23 Mar Elena Moon Park’s ‘Reimagined’ Folk, Inspired by East and Southeast Asian Classics, Offers the Springtime Songs We All Need
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Elena Moon Park describes her music as reimagined folk and children’s music from around the globe — with an emphasis on East and Southeast Asia — but I’d also call it joyful, whimsical, and inspiring.
After watching the video for “Flower Dance,” directed and animated by Andrew Benincasa, I felt the urge to step outside and twirl in the sunlight. I literally said to myself, “I can’t wait until my kids get home from school so I can show them this!”
And as I navigated Park’s impressive video library, it became clear that this Spring-friendly song is just one of many jubilant tunes and impressive accomplishments.
A freelance violist who calls Brooklyn, N.Y., home, Park has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and in other countries — including the Southbank Centre and the Melbourne International Arts Festival. When she’s not creating music, she’s the co-Artistic Director of the Brooklyn-based arts organization Found Sound Nation, which uses collaborative music creation to connect people across cultural divides.
“I love to learn and sing songs in different languages, and to incorporate a lot of different kinds of instruments and musical traditions into the song choices,” Park tells Rockmommy. All of the music I create is driven first and foremost by my love of collaboration, with musicians, visual artists, friends and family who I admire.”
We caught up with Elena recently to talk about life, artistic expression, and making “unhurried” music during uncertain times.
Rockmommy: What were some of the biggest challenges of creating music over the last year?
Elena Moon Park: Like many moments in life, I think the biggest challenges in the last 12 months also revealed some big opportunities for me. Of course, we’ve communally faced a tremendous challenge, perhaps the greatest global challenge of our lifetimes; but hopefully in that process, we were given some opportunity to be able to reflect and focus on the things that are most important to us, whatever those things may be.
Facing big challenges can remind us what we value most in our lives. And in particular, this challenge to stay in one place and to slow down, as many of us experienced this year, gave me an opportunity to reflect. I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to safely work from home and have this opportunity of time — as I know not everyone did — and I am also incredibly grateful for those who have had to move into higher gear to keep us all safe or to keep themselves or their families afloat. I have spent a lot of time in this past year connecting or reconnecting with family and friends, and connecting with the natural world around me, and that has kept me grounded.
Rockmommy: How did the past 12 months influence your music and creative process?
Elena Moon Park: For several months starting in March 2020, I took slow walks around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, closely watching the trees and flowers bloom in the springtime, blossom and wilt in the summer, and change into vibrant colors in the fall. I don’t think I’ve ever paid such close attention to these things in this busy, fast-paced NYC world, and, as I mentioned above, it left me feeling very grounded and meditative. During that same time, I was gearing up to release a new family music album, aptly titled “Unhurried Journey” — dedicated to taking a deep breath and slowing down. The album ended up coming out alongside another major shift in energy, just as the resurgence of protests for racial justice hit the streets across the nation, so the Unhurried Journey message was not quite fitting for that moment — although I do believe that the communal slowing down played a key role in bringing much-needed nationwide attention to the movement and to the message.
But in the months leading up to its release, I ended up making 15 lyric videos for each of the 15 songs, inspired by the beautiful artwork of my collaborator Kristiana Parn and by these meditative walks I was taking every day around my neighborhood. The videos still make me think back to that time, and I am so thankful for those moments.
Rockmommy: What are you most hopeful for in 2021?
Elena Moon Park: I hope that we (or I) can keep remembering to reflect on what is important, to be present in the moment, especially in our time spent with loved ones, and to appreciate and respect the natural world around us. I hope we will also find ways to support one another as we continue this communal struggle, and to support positive change, guided by radical compassion, listening and love for the people and things around us.
Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share?
Elena Moon Park: It’s similarly challenging to plan for any projects these days, but I am having a lovely time daydreaming of what it could be like to turn my Unhurried Journey album into a storybook of some kind. I also look forward to creating more music or music videos with artistic collaborators, if and when the time is right.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.