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.

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.

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.

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… http://twitter.com/hanearlpark/status/604953995489234944

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 http://twitter.com/hanearlpark/status/605081182133465088

Jun 24: 26. I want to unpack this (realize this is prob directed at a certain guitarist): http://twitter.com/davekanemusic/status/605734075446513665 #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: http://twitter.com/hanearlpark/status/605080336385617921 #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: http://improvisingguitar.blogspot.ie/2007/02/mob-behavior-and-hegemonic-impulse.html #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? http://twitter.com/hanearlpark/status/613656187708510208 #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]

cuttlefish: Study of Notation

cuttlefish, ‘Study in Notation.’
Design (cc by-nc) 2014 Peter O’Doherty. Cover artwork © 2014 Ciarán Ó Dochartaigh. Score/artwork © 2014 Han-earl Park. Photo © 2013 Emilio Vavarella.

I’m honored to find my concept thumbnail (‘Study in Notation’) in the pages of cuttlefish (issue #1, summer 2014), a “zine for contemporary culture, music, art, aesthetics, politics,” edited by Peter O’Doherty. The piece was accompanied by an excerpt from my interview with Miguel Copón:

I’m not sure at all where this is leading, but having through some combination of ideology and necessity (ain’t it always the way?) found myself somewhat involuntarily in the ‘Total Improvisation’ camp, I’m beginning to look on the other side of the fence. Let me be clear, the, to borrow Lewis’ term, Eurological conception of the score and the practice that surrounds it (theorized in detail by Small, Cusick, Nicholas Cook and others), with its limited models of control and dogma of reproducibility, and naive notions of aesthetics, does not interest me at all.

However, I’m feeling a gravitational tug. Maybe it’s due to coming into close contact with musicians who have a much more sophisticated (if often, from an non-practitioner’s POV, misunderstood and under theorized) relationship with the score and the possibilities of notation. But it’s a distinct pull. Still working—struggling—through some ideas, and studies, and have far, far more questions than answers about the possible role notation and the score might have in an improvisative context, but that’s the new thing that’s exciting me at the moment. [Read the rest…]

The theme of cuttlefish’s inaugural issue is “work-in-progress (sketches, doodles, journal entries, streams of consciousness…),” and features contributions by Wim Bollein, Laura Duran, Evgeniy Aleksandrovich (=dozen), Graham Holliday, ja’s ink on paper, Daniel Kan, Francisco Martins, Corey Mwamba, Ciarán Ó Dochartaigh, Peter O’Doherty, Han-earl Park, Kiyomitsu Saito, Tom Tebby, Nicolas P. Tschopp, Andrea Valle, Krysthopher Woods and Alice Xiang.

If you are interested in contributing to future issues of cuttlefish, please contact cuttlefish[at]peterodoherty.net.

Lost at the Border: Improvisation, Conservation and Transformation (a twitter transcript)

Previte: “I’m a bit of a mongrel.” #isim2014
…and w/ that simple statement, is not the enterprise of Cross-Cultural Improvisation nuked? #isim2014

More tweets from an institutionally unaffiliated, sometimes teacher, amateur scholar and anthropologist [a previous twitter transcript…]. Below is an unedited transcript of my observations from ISIM: Cross-Cultural Improvisation III. My original observations came in the form of live tweets via @hanearlpark that spanned the opening ceremony on June 5, the conference plus performances between June 6 and 8, plus some post-event reflections.

My questions and observations are indebted to discussions with @AndreaWolper, @jkais, @nickreynoldsatw, @MarkImprov, @drmelmarshall and @coreymwamba both on- and off- the twitterverse.

My rants, however, are entirely my own 😉

Twitter transcript (unedited)

Opening Ceremony: New York, June 5, 2014

Heading to the #isim2014 opening ceremony. (‘Ceremony’ sounds so ostentatious. Conference folk, seriously…)

After my comments about #diversity and #rsa2014 & #amspittsburgh, was ready to be disappointed by #isim2014. Better, maybe, but not perfect.

Fewer suits and lighter makeup at #isim2014 compared to #rsa2014 & #amspittsburgh. #amateuranthropology

Is the ‘global village’ still a possibility? What violence hides behind such an idea? #isim2014

Can we imagine a global village achieved w/out violence? w/out the erasure of difference? #isim2014

There’s an interesting evocation of a kind of futurism in a lot of improvisative traditions. #isim2014

Conference: New York, June 6, 2014

3pm: #noise #melody #rhythm #contrast #serendipity #contradiction from Eris 136199 w/ @DoctorNerve @CatherineSikora @ @ISIMprov. #isim2014

Cognition vs embodiment. #isim2014

Is cognition a form of computation? Is embodiment a form of (physical) computation? #isim2014

Is a successful improvisation (always) narrative? #isim2014

This reminds me of Paul Berg’s algorithmic composition class… #isim2014

…either you create a process that creates desirable results, or one that creates noise that is selectively filter. #isim2014

Doesn’t (biological) evolution depend on the environment? Doesn’t musicality depend on the (cultural) environment? #isim2014

GenJam: the worst thing to happen to machine improvisation? #discuss #isim2014

Unasked question: how an improviser tries to make the rest of the band sound good. #isim2014

Unasked question: how individual desires (goals) collide to provide long-term formal structures (retroactively). #isim2014

…in this context, concentrating on individual intention may be missing the bigger picture. #isim2014

Problem w/ the Turing Test in creative contexts is that ‘I know it when I see/hear it’ ends up as a mirror of ‘does it swing’ #isim2014

Can we discuss rhythm w/out engaging w/ embodiment? #isim2014

History = cultural context = environment in which evolution takes place? #isim2014

At what point does cooperation & competition diverge in improvisative performance? #isim2014

…or is that a false dichotomy? are those terms meaningless in the context of improvisative play? #isim2014

Why are so many musicians so assured when idiomatic pressures are unambiguous, but uncertain when not? #isim2014

…is freedom that scary? #isim2014

…we know how to be a cog in the machine when the machine tells us to be? #isim2014

…we know our role/place/function in the ensemble if it’s prescribed for us? #isim2014

Is trans-idiomatic musicality a reflection of a kind of white middle-class mobility? #isim2014

…After trans-idiomatic meetings are (white) self-identified non-idiomatic musicians able to see idiom in their own playing? #isim2014

…are trans-idiomatic meetings by definition colonial? #isim2014

“No way to control what’s coming through your ears.” #isim2014

Ah, the sound of my circulation system. #isim2014

Can improvisation be about your ‘actual experience’ divorced from ‘thinking’? #isim2014

…in contrast, earlier presentation modeled improvisation exclusively as a ‘cognitive’ process. #isim2014

…why these simplifying assumptions in the context of something as complicated and human as improvisative play? isim

What’s possible given circumstances/resources = improvisation? #isim2014

…but what is the relation btwn this and the black american composer-improviser tradition? #isim2014

…Braxton said if you don’t compose this piece (for 276 accordions, say), then you will never hear it. #isim2014

After Lacy: “what’s alive for you?” #isim2014

…which is fine as far as it goes, but can we further unpack ‘aliveness’? #isim2014

‘Trust,’ ‘courage,’ ‘openness,’ all terms we use to talk about improvisation. We should unpack these. #isim2014

Reminded of Braxton’s commend about how freedom is knowing your context well enough so that……… you. are. free. #isim2014

Oh, reminded how my skills as an improviser are so, so, so pathetic. #isim2014

I want more talk of noise and frenzy. #isim2014

I desire a discussion of collisions, contradictions, the unintelligible, the unspeakable. #isim2014

Where is improvisation, the destabilizing, the revolutionary, the dissonant, the dissenting? #isim2014

Part of me (uncharitably for sure) want to scream ‘f*ck calm.’ #isim2014

Goddamnnit. I am Asian, and I will not be your model of calm and reserved. #isim2014

Wadada: “try to find something unique in yourself.” #isim2014

…don’t try to fit in. #isim2014

…“I don’t want them to expect nothing!” #isim2014

Is ‘experience’ (unlike, say, subjectivity) (always) a term of resistance? #isim2014

‘Compliment’ or ‘contradict’; what do these terms _mean_ in the context of improvisative play? #isim2014

…we seem to be struggling because we (think we) know the ‘correct’ terms to use. #isim2014

What does the term ‘pattern’ mean in the context of improvisative play? #isim2014

…can ‘pattern’ every be an enabling discursive element in the context of creative music? #isim2014

Often wonder if I should (get back to) playing more (overtly) melodic. #isim2014

Reminded of experiments about the different perceptions of musical construction depending on idiomatic background. #isim2014

…are not cultural misunderstandings so much more interesting than (ostensibly) clear channels of communication? #isim2014

‘notes’; if we just jettisoned that term, our understanding of musical practices would be so much richer. #isim2014

Some additional insight if you understand both English and 한국말. #isim2014

Are terms such as ‘discipline’ and ‘pattern’ (discursively) limiting in the contacts of improvisative play? #isim2014

Reminded of Wadada once saying that when he puts his horn to his mouth, it’s a command. #isim2014

Previte: “I’m a bit of a mongrel.” #isim2014

…and w/ that simple statement, is not the enterprise of Cross-Cultural Improvisation nuked? #isim2014

The unresolved contradiction btwn agency and sublimation? #isim2014

#isim2014 http://t.co/bypjiQMRiS

how much of my views/practices are shaped by my teachers; how much convergence of approach because of who I chose as teachers? #isim2014

“Social aspects of musicality.” #isim2014

…an enormous amount of stuff blackboxed in that statement. #isim2014

‘Leading’ and ‘following’; do these terms have any utility in the context of improvisative play? #isim2014

“Where was I going?” (unintentionally?) good description of what we are doing. #isim2014

…Something I learned when I started teaching improvisation was the utility I jettisoning these terms. #isim2014

Conference: New York, June 7, 2014

However you cut it, solo is that impossible thing in improvisation. #isim2014

…you have _got_ to have something pretty damn important to say/present. #isim2014

…in that sense, by analogy, Romey’s speeches during the last election would be an example or a useless solo. #isim2014

…I’ve consciously engaged w/ the solo context self-consciously on and off for the last ten years, but I still haven’t cracked it. #isim2014

Echoes of Philip Glass? or of Chris Cutler? #isim2014

Random thought: what does the term ‘oppositional politics’ mean, if anything, in improvisative practices? #isim2014

…what does the term ‘ideology’ mean, if anything, in improvisative practices? #isim2014

…’cause, despite talk of the social, what I have heard little of (so far) at #isim2014 is the (explicitly) political.

…which may be a reflection more of my own predilections, but I worry about the gentrification of improvisation. #isim2014

…what happens to improvisation as an oppositional force when, say, academic classical performers ‘dabble’ in it… #isim2014 [1/2]

…w/out necessarily interrogating their own tradition/practice/history and the structures of power? #isim2014 [2/2]

A new kind of cross-cultural musicology that “can only be fathomed by the improviser.” #isim2014

…but to paraphrase Previte, are we not (always already) mongrels? #isim2014

“India, Korea, then Wadada, then Bobby.” hmm #isim2014

Is ‘merging’ a useful notion in the context of improvisative performance? #isim2014

…Is ‘merging’ a useful notion in the context of improvisative (cross-cultural) meetings? #isim2014

“Not trying to drop a bomb.” But are bombs unambiguous across cultural borders? #isim2014

…one might intend Operation Enduring Freedom, others might interpret Invasion and Empire Building. #isim2014

Dissent! Yay. #isim2014

“Tradition is not a dead thing.” #isim2014

…yes, but traditions sometimes die/petrify/fossilize. #isim2014

…under what conditions do traditions die/petrify/fossilize? #isim2014

“What an [musical, performative] action signifies.” #isim2014

‘Notes’—that word again. #isim2014

“There is that elasticity in _everything_.” #isim2014

Can we unpack the term ‘energy’ in the context of these discussions of improvisation? #isim2014

“To feel secure in that uncertainty is the biggest challenge of any musician, or human being for that matter.” #isim2014

“Leave it up to analyst to explain what happened [in spontaneous creation].” #isim2014

…part agree, but then why are we here? #isim2014

…there is this constant tension btwn intellectual and anti-intellectualism in the traditions of improvisative performance. #isim2014

“A future event can affect the present.” #isim2014

…reminds me of Ted Chiang’s story of the performative language changes consciousness and sense of causality. #isim2014

…which might relate to the quip about leaving analysis to the analyst. #isim2014

I have little patience for the regurgitation of amateur physics. #isim2014

Going out for air. #isim2014

improvised music “goes beyond style.” But does it? #isim2014

Is #isim2014 attempting to turn #improvisedmusic into the emblem of salvation for academic (study of) music? #isim2014

…where does tokenism end, and revolutionary equality begin? #isim2014

…Is it unfair to compare this to (post-)colonial ideas of savages as agents of renewal? #isim2014

To borrow from @vijayiyer: “The Jazz Educational Complex.” #isim2014

“Transdisciplinary space”—well, okay, but how to reconcile this (utopian) notion w/ the “cross-cultural”? #isim2014

“Institutions need to rebuild from the foundation.” #isim2014

…yes, but https://t.co/EOidN6pSmp

…yes, but https://t.co/yZHlEQRSVK

…or https://t.co/txouBTMx45

…yes, but https://t.co/gzEsSwYCvl

We want to _study_ improvisation, but we precisely do not want interactive destabilizing forces in the structures of academia. #isim2014

…Is it possible to rebuild academic (study of) music while keeping the formal structures intact? #isim2014

…so where does tokenism end? #isim2014

More talk of meditation. #isim2014 tropes.

Frustrated. Going out for air. #isim2014

“Nobody [at #isim2014] understands that we can’t talk about this w/out being critical!”

My thoughts on #isim2014 http://t.co/OWKnq76VFN

An academic would never present work w/out citing their sources. #isim2014 [1/6]

Should not the academic who studies improvisative practices/traditions also cite specific artists…? #isim2014 [2/6]

…rather than hide behind nebulous/generic language? #isim2014 [3/6]

If there’s a specific musical/artistic/creative element you’re talking about, surely you must be able to name a source. #isim2014 [4/6]

Why the double standards? Are scholars more important? #isim2014 [5/6]

…are their ‘possessions’ more valuable than the practitioners of your (supposed) area of expertise? #isim2014 [6/6]

Concert: New York, June 7, 2014

Problem w/ oval halls is that, if you’re at the focal point opposite the stage, those on stage will hear everything you say. #isim2014

#ugh ##isim2014

If tomorrow’s gig is my last, then it’ll be the most important one I play. w/ Tom Rainey @ @whynotjazzroom NYC. http://t.co/Pwb2ZXJkZh

If ‘tradition’/‘patterns’ remain an unchanged backbone to improvisative meetings, what is achieved by those meetings? #isim2014

…seriously. Why bother? #isim2014

…or put it another way: re continued enterprise of ‘cross-cultural improvisations,’ an obvious question: now what? what next? #isim2014

…I am beginning to suspect that ‘cross-cultural improvisation’ is a cute arts marketing term that, however… #isim2014

…signifies little; no goal or purpose in mind. We can happily go our own merry ways at the end of the day… #isim2014

…safe from the transformative/revolutionary possibilities of improvisation. #isim2014

You know ‘notes’ and ‘patterns’ are the least interesting things about improvisation… #isim2014

…and though folk at #isim2014 have mentioned in passing that there’s this other stuff at play in improvisation…

…people have been reluctant to open up those black boxes. #isim2014

Safe in the knowledge that the scary, truly transformative aspect of improvisation can be left unexplored. #isim2014

Is it okay to feel betrayed by these (I have no reason to doubt) Masters of Tradition? #isim2014

Is it okay to feel angry about the prescriptions made by these Masters of Tradition? #isim2014

I’ll be honest. I walked out of the last thing. But I’m drawn back by Wadada. #isim2014

The AACM used two terms to denote their music and practice: ‘creative music’ and ‘free music.’ #isim2014

…and _this_ thing I’m hearing right now, I can get behind. #isim2014

…singular, powerful, noisy. That African American noise that showed the world How It Could Be Done. #isim2014

…a Music of Unbound Possibilities. #isim2014

Wadada’s left the stage. I’m leaving this time for real. See y’all tomorrow. #isim2014

.@nickreynoldsatw or academia only studies/legitimizes improvisative practices/traditions that emphasize the narrative… #isim2014

.@nickreynoldsatw …or academia chooses to impose narrativity onto improvisative practices/traditions. #isim2014

Conference: New York, June 8, 2014

How does one know when you cross an idiomatic or traditional border? #isim2014

…Rather than thinking of idiomatic vs free improvisation… #isim2014 [1/2]

…can we not just think of those borders as having shifted (or simply immaterial). There may be no inside/outside. #isim2014 [2/2]

Do you distinguish/delineate those elements inherited from the tradition, the practice, and your own inventions? #isim2014

Make an Early Music Noise Here. #isim2014

Make a New Music Noise Here. #isim2014

How is it that so many introduce improvisation into their practice, and the idiom becomes _more_ a caricature of itself? #isim2014

…why is it that improvisation leads us back into the familiar (rather than, as Lacy said, leap into the Unknown)? #isim2014

…how is that even possible? (Not a rhetorical question) #isim2014

…it’s like being free to do anything, and we end up telling that same anecdote over and over again. #isim2014

…it’s like giving what you _presume_ to be the right answer (even though there is no right answer). #isim2014

…it’s like being afraid to give the wrong answer (when the question was entirely open). #isim2014

…do we not know how to be free? or are we afraid? #isim2014

…reminded of Mark Sanders saying that you should not listen to your inner critic; the one who knows the ‘right answer.’ #isim2014

Borders can be demolished. Let’s All Cross Borders. Right. Now. #isim2014

Godammit. #isim2014

Talking to D Ewart about how cultural/material exchanges have been happening since the beginning of time. #isim2014

…along w/ Previte’s comment, does this not nuke the whole premise of ‘cross-cultural improvisations’? #isim2014

I am going to start ISIT: the International Society for Indignant Tweeters. Who’s with me?

Some great comments from the floor: concrete suggestions to increase diversity and accessibility. #isim2014

“Breaking down the [academic] structure of [how presentations are made].” #isim2014

“How was it funded?” #isim2014

I am reminded again how much I am the wrong Asian to participate in a ‘cross-cultural improvisation.’ #isim2014

…and again: https://t.co/26M9aOMV0p #isim2014

Can’t directly compare #isim2014 with #rsa2014 or #amspittsburgh, but I will say that…

#isim2014 does speak seriously/passionately about the need/desire for greater diversity/access.

…even if we don’t always have concrete plans. #isim2014

Yesterday… Yesterday I… Yesterday I walked… Yesterday I walked past… Yesterday I walked past Philip…

But today I swapped CDs with Douglas Ewart. How frickin’ cool is that?!? #isim2014

Post-conference reflections…

Final thoughts on #isim2014: the main thing I learned (and in retrospect why I was angry), was about my own prejudices… [1/9]

…I had made a lazy, unexamined assumption about improvisation (its practice and its implications)… #isim2014 [2/9]

…I had assumed (w/out evidence) that improvisation was intrinsically tranformative/revolutionary/disruptive/noisy/etc, and… #isim2014 [3/9]

…that any tradition that incorporated it, must themselves be revolutionary/disruptive//noisy/etc… #isim2014 [4/9]

…That, in retrospect, was a naive, unfounded postulation that in turn lead to an erroneous conclusion… #isim2014 [5/9]

…I learned that improvisative traditions may not have the tranformative/revolutionary/disruptive/etc as thier focal point… #isim2014 [6/9]

…that improvisative traditions/practices might conceivably be conservative/reactionary/etc… #isim2014 [7/9]

…I learned that what I (unquestioningly) took as a universal improvisative impulse… #isim2014 [8/9]

…was a particular expression of a specifically (post-)Civil Rights African-American (derrived) one. #isim2014 [9/9]

Anyway, in case you missed it, this is still my best summary of my reponse to #isim2014: https://t.co/tjv7SOP8k6

0. One more thought on #isim2014’s ‘Cross-Cultural Improvisations’: What, in retrospect, appears to have been at stake is not just the…

1. …nature of improvisation as a means of conservation vs a means of self-determined transformation, but… #isim2014

2. …specific expressions of these notions within a specific discursive framework. #isim2014

3. So we had representatives from practices that are, to varying degrees and in varied ways, post-colonial, nationalist… #isim2014

4. …in which the priorities might be described as a kind of classicism; we had a representative from a… #isim2014

5. …Civil-Rights fueled, Afro-Futurist community; a representative from a vernacular-immersed post-modern avant-garde. #isim2014

6. The idea that we would have dissonance at such a meeting shoudn’t perhaps be surprising, but for a… #isim2014

7. …‘benevolent’ liberal-humanism that acted as the formal umbrella… #isim2014

8. …that, surely, was the single biggest reason for the lack of productive dialogue. #isim2014

io 0.0.1 beta++: freedom, machine subjectivity and pseudo-science

ImproTech Paris-New York 2012 : Improvisation & Technology
At the io 0.0.1 beta++ website, I’ve posted the twitter transcript of observations from a Computer Music event:

As a institutionally unaffiliated, part-time geek (and amateur anthropologist), I find the Computer Music tribes’ behavior fascinating. This is an unedited transcript of my observations from ImproTech Paris-New York 2012 : Improvisation & Technology series of events. My original observations came in the form of live tweets via @hanearlpark that spanned the performances on May 16, 2012 at the Roulette, and the ‘workshops’ (which I would describe as paper presentations or demonstrations) over the following two days at NYU and Columbia (the closing concert at Columbia gets a very short mention at the end).

[Read the rest…]

io 0.0.1 beta: In Conversation with an Automaton

Leonardo Electronic Almanac Archives (Copyright 2012 Leonardo Electronic Almanac)
Image © 2012 Leonardo Electronic Almanac

Originally posted at www.io001b.com:

The Leonardo Electronic Almanac’s archives, a project to reissue articles that document over fifteen years of techno-cultural activity, has caught up with ‘My Favorite Things: The Joy of the Gizmo’ (Volume 15, No. 11-12, November–December 2007). That issue of the LEA, a companion to Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 17, featured my article, ‘In Conversation with an Automaton: Identities and Agency in a Heterogeneous Social and Musical Network’…. [Read the rest…]

[‘In Conversation with an Automaton’…]

available from SLAM Productions

‘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).

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

io 0.0.1 beta++: (musical) time and machine musicianship 0.1

HZ: ‘simple-pattern’

Second part of a series at the io 0.0.1 beta++ website about musical time, rhythm, musicality and politics:

The issue is not so much that a musicality built up from a simple ‘beat detection’ is not possible…. The issue is the implications of seeking and defining, in research, such a trait; valuing such a musicality; and, by extension, practicing such a music.

As argued by Suzanne Cusick, George E. Lewis, Christopher Small and others, musical practice constitutes a political schema—music performs society. The command-control model embedded in a musicality built upon ‘beat detection’ has profound consequences for constructing alternative politics.

[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.

io 0.0.1 beta++: (musical) time and machine musicianship

HZ: ‘wind-chimes’

First post as part of a series at the io 0.0.1 beta++ website about musical time, bodies, computation, machine musicianship, and the regulation of the musical:

Perhaps the assumption of a foundational importance to musicality of a simple ‘beat detection’ stems from subscribing to a command-control model of musicality. In this model the mind is the central hub of the musical. In this model, rhythm is constant, inherited, external and which must be followed. This model, in turn, arises from certain, widely held to be sure, cultural assumptions about desirable and ‘natural’ social and political interactions. What do these assumptions blind us from?

[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.