While K-pop is globally recognized for its visual expression through dance, high fashion, and video production just as much as it is for its infectious music, New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, K-Factor: An Orchestra Exploration of K-Pop brings the focus back on the core element of K-pop: the music. This production, over one year in the works, aims to celebrate the musical ingenuity of Korean popular music throughout history. A 50 piece orchestra will take its audience through a historical narrative of the unique evolution and innovation of Korean music starting from the 1930s and into both early (1990s) and recent K-pop arrangements.

The 14 to 15 pieces will include arrangements of songs by Blackpink, BTS, EXO, Ga In, Red Velvet, and Seo Taiji and Boys. Joining the orchestra for select pieces is special guest pianist JungJae Moon, who has has performed with many distinguished orchestras internationally and is familiar to K-pop fans through his holiday SM Station collaboration with Red Velvet’s Wendy.

K-Soul sat in on Tuesday rehearsals and got a preview of some scores that will be played at the performance on Thursday, June 20.

Photo Credit: Jean Libert

During a panel with the creative team, Yuga Cohler, the conductor, identified that one of the appeals of K-pop as a subject for exploration is the diversity and mix of themes, moods, and genres. While we are going to keep the setlist a surprise, the pieces previewed were carefully selected K-pop staples that showcase the diversity and complexity of K-pop music from both groups and solo artists.

The arrangements creatively translated rap lines into parts for strings and maintain the energy of the music through dance breaks and vocal part switches. These K-Pop favorites are also among some of the most distinctly “K-pop”-esque songs, and these arrangements highlight and define the elements that separates K-pop from the rest. Johan, the arranger, has his own solo work and has worked with western producers and artists such as Mike Dean, Nas, and Vic Mensa. Johan noted that other creators have cited the Korean music industry’s technicality and depth of music theory as a key differentiator in how they collaborate.

Conductor Yuga Cohler, Photo Credit: Jean Libert

This presentation will excite all fans of all generations, from fans of early K-pop (creative consultant Jakob Dorof highlighted 난 알아요 by Seo Taiji and Boys as a favorite) to fans of more recent K-pop (get ready for that horn section, Blinks), the pieces selected are some of the most recognizable and distinctly K-pop songs over the past three decades. Whether or not you are a regular patron of the symphony, this event is a must for K-pop fans.

K-Factor: An Orchestra Exploration of K-Pop presented by Lincoln Center plays at Alice Tully Hall on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 8:00 PM. For more information and tickets visit K-Factor’s website and if you’re interested in joining us for this one-of-a-kind event, use code KFACTOR25 for discounted tickets!

Preview of K-Factor: An Orchestral Exploration of K-Pop


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