, whenever and wherever I chose to. This became a regular practice on my walks. As I walked, I tried to alchemise my fears into peace by focusing on listening to energies around and breathing out loving intentions to all those who passed me by. I couldn’t tell you if it helped anyone, but I found myself beginning to feel more at ease. The many complexities of the COVID-19 continued to trigger difficult emotions, but the daily challenges became more manageable as I continued to remind myself to listen.
'Ma Eum' is a Korean word which is often translated to 'mind' in English. If you ask any Korean where 'Ma Eum' is you are likely to find the person pointing to the centre of the chest. For Koreans, mind is not in the head. It is in our heart. 'Ma Eum' not only refers to the cognitive human intelligence but also signifies a space where intention, intuition, emotions, and feelings arise. It is where memories are kept, it is where consciousness lives. It is also where our others are taken in to become a part of us.
Over the two decades of my career, I’ve collaborated with hundreds of creative people around the world. I’ve also co-created with other living beings, including animals, plants, places, natural elements, spirits, as well as machines and technology. Diverse by many standards, my collaborators have taught me amazing lessons about life, beauty, and sound, and their influences have shaped and refined who I am today. The joy and thrill of transformative potentials keep many of us doing what we do, and each time our collaborators share their authentic truth, they help us to put another piece in the puzzle, so that we can see more clearly of who, what, where, and how we are. They help us to defamiliarise our own world, so that we can learn to consciously choose what to keep and what to throw away from the way we live.
In our creative practices of collaboration, there are still many aspects that keep us feeling unsafe to share our authentic truths. There are many unconscious biases, habits, customs, protocols, policies, and systemic injustices that continue to create hurt, misunderstanding and divide. Collaborations, which hold so much potential to create more than what we individually can, often end up causing more harm than good.
As music-makers, can we utilise our creative powers and the relational potentials inherent in music to empower the marginalised? Are our motivations and actions in collaborations sincerely in the interests of all or are they really to self-serve? How do we go beyond tokenism in our efforts to cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion? Do we know enough about our collaborators and what they need to feel safe and valued? Or do we feel our ways are superior to our collaborators’ and assume a position of control? How do we begin to trust ourselves and each other to create a kind and nurturing environment in which we can freely explore and express all of our authentic voices? How do we unchain ourselves from the falsity of identity to see our unique selves as constantly transforming singularities and begin to include in our heart our others as our kin? Can we alchemise the hardship we have experienced in this pandemic into lessons in cultivating compassion and empathy towards our others whose lives are threatened and controlled on a permanent basis? Can we practice patience and forgiveness for those who have hurt us in order to heal ourselves and to move past the traumas of the past? How do we begin to decolonise our music-making? And can our music-making practices help to decolonise ways we relate to one another?
What are your answers? It is all of our different approaches, attempts, successes, and mistakes that will contribute to bring about the necessary change. And we will keep on thinking, listening, feeling and making use of our musical knowledge and skills in relationality, until none of these questions need to be answered. When we challenge ourselves to stay with these troubling questions, we will inevitably feel the pain of our others, but soon the relief and joy of our others will also feel like our own.
Peggy Glanville-Hicks returned to Australia in 1975 upon the invitation of James Murdoch to take up a position as consultant for Asian Music Studies at the Australian Music Centre. Peggy had spent over 40 years living in and visiting various places on Earth including London, Vienna, Paris, New York, and Athens. She had explored, in passion, worlds of sounds unfamiliar to her, challenging herself to integrate musical systems foreign to each other, supporting and encouraging others to meet their unfamiliar to create something new, to imagine the unimaginable, and to hear the inaudible. In the words of Peggy in a 1983 interview by Diana Ritch,
The whole business of the East-West fusion to me seemed of vital importance, and if the Australian composers were at the same impasses as the Americans and Europeans had been, then it was going to be interesting, if not crucial. So I accepted the offer and came.
Much has changed since then. Thanks to Peggy and many other courageous creatives who followed the call in their heart for fusion, synthesis, and union of the unfamiliar, Australia is now a rich ground for multicultural inspiration and experimentation. We have, on this precious land, myriad perspectives, not simply East or West or black or white, but millions of diverse colours of possibilities. This diversity is our living treasure, our cultural ecology in which many unknown songs can be heard and birthed. When we finally overcome our old fears, guilt, and resentment, to come together courageously to truly listen and to feel ourselves and each other, we’ll find ourselves dancing in embrace, celebrating our differences, our true colours and creative powers within.
I’d like to thank the Australian Music Centre for this opportunity to share my truth, especially John Davis and Genevieve Lacey who have offered their warm support throughout the preparation of this presentation. I’d like to thank my collaborators Tina Stefanou, Emily Bennett, Daniel Wilfred, Peter Knight, Sohn Sung Hyun, Rob Vincs, Alex Beck, and Dan Peek for their talent and contribution, and many other wonderful collaborators, too many to mention, who have and will continue to transform my life with their truths and their listening hearts. I’d also like to thank my wonderful learning collaborators, my colleagues and students at the University of Melbourne, who continuously remind me that there’s much hope for the humanity.
Before I bid you farewell, I’d like to share two more things.
One is a prayer I learned from my partner Sohn Sung Hyun’s Lakota family 'Mitakuye Oyasin', which means, 'We are all related'.
Another is an invitation to improvise a song together as a musical meditation on our interconnectivity. As I begin to sing, you’re invited to join me by singing or playing your musical instruments. Before we make music together, first, I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and tune into the ecology of sounds around you. You might hear chirping of birds, blowing of winds, a clock ticking, or a distant rumbling of traffic. You will also hear your own breaths. Allowing your breaths to become steady and relaxed, I’d like for you to listen to your heart. Sink deep into the vast and mysterious space in your heart, your Ma Eum, and listen. Feel the subtle sensations in your heart space. How does it feel? What do you hear? Whatever it is that you feel, I’d like for you stay with it. Without giving into the impulses to judge, resist or turn away, I’d like for you hear it out in quiet loving support. Breathing in and out of your heart space, now we’re going to expand our breath downward to the Earth. You may imagine roots growing from your feet or wherever on your body that meets the ground. With each in and out breath, we’re going to send our gratitude and love to our Mother Earth. You may visualise a beautiful natural landscape that you have seen, remembering the sense of appreciation you felt in your heart. Breathe in and out in exchange of loving support with Mother Earth and become aware of gravity which grounds us at all times to the centre of the Earth. We’re all on and of this beautiful Earth and supported by her from birth to death. Now I’d like for you to expand your awareness to the Sun, without which no life on Earth is possible. Breathe in the warm glow of the sunlight and breathe out love and gratitude back to the Sun. Now bring your awareness to the infinite space which unfolds in all directions surrounding you. Breathe in awareness of life all around you, the immeasurably abundant and intimately interconnected web to which we all belong. Each of our lives on Earth and beyond is sustained by this interconnectivity. 'Mitakuye Oyasin.' We’re all related. Now I’d like to invite you to sing or play on your instrument whatever sound that you hear in your heart. You may hum, lull, sigh, or even wail. The sound your heart yearns to express here and now is the perfect sound.
Thank you for joining me.
Sunny Kim is a Korean-born vocalist, improviser, composer and educator, based in Australia. Drawing from her life journey as a global nomad - Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Denver, Boston, New York and, now, Melbourne - Sunny’s artistic practice seeks to find meaningful connections to people, culture and place through a dedication to self-discovery, deep listening and collaboration.
A two-time winner of Jazz People magazine’s Readers' Poll Awards in the Best Vocalist category (2012-13) and the recipient of the LIG Artist grant (2011), Sunny Kim has released five albums as a leader: Android Ascension (2008), Painter’s Eye (2012), The Shining Sea: Live at the Olympus Hall (2014), The Dream of the Earth (2016), and Tribute (2019). Three of these have been nominated for the Korean Music Awards in the Best Jazz Record category. Sunny has recorded as a featured vocalist on numerous records such as After Dark (Prana Trio, 2005), White with Foam (MadLove, 2009), and Keep Your Heart Right (Roswell Rudd Quartet, 2007).
After completing her studies in jazz under the mentorship of Bob Moses, Jerry Bergonzi, Dominique Eade, Charlie Banacos and Frank Carlberg at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Sunny went on to work closely with hundreds of artists from all over the world, including luminaries such as Roswell Rudd, Ben Monder, Trevor Dunn, Min Xiao Fen, Pheeroan Aklaff, and Gino Sitson. She has toured internationally and has performed at the Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival (USA), Taichung Jazz Festival (Taiwan), ATP Festival (UK), Piacenza Jazz Festival (Italy), Jarasum Jazz Festival, Yeosu Expo (Korea) and the Arts Centre Melbourne (Australia).
Sunny has received grants from the Korea Arts Council for various interdisciplinary projects with poets, dancers and visual artists, including large-scale performances Act of Resolution (2011) and Diaspora (2012), with the contemporary dance company Mooe. Her composition 'Everywhere' was featured in the soundtrack of the film Late Autumn (2010) by director Kim Tae-yong.As an educator, Sunny has facilitated hundreds of developing musicians from diverse backgrounds to find their creative voice through cultivation of intuition, body awareness and collaborative skills. Since 2007, Sunny has lectured at Hanyang University, Seoul Institute of the Arts, Soongshil University and Dankuk University (Korea) ,and has led workshops at the Creative Music Intensive (Australia) as well as the Indigenous Songwriting Workshop at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (Canada). A former Assistant Professor at Dong-Ah Institute for Media and Arts, Sunny currently lectures at the University of Melbourne in Jazz and Improvisation.