Write A Letter on A Cloudy Autumn Sky (흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써) and Hyehwa-dong (혜화동) are songs from the folk group Dongmulwon’s (동물원) second album. Dongmulwon was formed in 1988 with the help of Sanulim’s Kim Chang Wan. It was a rare band producing music part time as a side project while most members kept their full time profession. They strove to capture the good, innocent side of life and gave us several beautifully crafted songs about youthful idealism and fuzzy nostalgia in the 80s and 90s. They showed us that simple, unsullied goodness can be beautiful too.
흐린 가을하늘에 편지를 써
Write A Letter on The Cloudy Autumn Sky
The whole project started as a group of young music lovers regularly got together to sing and play music for fun. Kim Chang Gi (김창기, 1960-), Park Gi Young (박기영), Yu Jun Yul (유준열), and Kim Kwang Seok (김광석) who would later become famous as a solo singer were the early members. They caught the attention of Sanullim’s famed and experienced leader Kim Chang Wan who was interested in promoting new musical acts at the time. With Kim’s guidance they finally produced a debut album in 1988 to good critical reviews and a surprising sales as well. They followed suit with a second album which was even better and solidified their name as an independent, ideal-minded band appealing to the sensitivities of students and the young generation. They stood out as singer songwriters too, most of the members contributing their own songs.
Write A Letter on The Cloudy Autumn Sky, written by Kim Chang Gi and sung by Kim Kwang Seok, was a substantial hit. It is a typical Dongmulwon fare singing about a young man’s musings as he searches for the right true-to-himself path in the midst of all the meaningless vagaries and superficial temptations of life. Kim Chang Gi, known for compositions of innocent and nostalgic sentiments, likens his quest for ideals to writing a letter on the cloudy autumn sky, an evocative metaphor that resonated well with the listeners. Kim Kwang Seok on his part gives a memorable vocal performance on the song. After his untimely death, this song was chosen by his fellow singers for a tribute to his legacy.
Hyehwa-dong, another Kim Chang Gi song, is quietly moving with an introspective narrative and idealist angst. The title is a name of one of the dongs of Seoul, an administrative unit of Korean cities comprised of dozens of neighborhoods and smaller than a district. Hyehwa-dong is an old residential area where the traditional middle class face of Seoul has been preserved rather well. With a great many small alleyways meandering through brick house neighborhoods, the place, average in most aspects, seems to bring nostalgia to people’s mind. The narrator receives a call from his old friend who was going a long way off the next day. They agree to meet in the old alleyway in Hyehwa-dong where they used to play together as a boy. On his way there he thinks about his life with a regret that he has been so swept up by the daily demands of making a living that he was out of touch with many things dear to him, such as his friend he had forgotten about. In a warm, quaintly inviting melody in Kim Chang Gi’s innocent, straight voice and an undulating organ that touches your heart, it relates one of the poignant sentiments most of us seem to harbor about our lives and relationships. A beautiful and nostalgic song which happens to be my favorite Dongmulwon song too.
As members went back to their full time profession, Dongmulwon went through many changes in their lineup. Kim Kwang Seok left the group first because he wanted a full time solo singing career. Kim Chang Gi quit later to work full time a as a doctor, followed by some others. Yet the group still performs to this day after all the changes. It is one unique band that aspired to the purest kind of music, and only such music, shunning all extraneous elements.