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Bora Yoon's Sunken Cathedral at Asia Society: A Sonic Journey Through the Subconscious

by Poppy Galloway


Photo credit: AsiaSociety

Korean-American composer, vocalist, and sound artist Bora Yoon performed to an intimate crowd at the Asia Society on Wednesday evening, in celebration of her exquisite multimedia album Sunken Cathedral.

As the title suggests, the soundscape is an immersive collusion of resonant, spiritual sounds and enchanting soprano on a grand scale. Beautifully complemented by the ethereal kinetic sculptures of Seoul-based artist U-Ram Choe, the space was transformed into a chamber for listening, seeing, and experiencing 13 delicate and inspired compositions.

Whimsical rhythm and ritual was the guiding energy of 잔소리 판소리 (Jansori Pansori), a soundscape performed with acute regard to the space and surroundings of the room. Delicate melodies arose from pieces of found metal and cups, tinkering over the steady repetition of Vong Pak on the Korean buk drum. Actual voicemails left by Yoon's mother played over the enchanting rhythm, and invited the listeners into a deeply personal story that was unfamiliar yet completely organic and relatable.


Photo credit: Asia Society

O Virdissima Virga (O Hail, Greenest Branch) evoked Yoon's intended "sonic journey though the subconscious and the architectural chambers of the body." Her enchanting soprano was artfully controlled and flowing, awakening nostalgia and gentle musings in the listener as she steered us through her musical journey. The composition featured field recordings of songbirds in Tokyo, a hailstorm in Sante Fe, and the Tibetan dorje—elements of foreign culture combined to create a completely unique sound. Yet again, her ideas brought to mind a collection of organic, primitive feelings.

It is this charisma that allows such a curiously whimsical and unconventional composition to be received with wide appeal. Sunken Cathedral is breathtaking—a perfectly unique, sensorial triumph.