Okkyung Lee

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2015

New York, NY

Okkyung Lee, a New York-based artist and South Korea native, has created a body of work demonstrating irreverence for genre boundaries and a penchant for collaboration. Her music draws from noise and extended techniques, jazz, Western classical, and Korean traditional and popular music. For example, she used crude equipment and unorthodox microphone equipment to record her solo album Ghil (Ideologic Organ, 2013) in order to produce a more raw sound. She has performed and recorded with similarly fearless improviser-composers, such as Doris Duke Artist Award recipients Zeena Parkins, Craig Taborn, and Vijay Iyer; and Butch Morris, Evan Parker, Wadada Leo Smith, and John Zorn. She curated the 2013 “Music Unlimited 27” Festival in Austria and was heard most recently on Live at Stone (Open Mouth Records, 2015). In 2015, she will be a Civitella Ranieri Fellow in Umbria, Italy and play at the Météo Festival in Mulhouse, France.

  • Credit: Nathan Thomas
    Okkyung Lee
  • “One Hundred Years Old Rain (The Same River Twice),” Noisy Love Songs (Tzadik, 2011)
  • "The Crow Flew After Yi Sang," Ghil (Ideologic Organ, 2013)
  • "Sky,” Nihm (Tzadik, 2005)
  • Okkyung Lee & Christian Marclay (turntables) (Cafe Oto, 2010)
  • Credit: Eckhart Derschmidt

Thinking back to the start of your career, what is the most useful advice you ever received?

Back in 2000 when I moved to New York, I was this young thing who was so eager to absorb and listen and experience something new and exciting, and many musicians and artists welcomed me with open arms with exceptional generosity. Many of them became close friends and collaborators over the years whom I shared many stories both professional and personal. It’s not any specific advice I received from one person, but rather observing how these people I admired led their lives and the priorities they set helped me carve out my own path. Probably the most important lesson was to realize that everything is a process and a part of culmination that doesn’t need to be defined right away. Also important to take your work seriously, but not yourself, which is a lot easier said than done in reality. Then lastly, do remember to enjoy what you are doing.