A ‘first-take’ ditty (it’s been a while since I posted a straightforward improvisation without any videographic or compositional concerns). I think maybe the first thirty seconds or so is a bit shaky, but I’m pretty happy with my playing here overall. I think it shows what I’ve been interested in, and working on, in regards to my approach to the guitar in the context of improvisation.
And a big, big thanks again to Musikfonds / Neustart Kultur for enabling me to continue, and build-on, these studies.
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.
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.
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…]
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.
Elsewhere Corey Mwamba (Freeness, BBC Radio 3) describes “exquisite music-making” with musicians that “fuse and create this gorgeous glitchy stew together”, and, writing in Vital Weekly, Nick Roseblade describes Peculiar Velocities as an album in which “everything feels pushed as far is it can go”:
Like what rock music could, and possibly should, have sounded like it if musicians like Ornette Coleman became the norm. There is a freeness to the playing that is astounding, but there is also organisation. During sections, the guitars work together to give Sikora something tangible to stand on. When this happens ‘Eris 136199: Peculiar Velocities’ becomes something very special indeed. ‘Polytely I’ sees the guitars constantly churning to create vortex-esque soundscapes why Sikora’s light and airy saxophone wafts above it. Like stream on a freshly brewed tea. This is an album that reminds you of how good it is when musicians don’t care about the rules and just play. [Read the rest…]
And while Brady Gerber’s ‘7 For Seven’ finds a space in which “a nervous guitar fills an orange sky and empty beach”, and Takeshi Goda in JazzTokyo writes of velocities, perception, collisions, fusions, joy and brain-reforming experiences:
それはあたかも地球外の異境から到来した明滅する運動エネルギーによって脳外科手術を施されるような驚喜の頭脳改革体験である。 [Read the rest…]
And finally, Ken Shimamoto/The Stash Dauber writes about sounds that “slither and spatter like radio interference, shimmer like molten silver, or ring like a cymbal’s decay” music in which “the spirit of electricity becomes a living thing”:
The best type of musical conversation, abstract and oblique as it might be at times…. I’ve listened to this thing a half dozen times since I started writing yesterday, and am happy to have its company to help me get through what looks like it’s going to be a very tough winter… and the hopeful spring to follow. [Read the rest…]
CD: €11 minimum (‘name your price’) plus shipping.*†
Download: €8 minimum (‘name your price’).†
* Limited edition glass-mastered CD. CD includes additional material (liner notes, artwork, etc.) not included in the download version of the album.
† Both digital and physical purchases give you streaming via the free Bandcamp app, and option to download the recording in multiple formats including lossless.
And one more thing: In his survey of solo guitar recordings, Paul Acquaro at Free Jazz reviews my recording released by, and in support of, The Vortex Jazz Club:
[Han-earl Park’s] playing was unusually expressive…. On Two+ Bagatelles, this same musical spirit that has stuck with me for so long, has been captured…. Melodies becoming almost like the sounds of an 8-bit shower. [Read the rest…]
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.
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.
Catherine, Nick and I had a fantastic time when we performed at The Vortex in August, and I am very happy to be able to support the venue (with its amazing crew) in this way. Plus, for those who’ve been asking me for a solo recording, here’s a super rare chance to pick up a new one.
Album available to stream via the free Bandcamp app, and download in multiple formats including lossless.
Note of thanks for the performances in Manchester, Cambridge and London. Thanks in particular to our hosts (their partners and cats) and organizers: David Birchall and everyone at Tubers; David Grundy; and Alex Ward at Boat-ting (and hope you feel better soon, Sibyl Madrigal). Kudos to all the performers who shares the stage, and to Peter Fay for the documentation [more images…]. And, as always, thanks to all those who came to hear real-time music!
As for The Uncanny Dom Lash and The Astonishing Corey Mwamba, I’ll take off my hat, and bow down, to your formidable and generous musicality (a diabolical combination). I think we made music sometimes brittle, always unexpected, with no gesture lost in play.
Some things to take away from this micro-tour: talking ‘scene’ (creative communities and geographies) with David Birchall, Rex Casswell, Corey and Cathy Heyden; paying The Racially Diverse Trio of Nerdy Guys in comics (thanks to Free Comic Book Day); revisiting my take on soundart and music; finding, with Dom and Rex, unexpected musical possibilities in the imagined names of the royal baby; watching Bark! in motion—off and on-stage—an ensemble that plays like a joke where the punchline never arrives (and it’s awesome); Dom saying that “the details need to work harder”; Steve Beresford telling tales of improvised music past and present; being reminded what an imaginative, crafty and resourceful drummer Steve Noble is (he gives so much for his partners to work with); witnessing the joy of someone coax the musical from unmusical resources (Sonic Pleasure sounding masonry); performing our last gig while Dom’s bass gained a buzz and my guitar’s bridge pickup cr*pped out….
…Talking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have a guitar to open-up and examine (and hopefully repair before Belfast).