This suite might be my first self-consciously poetic work if not for the fact that I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was when I was in the middle of it (visibility low; uncertain, uncertain, uncertain). Of Life, Recombinant is the work in which I most want listeners to hear, in it, themselves.
Thanks again to the project director at NEWJAiM, Wesley Stephenson, for inviting me to have my work represented on this most awesome label. Thanks also to Annette Krebs for helping me, with one simple question, to decide to release these listening guides to my listeners.
Of Life, Recombinant is unlike anything I’ve done before, and the music goes to some strange and unexpected places (are those sounds of a networked biome, or the echos of, and through, an urban maze?). The album is a single improvisative suite that takes the guitar, and the solo form, as the starting point to fabricate a composition in the studio. The piece is the result of over a year of work, and I’m so very much looking forward to finally sharing this music with you!
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:
Fractions of stillness close to being shattered? warped halos of reverberating pitches? a very seducing utopia? Massimo Ricci of Touching Extremes describes the experience of listening to Of Life, Recombinant…
Of Life, Recombinant tells multiple stories at once, opening up a wide aperture and displaying stunningly drawn vistas…. Leading listeners down long corridors of chilly anticipation… 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….
We listen, we wait. Breathing deeply, relaxed enough yet ready to be sucked in by some vortex of illusion. We absorb the blows of sudden mutations connected by threads of metallic (in)coherence…. Each spin adds further layers of interpretation, not to mention the sheer aural thrill.
Along with what’s kept there is always something left and something new. The country twang tune with popping harmonics from ‘Naught Opportune.’ The unsettling mandolinesque trill or quivering sustain in hazy delay from ‘Are Variant.’ The distorted suck, psychedelic and ecstatic, in slow crescendo from ‘Of Life, Recombinant’…. In between chaos and composure, it is something closer to the complexity of life.
On NEWJAiM’s ninth disc of adventurous music, guitarist and improviser Han-earl Park takes the solo form, and, refracting improvisations through studio-based techniques, flips the form on its head.
Walls rusted lichen curve into a canopy.
Concrete weaves of roots.
Dew-covered moss memory foam.
Rather than attempting to ‘reinvent’ the guitar, Park navigates the gaps and borders of the instrument, and what it means to be a guitarist. Park creates a music that alternately embraces and short-circuits genre tropes and expectations. Of Life, Recombinant doesn’t shy away from the solitude of the solo form; instead it tightly hugs aloneness—its joys and fears.
Of Life, Recombinant explores the ways in which studio-based techniques can be used as a fluid compositional strategy in the context of improvisative play; how techniques such as montage, collage, and the language of dissolves, cross cuts and match cuts might be enrolled to explore improvisative counterpoint and juxtapositions, the pleasures of discord, parallelism and linearity, and the repurposing of gestures and their meanings.
Conceived as a single improvisative suite, the techniques and strategies used to build Of Life, Recombinant were developed over a year during periods of lockdown. The bulk of the suite was recorded in a single contiguous take, a single improvisation, in June of 2021. That recording remains, more-or-less-intact-but-broken, as the title track, while fragments of it litter, as improvisative detritus, through the rest of the album.
Improviser, guitarist and constructor Han-earl Park has been crossing borders and performing fuzzily idiomatic, on occasion experimental, always traditional, open improvised musics for twenty years. He has performed in clubs, theaters, art galleries, concert halls, and (ad-hoc) alternative spaces across Europe, Korea and the USA.
Park is the mastermind behind ensembles including Eris 136199 with Catherine Sikora and Nick Didkovsky; and Sirene 1009 with Dominic Lash, Mark Sanders and rit.; and has a duo with Richard Barrett. He is the constructor of the machine improviser io 0.0.1 beta++, and instigator of Metis 9, a playbook of improvisative tactics. He has performed with Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Dunmall, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Pauline Oliveros, Josh Sinton, Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen, Gino Robair, Tim Perkis, Andrew Drury, Pat Thomas and Franziska Schroeder.
His ensembles have appeared at festivals including Jazz em Agosto (Lisbon), Freedom of the City (London), Brilliant Corners (Belfast), ISIM (New York), dialogues festival (Edinburgh) and Sonic Acts (Amsterdam). His recordings have been released by labels including SLAM Productions and DUNS Limited Edition. Park taught improvisation at University College Cork, and founded and curated Stet Lab, a space for improvised music in Cork.
New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings
The New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings project was established during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a creative output for musicians when live performance opportunities were unavailable and encouraging artist independence.
Emphasising sustainability for artists and music studios, the ethos of sustainability also carries through the production process by employing a carbon neutral manufacturing plant and distributors, using recycled and biodegradable materials whenever possible.
Graphic design by Andrew Delanoy.
Portrait photography by Nella Aguessy.
Project director: Wesley Stephenson.
“Many thanks to everyone that contributed and supported our Crowdfunder campaign for the New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings project. This release was made possible with additional support from Arts Council Ireland, Arts Council England and North East Local Enterprise Partnership. Additional thanks to Chris Sharkey for mastering and Andrew Delanoy for graphic design. Very special thanks to Nella Aguessy for the portrait photograph of Han-earl Park, you can find some really great work on her website.” — NEWJAiM Recordings.
“Thanks to Annette Krebs, Richard Barrett, and Anne Wellmer, and hugs for Asha and Melanie. The construction of this piece was made possible by funding from the Arts Council of Ireland” — Han-earl Park.
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.
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.