Beauty into dread-inducing dreamscapes and the detritus of a creative life

A new galaxy in Park’s universe? David Lynch vs. Andrei Tarkovsky? And what’s hidden that will be unearthed? Lee Rice Epstein reviews Of Life, Recombinant (NEWJAiM9) in Free Jazz:

Of Life, Recombinant tells multiple stories at once, opening up a wide aperture and displaying stunningly drawn vistas. The four-song suite makes for a fantastic headphone album, as small details invite your attention ever more deeply throughout…. The fugue-like state is but one-layer of Park’s suite. As they progress, ‘Game: Mutation,’ ‘Naught Opportune,’ ‘Are Variant,’ and the 30-minute ‘Of Life, Recombinant’ continually pitch one direction, pivot on multiple axes, and branch out in new directions. That’s true as much for the sonics—with pre-recorded material mixed and matched over itself—as it is for the emotional throughlines, in some cases leading listeners down long corridors of chilly anticipation, in others playing up the subtle intimacy of quiet tones…. And unmistakably, Park’s guitar is itself a treasure chest of delights—long, thrilling sections of beauty fold into chilly, dread-inducing dreamscapes, each of which will enchant and delight in equal measure. [Read the rest…]

[About this album…] [Get the CD/download from NEWJAiM (Bandcamp)…] [All reviews…]

Creative Dead Ends in Music

Elsewhere, J. Vognsen, writing in Perfect Sound Forever, asked composers and performers (including myself) for our thoughts on failure in the context of creative work: “Why does some music end up not in the ears of listeners but in the dustbin, or perhaps never leaving the mind of the creator in the first place?”

Every piece I do leaves behind detritus of a creative life: abandoned exercises, studies, mockups, etcetera. A lot of my time and energy as a performer, specifically as an improviser, is spent in preparation; off-stage, in practice and in study. Testing things out, sometimes speculatively, sometimes with a particular goal in mind, sometimes creating studies to more clearly define a problem or problematic; these exercises and studies can help me hone in on a particular technique or strategy, they can help me discover better ways of getting from A-to-B….

But sometimes the creative detritus can be unplanned and have a greater impact—a greater impact on energy expended, on time and effort. [Read the rest…]

The piece is very much worth reading. In particular, I enjoyed reading, and really related to, Carla Kihlstedt’s take (“my creative failures… fall into three basic categories: The Hollow, The Half-baked and The Missed Marks”), and Nick Didkovsky’s telling of The CHORD Origin Story is a total blast.

If you enjoyed that piece, please also check out some of my recent written work including ‘Broken Families: Collectivism, Violence, Imagined Utopias and Improvisation,’ and my reflections on working through times of uncertainty, anxiety, and of doubt.

Poetic, messy, terrifying and mesmerizing (article in Jazz Right Now)

As part of the ‘New Work’ series, Jazz Right Now has published my piece on work(ing) during these pandemic times; times of “uncertainty, anxiety, and of doubt.” In the article, I reflect on the perverse desire for artistic ‘productivity’; the breaches between public and private spaces; the artistic commemoration this time, this condition; and the need for creative work that frustrates:

The rogue strand of RNA danced its dance with humanity. It’s beautiful in its own way. Poetic—messy, terrifying, mesmerizing—in its own way.

R-nought.

New words and expressions entered the vernacular. Old words came to denote less—more specific things—but encapsulate and carry more meaning: of fear, uncertainty, yes, but also fascination. We’re being transformed, across porous borders, through language. Soon, those of us who lived through this, might share these as shorthands. ‘Variant’ means something. It has a texture and resonance and feel and vibe that can’t be captured by a Merriam-Webster.

I reflect on how pre-pandemic cultures (and culture-industrial complexes), with its obsession with authority and coherence and narrative, ill prepared us for the complexity and discord and messiness of the present. That maybe if we had held closer these prickly, uncomfortable, inconvenient, noisy heterophonies we, as societies, may have been more capable of facing the chaos, or dancing the dance of humanity v. RNA. [Read the rest…]

Thanks to Cisco Bradley for inviting me to contribute to this series, and thanks so much to Cristina Marx for the photography.

Watch the rest of the #lockdownminiature series on Twitter and Facebook.

Out now on NEWJAiM Recordings

cover art (copyright 2021 NEWJAiM)

Of Life, Recombinant (NEWJAiM9) [details…]

Personnel: Han-earl Park (guitar) with Anne Wellmer (voice on track 4).

Track listing: Game: Mutation (5:38); Naught Opportune (≥ 10:42); Are Variant (≥ 8:06); Of Life, Recombinant (≥ 29:22). Total duration ≥ 53:48.

© 2021 NEWJAiM Recordings.
℗ 2021 Han-earl Park.

Bodies, agency, ‘the material,’ automata, cyborgs and improvisation

“Once I have those parameters, I can reconfigure the body and the instrument so it kind of runs itself….

“The word I use sometimes is ‘interface.’ So if you start thinking about creativity as this thing that happens between surfaces, that’s interesting in a way that the idea of the single auteur is much less interesting…. And as an artist you can do interesting things by kind of shifting you position within that boundary.” [Listen to the rest…]

Tonight

Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at 8:00pm: Han-earl Park performs at Hyde Park Book Club (27–29 Headingley Lane, Leeds LS6 1BL).

Also coming up

Han-earl Park is also performing with rit. and Una Lee, in Dublin (24), Letterkenny (25), Derry (26) and Belfast (27). See the performance diary for details.

Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe

Funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

Reminder: The Sound of Science, Newcastle (plus London, Leeds, Dublin, Letterkenny, Derry and Belfast)

Platinum electron configuration (© 2022 Andrew Delanoy and Wesley Stephenson)
© 2022 Andrew Delanoy and Wesley Stephenson

This Saturday (March 19, 2022), at 7:00pm (doors: 6.30pm): Han-earl Park performs as part of The Sound of Science event at Gosforth Civic Theatre (Regent Farm Road, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 3HD). The event is free, but booking is recommended. [Get tickets…]

Also in March 2022

Han-earl Park is also performing in London with Lara Jones and Pat Thomas (March 20), performing a solo set in Leeds (22), and, with rit. and Una Lee, in Dublin (24), Letterkenny (25), Derry (26) and Belfast (27). See the performance diary for details.

Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe

Funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

More #lockdownminiature(s)

I think where Nº 8, for me, fell short is how it was unable to engage with the vernacular of wah-wah guitar. I mean, if you wanted to strip the wah of all its funk, that was how to do it. So Nº 11, I hope, goes some way toward redressing that. [Read the rest…]

Watch more miniatures in the series on Twitter and Facebook.

Out now on NEWJAiM Recordings

cover art (copyright 2021 NEWJAiM)

Of Life, Recombinant (NEWJAiM9) [details…]

Personnel: Han-earl Park (guitar) with Anne Wellmer (voice on track 4).

Track listing: Game: Mutation (5:38); Naught Opportune (≥ 10:42); Are Variant (≥ 8:06); Of Life, Recombinant (≥ 29:22). Total duration ≥ 53:48.

© 2021 NEWJAiM Recordings.
℗ 2021 Han-earl Park.

Han-earl Park at The Sound of Science, Newcastle

Platinum electron configuration (© 2022 Andrew Delanoy and Wesley Stephenson)
© 2022 Andrew Delanoy and Wesley Stephenson

Saturday, March 19, 2022, at 7:00pm (doors: 6.30pm): Han-earl Park performs as part of The Sound of Science event at Gosforth Civic Theatre (Regent Farm Road, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 3HD):

Cyborgs, bodies, chaos, simulation and improvisation…

Han-earl Park will visit Newcastle to perform solo, and discuss [with Corey Mwamba and Graeme Wilson] his ongoing interest in chaotic systems, computation, and the collision of physiology and physics in his music, from guitar technique to the construction of musical automata.

Also performing will be Johnny Hunter’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Sextet (Johnny Hunter: drums; Mark Hanslip: saxophone; Seth Bennett: bass; Gemma Bass: violin; Aby Vulliamy: viola; and Michael Bardon: ’cello).

Set order
  1. 7.00pm: Han-earl Park (guitar).
  2. 7.40pm: Panel Discussion: Han-earl Park/Corey Mwamba/Graeme Wilson.
  3. 8.15pm: Panel Discussion: Johnny Hunter/Corey Mwamba/Graeme Wilson.
  4. 8.40pm: Johnny Hunter’s ‘Pale Blue Dot.’

The event is free, but advance booking is strongly recommended. [Get tickets…]

See the performance diary for up-to-date info. [Gosforth Civic Theatre page…] [Facebook event…]

The Sound of Science

To celebrate British Science Week 2022 music promoters Jazz North East are proud to present ‘The Sound of Science.’ With additional support from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Science and Gosforth Civic Theatre, audiences are welcomed to experience a series of concerts and discussions drawing connections between science and music.

Programmed events will specifically explore the interplay of chemistry, physics, ecology and biology, and the ways in which these disciplines have been employed by, and communicated through, composers and musicians. We will hear from 28 musicians, artists and scientists across the four day event.

“From climate change to vaccines, the importance of science to the way we live has never been clearer. Its relationship to music however is rarely explored and it is for that reason we have assembled those working in and between these two seemingly disparate fields. Our events shine a spotlight on the role of science within music composition and improvisation, with a view to inspiring audiences new to one or both subjects.

“Presented and discussed through music making practice, this project aims to increase understanding of science and its social implications, and build audience confidence in discussing these issues. Inviting all ages and every level of expertise, the festival will spark new ideas around how science and music can be communicated and combined.” — Wesley Stephenson (Festival Producer)

Acknowledgements and Thanks

Jazz North East gratefully acknowledges and thanks the support of Arts Council England, Golsoncott Foundation, Scops Arts Trust, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Newcastle University Faculty of Science, British Science Association, Soapbox Science, Euan Preston and Palace of Science, Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, Fonds Podium Kunsten Performing Arts Fund NL, Jazz North, Sound and Music, Sunderland Culture, New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings and Gosforth Civic Theatre.

Also in March 2022

Han-earl Park is also performing in and Leeds, and in London with Lara Jones and Pat Thomas, and, with rit. and Una Lee, in Dublin, Letterkenny, Derry and Belfast. See the performance diary for details.

Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe

Funded by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

Broken Families: Collectivism, Violence, Imagined Utopias and Improvisation (article in The Sampler)

‘Broken Families,’ The Sampler (screenshot)
© 2022 The Sampler

The Sampler has just published ‘Broken Families: Collectivism, Violence, Imagined Utopias and Improvisation,’ my piece about the possibilities of improvisation—sometimes profound, radical and creative, sometimes regressive, hegemonic and abusive—about trust, consent and power, and how the denial of violence may itself be damaging to the project of building better communities and practices:

These are stories about failures. Failures of imagination, of peoples and groups, of how lofty goals can be deceptions. And those deceptions can be limiting, and affect violence. I want to move to a point where we can discuss, critically, both the utopian promises of the practices, processes, tribes and communities surrounding improvisation, and their destructive and violent potentials.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the above stories of improvisation-in-crisis are from events with self-professed lofty goals…. I think, in both cases, those of us involved took community, solidarity, resilience, trust and empathy for granted. It’s not just that the groundwork of trust and safety was never established for the group (although that’s part of it), but that we lazily subscribed to the dogma that the nature of improvisation would itself somehow save us. [Read the rest…]

Thanks to Laonikos Psimikakis-Chalkokondylis at The Sampler for asking me to write the piece. In writing this piece I’m indebted to exchanges and conversations with several improvisers. Big thanks, in particular, to Caroline Kraabel, Corey Mwamba, and Lauren Sarah Hayes.

Lumbering 30 kilogram box of wood, metal, glass, paper, fabric, plastic and 1960s over-engineering

‘Ephiphanies’, The Wire
© 2021 The Wire

In case you missed it, I wrote a short piece for the June edition of The Wire (issue 448) in which I muse about speaker cabinets, cyborgs, simulations, rooms-within-rooms, and the superstitions surrounding, and genre markers of ‘tone’:

All instrument-instrumentalists are cyborg creatures in which musical gestures and behaviours emerge from the collision of minds, bodies and artifacts; of physics, physiology, technology and culture. One peculiarity in the case of the amplified instrument-instrumentalist is the particular way this cyborg is exploded in space, spilling its components and organs across the stage. The guitar-guitarist may sit on one side of the stage, while the amp sits some distance away. It’s freakish, as if, say, a violin’s soundbox had severed itself from the rest of the instrument and crawled across the stage.

The speaker cabinet plays a curious part in this cyborg dance. The cabinet is both the sounding part of the instrument, an externalized soundbox removed from the tactile interface of the instrument, while also functioning as a room within the room. Every speaker cabinet has a particular signature, a particular character, and the particular room that the cabinet will live in for the performance, likewise, has a particular character that interacts with it (which will itself change when filled with an audience).

You can read the rest in the June issue of The Wire.

Recordings Discussed

cover art (copyright 2020 Han-earl Park)

Peculiar Velocities (BAF002) [details…]

Personnel: Han-earl Park (guitar), Catherine Sikora (saxophone) and Nick Didkovsky (guitar).

Track listing: Ballad of Tensegrity I (≥ 5:12), Ballad of Tensegrity II (2:28), Peculiar Velocities I (3:46), Peculiar Velocities II (3:36), Sleeping Dragon (5:22), D-Loop I (≥ 6:16), D-Loop II (5:13), Polytely I (≥ 5:01), Polytely II: Breakdown (5:33), Anagnorisis I (2:09), Anagnorisis II (2:19). Total duration ≥ 46:54.

© + ℗ 2020 Han-earl Park.

Cover of ‘Eris 136199’ (BAF001) by Han-earl Park, Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky (artwork copyright 2018, Han-earl Park)

Eris 136199 (BAF001) [details…]

Personnel: Han-earl Park (guitar), Catherine Sikora (saxophone) and Nick Didkovsky (guitar).

Track listing: Therianthropy I (≥ 3:43), Therianthropy II (8:56), Therianthropy III (3:55), Therianthropy IV (6:30), Adaptive Radiation I (6:44), Adaptive Radiation II (8:48), Adaptive Radiation III (5:54), Universal Greebly (10:58), Hypnagogia I (8:03), Hypnagogia II (4:45). Total duration ≥ 68:25.

© + ℗ 2018 Han-earl Park.

#lockdownminiature

Over the last several months I’ve been busy behind-the-scenes working on a solo guitar project. In a few months I hope to announce some exciting developments. In the meantime, you can catch up with some short videos of solo guitar improvisations by following #lockdownminiature both on Twitter and on Facebook.

Arts Council of Ireland

This project is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

New improvisative pieces for solo guitar

guitar

Awesome news! I am excited to announce that I am a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland Music Bursary Award, and that I will be creating a suite of improvisative, obliquely narrative, pieces for solo guitar, working with mentors Richard Barrett and Annette Krebs, and consultant Han-Ter Park to build a new compositional approach, and create companion pieces to my teaching work. As wrote in my proposal:

I will create a suite of new improvisative, obliquely narrative, experimental pieces for the solo guitarist. The bursary award will grant me time to research ways in which to effectively incorporate elements transposed from narrative forms (e.g. the manipulation of genre expectations) into my solo practice with its physical techniques and interactive tactics that I have developed systematically over twenty years. In addition, I will explore the ways in which studio-based techniques (editing, montage, etc.) may be used as a fluid compositional strategy in the context of improvisative work….

My solo practice was built on my studies with improviser-composers such as Wadada Leo Smith, and periods of independent study in 2003 during which I transposed to the guitar improvisative techniques of pianists such as Marilyn Crispell and Keith Tippett, and in 2008 during which I incorporated techniques from drummers such as Rashied Ali and Tony Oxley. I aim to expand on this practice by transposing to the musical domain, elements of genre manipulation found in works by writers such as Jeff VanderMeer and film-makers such as Bong Joon-ho. In addition, I aim to amplify these possibilities via the interactions between improvisation and studio-based compositional strategies.

To this end, in addition to my independent studies, I will consult with film-maker Han-Ter Park to explore aspects of cinematic techniques relevant to this project, and work closely with mentors improviser and composer Richard Barrett, and composer and sound artist Annette Krebs. Barrett and Krebs have unique insights into the intersection of improvisation and composition, the incorporation of programmatic and/or narrative elements, and studio-based techniques.

I am very, very grateful for the support of the Arts Council, and my collaborators. I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to work on this project, and I am very much looking forward to sharing this work with you. Please stay tuned: I will be announcing soon ways you can follow this work-in-progress.

Arts Council of Ireland

This project is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Improvising guitar, writing about

Studies for Guitar
© 2013 and 2020 Han-earl Park

I am very happy to announce that I will begin writing on the practice of improvisation and, and for, the adventurous guitarist. I aim to create a resource for both educators and practitioners, and the Cork City Council Arts Office has awarded me an Individual Artists’ Bursary to begin this work. As I wrote in my proposal:

A technical and practical text, it [the monograph] will be a unique and much needed contribution to the literature for, and about, the improviser and the experimental guitarist. My goal is to create a work for broad circulation that becomes a teaching, learning and theoretical resource for practitioners generally.

I aim to create a work that is part technical instruction for the guitarist with a working knowledge of musical improvisation, and a broader exploration of creative possibilities in the context of real-time, interactive performance. As a practitioner’s report, the work will not only be a reflection on the evolution of my practice and personal pedagogy, but will also be an invitation to the reader to similarly engage with their practice.

I will also be working with mentor-collaborators, and I am grateful to guitarist, improviser and composer Nick Didkovsky, improviser, composer and researcher Owen Green, and composer-improviser, researcher and mentor Richard Barrett for agreeing to read and comment on my work.

Please stay tuned: there are more parts of this project to be announced, and I will share parts of this project as they become ready.

Cork City Council Arts Office

This project was made possible with funding by the Cork City Council Arts Office.

Documentation: io 0.0.1 beta++, the musical automaton and machine improviser

Franziska Schroeder and io 0.0.1 beta++ (Ó Riada Hall, Cork, May 25, 2010)
Franziska Schroeder and io 0.0.1 beta++ (Ó Riada Hall, Cork, May 25, 2010). Photo © 2010 Han-earl Park.

I’ve collated material on io 0.0.1 beta++ (including audio and visual material, source code, and written pieces), and created a selective index of documentation on the construction of, and performance of and with, this machine musician:

io 0.0.1 beta++ is an interactive, semiautonomous technological artifact that, in partnership with its human associates, performs a deliberately amplified staging of a socio-technical network—a network in which the primary protocol is improvisation. Together the cyborg ensemble explores the performance of identities, hybrids and relationships, and highlights the social agency of artifacts, and the social dimension of improvisation. Engineered by Han-earl Park, io 0.0.1 beta++ is a descendant, and significant re-construction, of his previous machine musicians, and it builds upon the work done with, and address some of the musical and practical problems of, these previous artifacts.

Standing as tall as a person, io 0.0.1 beta++ whimsically evokes a 1950s B-movie robot, constructed from ad-hoc components including plumbing, kitchenware and missile switches. It celebrates the material and corporeal; embracing the localized and embodied aspects of sociality, performance and improvisation.

[Read the rest…]

arts council logo

The construction of io 0.0.1 beta++ has been made possible by the generous support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

By Han-earl Park, Bruce Coates and Franziska Schroeder

‘io 0.0.1 beta++ (SLAMCD 531) CD cover (copyright 2011, Han-earl Park)

io 0.0.1 beta++ (SLAMCD 531) [details…]

Performers: io 0.0.1 beta++ (itself), Han-earl Park (guitar), Bruce Coates (alto and sopranino saxophones) and Franziska Schroeder (soprano saxophone). [About this project…]

© 2011 Han-earl Park.
℗ 2011 SLAM Productions.