Life-Changing Art: Yeahwon Shin

Korean singer recalls Chopin epiphany, celebrates ECM debut at An die Musik this Thursday.

By John Lewis. Posted on April 21, 2014


John Soares

What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?

If it could be considered as a piece of art, the first one that changed my life was a musical instrument, the piano. I started to love playing since I was four, when my parents bought a piano for my older sister, who is six years older than me. When I heard the sound of piano for the first time, I immediately knew that I was in love with the sound. I haven't stop playing since.

Otherwise, it would be the first piano piece I fell in love with during my childhood. One day, I heard a beautiful piano composition on TV, which was so captivating because of the whole emotional experience it brought out in me. I still remember the vivid images I had in my imagination while listening to the music that day: a very old house made of brick, faded colors, a strong sunlight shining through a few leaves of ivy. Then came raindrops and fragrant scents, along with lifting sadness, tenderness, loneliness, and caring. Finally, the dramatic speed of the trills and the incredible rhythm evoked emotions from the bottom of the earth. These were the kind of images and feelings going through my body. It was an emotional shock to feel all this at the age of 10.

Later, I discovered that it was Chopin's Nocturne E Flat Major Op9, and I have played it countless times since then. It was the first step towards finding my voice in music, and, when I go back to the piano and play this piece again, it takes me back to my purest emotions. Through this piece, music became my best friend and emotional companion.

South Korean singer Yeahwon Shin conjures a similarly captivating vibe on Lua Ya, her ECM debut. Accompanied by pianist Aaron Parks and accordionist Rob Curto, Shin floats through these tunes with ethereal grace and, at times, child-like wonder. She could be Juana Molina’s shy cousin, lingering along the peripheries of melody and rhythm. Shin celebrates the ECM release at An die Musik (one of just three East Coast shows) this Thursday at 8 pm.

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