This past spring, Korean violinist Hyung Joon Won visited several college campuses across the Northeast, including Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton, to speak about the Lindenbaum Project. While at Columbia, Won met with students from Columbia’s chapter of Liberty in North Korea as well as students from various campus music groups.
Won began the project in 2009, with the goal of easing tensions and bringing harmony to North-South Korean relations through classical music. Based on precedents such as the West-East Divan Orchestra between Israel and Palestine and El Sistema in Venezuela, the project’s goal is to harness the power of classical music for social change.
Won has long been recognized for combining musicianship and activism. As a soloist he has toured worldwide in collaboration with orchestras such as the Hong Kong Pan Asia Philharmonic, Massapequa Philharmonic, and the Marrowstone Festival Orchestra. In 1990, Won performed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany. In 1996, he performed at the UN General Assembly Hall under the theme World Peace.
A collection of musicians, students, and activists has joined Won in reaching his goal. Notably, Maestro Charles Dutoit of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra has backed the project.
Columbia’s own Gary Kim (SEAS ‘18) has spearheaded a new technology-based project that will feature an international collaboration of musicians in a recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Between 2011 and 2015, Won made several attempts to organize a joint live concert between North and South Korean musicians. However, each time one of the governments rescinded permission to do so at the last minute, due to a sudden rise in political or military tensions. Kim’s technology-based solution allows for remote recordings of each part in the symphony, temporarily eliminating the need for organizing logistics across the border. Won’s hope is that the technology-based project will be a first step to displaying the peacemaking power of music.
In April, students from Columbia and Harvard helped Won and Kim submit a proposal for the 2016 Google Impact Challenge. If awarded, funding from this challenge will help spread awareness of the Lindenbaum Project and garner more international support.
Won will be returning to New York this July to give talks at the Waterfall Gallery.