Broken Families: Collectivism, Violence, Imagined Utopias and Improvisation (a twitter transcript)

Just Improvisation: workshop performance (Belfast, May 30, 2015). Photo copyright 2015 Translating Improvisation.
Just Improvisation: workshop performance (Belfast, May 30, 2015). Photo © 2015 Translating Improvisation. [Original…]

Simon Rose: “Did you know how loud you were?”
Han-earl Park: “Oh. Yes.”
Rose: “I thought you did.”

Thoughts and questions in response to Translating Improvisation’s symposium back in May from the POV of an institutionally unaffiliated, sometimes teacher, amateur scholar and anthropologist [previous twitter transcripts…]. Below the fold is an unedited twitter transcript of my observations from Just Improvisation. My original observations came in the form of tweets (some written ‘live’, most posted subsequently) via @hanearlpark that spanned the first panel discussions, Ellen Waterman’s keynote presentation, concert performances by Okkyung Lee and Maria Chavez, the Deep Listening Workshop with Pauline Oliveros, and the workshop-performance which forms the main subject of my discussions.

My questions and observations are indebted to discussions with @franzschroeder, @wildsong, @tomarthursmusic, @pauljstapleton, @MortButane, @olivep, @davekanemusic, @zeittraumism, @nickreynoldsatp and @JoshSinton both on- and off- the twitterverse.

The rants (and typos), however, are entirely my own 😉

Twitter transcript (unedited)

Responses to Symposium Day 1: Belfast, May 29, 2015

May 29: Let’s start this w/ informal, visible demographic survey (a la #isim2014 #amspittsburgh #rsa2014)… #amateuranthropology #justimprovisation

May 29: …Suits. Lots* of suits. #amateuranthropology #justimprovisation

May 29: …* ‘Lots’ may be relative.** #amateuranthropology #justimprovisation

May 29: …** ‘Relative’ may speak more to the prejudices of the observer. #amateuranthropology #justimprovisation

May 29: ‘Adversity’ noun: “difficulties; misfortune”… #justimprovisation

May 29: …Potential tripping hazard in interdisciplinary meetings? possible misunderstanding(s) (creative or otherwise)? … #justimprovisation

May 29: …What is, for eg, the relationship btwn ‘adversity’ and ‘struggle’? #justimprovisation

May 29: …‘Adversity’ is not a term afaik improvisers enroll in their discussions, but ‘struggle,’ yes, often, maybe always. #justimprovisation

May 29: …Also ‘difficulty,’ ‘problematic,’ ‘risk’—difficult/problematic terms w/ differing creative/social ramifications. #justimprovisation

May 29: …false friends? I doubt these terms say much about the specifics of the creative or the social… #justimprovisation [1/2]

May 29: …—or their corresponding discourses—but it may be tempting to draw simple correlations. #justimprovisation [2/2]

May 29: …Like I said, potential tripping hazards. #mistakenembrace #justimprovisation

May 29: “Start to grapple with that fluidity.” #justimprovisation

May 29: ‘Proceduralized.’ Good word. Potential #artspeak right there. #linguisticdetritus #randomactsofpoetry #justimprovisation

May 29: “We’ve seen an 18% increase…” I’d love to write program/liner notes w/ this language. #technocracy #artspeak #justimprovisation

May 29: …How do we reconcile the need for ‘fluidity’ when the rhetorical justification uses… #linguisticdetritus #justimprovisation [1/2]

May 29: …such technocratic, bureaucratic language? #linguisticdetritus #justimprovisation [2/2]

May 29: “Risk”; that word again. #artspeak #linguisticdetritus #justimprovisation

May 29: Improvisation as an “unruly domain”. #justimprovisation

May 29: …Improvisation as a ’domain’? as a ‘site’? (Not an act?) #performance #identity #sociality #justimprovisation

May 29: Didn’t multiculturalism die at the hands of diversity? … #genuinequestion #justimprovisation

May 29: …or at least did not diversity explode the problematics (and necessary violence) of multiculturalism? #justimprovisation

May 29: “Musically satisfying ensemble.” ‘Satisfying’ #hmm By what criteria? #justimprovisation

May 29: ‘Recognition’ as the mechanism of identity (w/ minorities)? What about whiteness? heteronormativity? #hegemony #othering #justimprovisation

May 29: Equality = refusal to recognize difference. #justimprovisation

May 29: ‘Authentic self’? Is there the trap of essentialism there? #justimprovisation

May 29: Is the mechanism of improvisation based on exchanges? #genuinequestion #justimprovisation

May 29: I’ll ask this again for emphasis: Is exchange the primary/necessary/root mechanism of improvisation? #genuinequestion #justimprovisation

May 29: “Identities are always contingent.” Yes. This. #justimprovisation

May 29: Do the musical terms dissonance/harmony correspond to social/power relationship? … #justimprovisation

May 29: …or are we falling back on (liberal humanist) bad habits of old musicology? #justimprovisation

May 29: “Unvoicing of ulterity.” #justimprovisation

May 29: I don’t buy the distinction btw ‘traditional’ and ‘creative’ improvised musics. #idiom #tradition #creativity #justimprovisation

May 29: …pretty much said the same in a discussion with @tomarthursmusic afterwards. #justimprovisation

May 29: More thoughts: everytime I see OL perform, I think, damn; she’s better than the rest of us put together. #justimprovisation

May 29: Much transducer based music or #soundart would be improved by judicious enrolling of highpass filters. #impedance #justimprovisation

May 29 [in reply to…]: .@nickreynoldsatp I just don’t buy the one-on-one correspondence of musical and social dissonance/harmony. Instead… #justimprovisation [1/2]

May 29: .@nickreynoldsatp …it strikes me that _making_ the distinction btwn dissonance & harmony is the political act. #justimprovisation [2/2]

Responses to Symposium Day 2: Belfast, May 30, 2015

May 31: 0. Some more thoughts from the #justimprovisation symposium coming up…

May 31: 1. Find myself (my accident, of course) sitting next to @olivep during the Deep Listening workshop… #justimprovisation

May 31: 2. …and learned that I can not only listen thru the soles of my feet, but… #justimprovisation #body #physiology #listening

May 31: 3. …that I can triangulate the source of the vibration w/ two feet. Stereo! #justimprovisation #body #physiology #listening

May 31: 4. During the course of discussions, an improvising ensemble is frequently compared to that of a family… #justimprovisation

May 31: 5. …but escaping familiar relations are by degrees of magnitude so much harder than leaving an ensemble. #justimprovisation

May 31: 6. I am, however, reminded of the oft used terms ‘leader’ & ‘collective’ in the context of improvising micro-societies. #justimprovisation

May 31: 7. And tho we often idealize one form over another, ‘leader’ & ‘collective’ denote only 2 possible ways of organizing… #justimprovisation

May 31: 8. …each problematic, each utopian, in their way; neither quite fully descriptive of the dynamics of social play. #justimprovisation

May 31: 9. Leaders: such strong personalities (egos?) holding ensembles together… #justimprovisation

May 31: 10. …Ellington? Mingus? Bley? Guy? Mitchell? Paternalistic, nurturing, playful, autocratic, managerial, or bullying… #justimprovisation

May 31: 11. …Were we waiting for (or in need of) the ‘leader’ (such as @olivep) in the #justimprovisation ensemble…?

May 31: 12. In contrast to Call Them Improvisors! in 2011 in which we all bowed down to EP? #justimprovisation

May 31: 13. (Aside: but there may be no leaders, just those willing to be lead. We can too easily mistake effect for cause.) #justimprovisation

May 31: 14. Collective: idealized, utopian, but how do these work? How does collectivism work w/out violence to diversity…? #justimprovisation

May 31: 15. …afaik, closest to coop/‘family’ improvised musics was the AEC. But that ensemble emerged from Mitchell’s group… #justimprovisation

May 31: 16. …Felt as tho the #justimprovisation group desired (or felt we _should_ desire) a collective, but we were so polite (and yet so violent)…

May 31: 17. “Fuck you.” Someone says during the post-workshop discussions. ‘Yeah,’ I think, ‘exactly: “fuck you.”’ #justimprovisation

May 31: 18. Be back later with more thoughts on violence, alliances, autocracy and sociality coming up. #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 19. More thoughts on violence, alliances, autocracy and sociality from @translat_improv’s #justimprovisation symposium coming up…

Jun 24: 20. During #justimprovisation an improvising ensemble is frequently compared to that of a family…

Jun 24: 21. …but familial relationships often seem less about choice of partners than, generally, a musical ensemble… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 22. …we choose our bands in a way we can’t always choose our families (or we get paid)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 23. …that aside, are dysfunctions similar in both groups? Maybe (but how you solve/escape them are radically different). #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 24. What happens in an ensemble is brought together w/ radically different agenda, desires, skills, character, or power…? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 25. …And what happens when those social/musical dissonances/discords are not discussed…? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 26. I want to unpack this (realize this is prob directed at a certain guitarist): #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 27. …I had certain problems w/ the amplified, steady-state ‘drone’ proponents in the #justimprovisation ensemble. I had difficulty…

Jun 24: 28. …hearing the unamplified string players in the #justimprovisation group. (It seemed to me, in such a large ensemble, the…

Jun 24: 29. …only ones who should have free license to play continuous sustained gestures were the unamplified strings/flute)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 30. …the rest of us would have to be more careful (we could be loud, but those gestures would have to be short)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 31. …talking to one of the drone proponents during the break, he responded that he wanted everyone to play drones… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 32. …so the question: #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 33. …favorite pt of #justimprovisation may have been @MortButane (musical) response to Bennett Hogg: unexpected, oblique, left-field…

Jun 24: 34. …different, idiomatically discordant; recontextualizing Hogg’s playing (never to be heard the same way again)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 35. …how does one catalyze such (transformative) interactions and choices…? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 36. …catalyze w/out ‘fixing’ the group (reminded of @JoshSinton: he’s not in the business of ‘saving’ an improvisation)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 37. When #justimprovisation group w/out the full complement of players (sans many quieter voices) start our performance in the afternoon

Jun 24: 38. …the ensemble launches into full-scale drone-works. I give up. It’s prob. unforgivable, but I walk off stage… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 39. …I remember thinking: ‘I do not want to be part of this drone warfare.’ (ironic considering what is to follow)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 40. …If I have a problem w/ how those drones were articulated, it wasn’t the loudness of it as such, but how it subsumed… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 41. …how it absorbed diversity and made it part of its identity. Which may be a kind of collectivism, but… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 42. …not a collective I wanted to be part of. #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 43. Feel it’s disrespectful to walk off stage, but done it x2 since an experience some years ago: #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 44. …If leaving the stage is unforgivable, then rejoining it seems like, at best, very poor manners… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 45. …Essentially doing a pick’n’mix on what you decide to participate it. Where is the collective? collectivism? family? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 46. In retrospect, going back on stage was a mistake, but once there, tried 2do what is the best role for the e. guitar… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 47. …nudge, push and pull, and catalyze the existing elements that are ‘desirable’… #machiavellian?… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 48. …but when those totalizing drones started up again for the umpteenth time, I exercised the nuclear option… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 49. …Nuclear option? I floored it: volume pedal toe down, playing at eleven… #justimprovisation? or #unjustimprovisation?

Jun 24: 50. …Nuclear option: did I say evoking drone warfare was ironic? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 51. …I did American Foreign Policy—indiscriminate, “bomb them back into the Stone Age”—on the collective… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 52. …second time I’ve ever exercised the nuclear option, and, unlike last time, I’m _certain_ it was wrong wrong, wrong… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 53. …Despite what @wildsong @olivep said, feel my response really was… immoral? Maybe. Unethical? Probably. Wrong? Wrong… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 54. …Deniz Peters: “You autoerotic guitarist, you.” Ironic following statements about the non-semiotic nature of music? #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 55. …Simon Rose: “Did you know how loud you were?” “Oh. Yes.” “I thought you did.” #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 56. …Should someone ask for one (not that I expect anyone to), I would give my unconditional apology for what I did… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 57. …but my question is: given the (latent/overt/potential of) violence in the ensemble (as discussed in this thread)… #justimprovisation

Jun 24: 58. …what _should_ I have done? #justimprovisation

Jun 26 [in reply to…]: .@JoshSinton No. Didn’t expect them to, but… your Q gets me asking who they should have apologized to (if at all)… #justimprovisation [1/2]

Jun 26: .@JoshSinton …to those whose voices got absorbed into the hive, or those who had difficulty hearing those voices? #justimprovisation [2/2]

Jun 26 [in reply to…]: .@JoshSinton Good question. Hmm… maybe no apologies are necessary (just some group counseling). #justimprovisation

Jun 26: .@JoshSinton As for my initial statement, for me, it’s the fact that I dropped (the musical equivalent of) nukes… #justimprovisation [1/2]

Jun 26: .@JoshSinton …wrong is wrong regardless of the reasons that compelled it. #justimprovisation [2/2]

update: Just Improvisation, Belfast

Just Improvisation (flyer copyright 2015 Translating Improvisation)
© 2015 Translating Improvisation

May 29 and 30, 2015: as previously posted, I’ve been invited to participate in Just Improvisation: Enriching child protection law through musical techniques, discourses and pedagogies. See below for the program including the list of musicians involved. The symposium, organized by Translating Improvisation, takes place at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (Queen’s University, Belfast, N. Ireland). Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.

See the performance diary for up-to-date info. [Translating Improvisation page…]


Fri 29 May 2015

2:00pm: Welcome & Introduction (Paul Stapleton and Sara Ramshaw)

2:15pm: Panel 1: ‘Child Protection as Social Practice: Challenges and Possibilities’
Chaired by: Marcella Leonard (Independent Social Worker) with: Denise McBride QC (Senior Barrister) and John Devaney (Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast – School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work)

3:45pm: Coffee/Tea Break

4:00pm: Keynote 1: Ellen Waterman, ‘Improvisation and the Audibility of Difference’

5:00pm: Wine Reception

5:30pm: Double-bill concert: Okkyung Lee and Maria Chavez

Sat 30 May 2015

9:45am: Coffee/Tea

10:00am: Deep Listening Workshop (led by Pauline Oliveros)

11:00am: Parallel Workshops: Musical Improvisation / Hydra (Legal Improvisation)
Improvisation workshop musicians: Paul Stapleton, Adnan Marquez-Borbon, Maria Chavez, Okkyung Lee, Pauline Oliveros, Ellen Waterman, Tom Arthurs, Matt Bourne, Dave Kane, Steve Davis, Phil Smyth, Simon Rose, Michael Speers, Dennis Peters, Han-earl Park, Ed Devane, Bennett Hogg and Rachel Austin

1:00pm: Lunch break

2:00pm: Panel 2: Informal performances and open discussion about workshops

3:00pm: Keynote 2: Pauline Oliveros, ‘The Ethics and Practice of Listening’

4:00pm: Coffee/Tea

4:15pm: Panel 3 & Plenary Discussion: ‘Imagining the Future’
Chaired by Georgina Born (Professor of Music and Anthropology, Oxford) with: Siobhan Keegan QC (President of the Family Bar Association of Northern Ireland)

5:15pm: Closing Remarks (Sara Ramshaw and Paul Stapleton)

Just Improvisation, Belfast

Just Improvisation (flyer copyright 2015 Translating Improvisation)
© 2015 Translating Improvisation

May 29 and 30, 2015: I am honored and excited to be invited to participate in Just Improvisation: Enriching child protection law through musical techniques, discourses and pedagogies. The symposium, organized by Translating Improvisation, takes place at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (Queen’s University, Belfast, N. Ireland). Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.

See the performance diary for up-to-date info.


05–16-15: see update for program and list of participating musicians.

Crucible Sound: interview with Han-earl Park

Crucible Sound (Pittsburgh, 11-07-13)
Over at Crucible Sound, Anthony Levin-Decanini interviews Han-earl Park about idiom, identity, collaborators, teaching and a-ha moments:

Idiom, tradition, identity, history (personal or collective) are things that I value. I tend not to subscribe to the vanilla notion of a pure, non-idiomatic state. I value the meeting: I want to know who you are, who I am, and that fascinating stuff is when those things collide—what we have in common, and what separates us. Border crossings are always fascinating; full of contradictions and (potential) misunderstandings….

…Meetings and border crossings make me think of brief encounters, limited investment, not long-arc relationships. Is that what free improvisers are left with: connecting only in that moment? Is that initial collision potentially more interesting to hear than when musicians get to know each other intimately (and calculate accordingly)?

…I do value the band, of long-term collaborations. It allows for greater complexity of interaction, greater speeds of decision making, more oblique, unexpected, choices. We, Eris 136199, coined a new term—‘weirderation’—after our last performance, to denote something—a set of relationships, decision making process—getting just that little bit weirder with each iteration.

On the other hand, spaces such as Crucible Sound have their own value. I’m not sure ‘brief encounters’ necessarily equates to ‘limited investment’ in those relationships.

[Read the rest…]

On Thursday (November 7, 2013), at 8:00pm (doors: 7:30pm): Han-earl Park will be performing with David Bernabo, Edgar Um Bucholtz, J Wayne Clinton and Lenny Young as part of Crucible Sound at ModernFormations (4919 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224) [map…]. Suggested donation: $7. [Details…]

video recordings: YouTube playlist… redux

Thanks to the efforts of the Downtown documentarists—Don Mount, Kevin Reilly and Scott Friedlander—there’s been a lot of changes to my YouTube channel and playlists since my last announcement almost a year ago. In terms of project specific playlists, I’ve updated the Eris 136199 playlist [watch…], and created one for Metis 9 [watch…]

site update: Metis 9

The (provisional) project page for Metis 9 is now live:

Metis 9 is a collection of improvisative tactics, and higher-level interactive macros for ensemble performance designed, designated and specified by Han-earl Park.

Metis 9 has ‘glorious noise’ or ‘frenzy’ at its root, yet it is not so much structuring the noise as it is a meta-layer of complexity that performers can introduce at will. Metis 9 does not tell the performer what to play, or provide all the details of how to interact, but it is an additional network protocol for interactive possibilities. Group improvisation is always the primary protocol; Metis 9 provides secondary or tertiary tactics that create an additional focused complexity. The decision for each bloop and bleep is still retained by the ensemble. These macros enable specific interactionist schemes to be expressed in an open improvisative context; it is improvisative play channeled by group consent.

Metis 9 builds on my experience teaching improvisation at University College Cork, and performing as part of large ensembles led by Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, Evan Parker and Pauline Oliveros. Metis 9 includes tactics developed from performances and practices of Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley, John Zorn and Anthony Braxton, in particular, and the form of its practice (training and instruction) is inspired by the ensemble improvisation-composition works of George E. Lewis among others.

[Metis 9 page…]

I am seeking opportunities to perform Metis 9 in small and large ensemble contexts with, at its core, the trio of Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora and Josh Sinton. In particular, I am seeking performance opportunities for Gargantius Effect +4 (Murray Campbell and Randy McKean with Gino Robair, Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora and Josh Sinton) in October 2013 in North America (contact me for other locations and dates). Interested promoters, venues and sponsors, please get in touch!

video recordings: YouTube playlist updates

As part of the general house keeping duties, I’ve updated the playlists at my YouTube channel. The ‘Han-earl Park’ playlist, at this time, features performances with Sean Ali, Chris Chafe, Chris Corrigan, Nick Didkovsky, Andrew Drury, Paul Dunmall, Michael Evans, Jonathan Goldberger, Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen, Will McEvoy, Manuela Meier, Jonathan Moritz, Pauline Oliveros, Gascia Ouzounian, Pedro Rebelo, Bradford Reed, Mark Sanders, Franziska Schroeder, Catherine Sikora, Jamie Smith, Doug Van Nort, Ben Wright, Jack Wright and Justin Yang, and videography by Don Mount, Kevin Reilly and John Hough.

And Eris 136199 now has its own playlist.

audio and video recordings: Sonorities 2009

Thanks to Franziska Schroeder, audio and video documentation of the performance on May 16th 2009 at the Sonic Arts Research Center, Belfast, N. Ireland (the closing concert of Sonorities 2009) is now online.

The performers were Chris Corrigan, Manuela Meier, Pauline Oliveros, Gascia Ouzounian, Han-earl Park, Pedro Rebelo, Franziska Schroeder, Justin Yang, plus Chris Chafe and Doug Van Nort. [Details…]

arts council logo

My trip to Belfast was made possible with the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Sonorities and TWO Thousand + NINE

On May 16th 2009 I performed as part of the closing concert of Sonorities 2009 at the Sonic Arts Research Center, Belfast, N. Ireland. The performance was with Chris Corrigan, Manuela Meier, Pauline Oliveros, Gascia Ouzounian, Pedro Rebelo, Franziska Schroeder, Justin Yang, plus Chris Chafe and Doug Van Nort. [Details…]

On the same day I presented a paper ‘io 0.0.1 beta: ironic tale? sci-fi parody? nostalgic relic?’ at the TWO Thousand + NINE symposium. [More…]
arts council logo

My trip to Belfast was made possible with the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland.