Minna Choi’s music inhabits an alternative universe, a place where sound is unfettered by limiting categories, free to drift between rock, pop, classical, electronic and ambient music, following its own impulse to explore the infinite possibilities of melody and meter. The sensibility she brings to the songs she composed for her eponymous debut album, Magik*Magik, was honed by her work as the Music Director of Magik*Magik Orchestra, a group she started while attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2008. When she told fellow students about the session work she’d been doing at recording studios in New York City, they got excited about doing studio work themselves, so Choi put together a string orchestra that would work with people outside of the classical sphere. “We started doing session work for rock bands, hip hop artists and pop singers, to create a name for ourselves,” she says.
Shortly after they got together, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood hired the orchestra to support a performance of his classical piece, “Popcorn Superhet Receiver.” The sold out concert launched their career. Since then, they’ve recorded with hundreds of artists, toured with Pop-Up Magazine scoring the live stories, contributed music to video games (Iron Man 2) and film scores (Looper, The Dam Keeper), written and performed string charts for Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys.
“I’m constantly putting black notes on white paper but, most of the time it’s for somebody else,” Choi says, with a smile. “I was in a band years ago, but songwriting was painfully slow, so I stopped doing it. I began writing this album like it was an assignment from Chris. Since I make my living as a sidekick, I was able to look at the process objectively. I wrote what I wanted to write. A song doesn’t have to taste sweet. It can be thorny, dry and not immediately pleasurable, so long as it’s free.”