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.
The current edition of jazzColo[u]rs (Sommario Ago./Set. 2015, Anno VIII, n. 8–9) has an interview with me by Andrew Rigmore. It covers a broad range of my work, from my close collaboration with Catherine Sikora, my working relationships with Paul Dunmall, Evan Parker, and drummers such as Mark Sanders, Charles Hayward, Gino Robair and Tom Rainey, to ensembles and projects such as Eris 136199, Mathilde 253 and io 0.0.1 beta++. We also discuss the location of noise, rhythm, harmony and melody in my work, and the relationship between structure and improvisation. Andrew Rigmore opened by asking me about the meaning of ‘tactical macros’ in the context of Metis 9:
Descrivo Metis 9 come insieme di “tactical macros”, una sorta di libretto di strategie di gioco per l’improvvisazione pensato per un insieme di improvvisatori. Si tratta di schemi interattivi: Metis 9 non detta mai un evento preciso — un suono, un rumore — che chi suona debba eseguire — sarebbe un anatema per un’indagine seria nell’improvvisazione —, ma ha in sé i parametri per [intendere] quali tipi di interazione siano praticabili e quali invece risulterebbero… difficili. Le macro tattiche che creano Metis 9 sono spesso ambigue, perfino nebulose, a tal punto da paralizzare chi non è abituato ad improvvisare. Sono per certi versi simili alle regole dei ragazzini che giocano liberamente: esistono solo se funzionali al gioco — se sono divertenti, interessanti o portano a un gioco più intrigante — e vengono liberamente mutate, reinterpretate e mollate quando il gioco porta altrove. Dun- que non si tratta di composizioni in sè — che implicherebbero una sorta di appropriazione d’autorità, ingiusta verso gli sforzi dei performer —, per cui ho introdotto il termine “macro”: un’istruzione abbreviata che si espande in un processo reale non conoscibile tramite l’istruzione iniziale e di cui sono responsabili i performer — i veri agenti interattivi.
[I describe Metis 9 as a collection of ‘tactical macros,’ and by that I mean that Metis 9 is a kind of playbook for improvisation; it’s designed for an ensemble of improvisers, and it’s, in a way, about improvisation. These are interactive schema: Metis 9 never dictates the exact gesture—each bloop or bleep—that the performers are to execute—that, I think, would be an anathema to a serious inquiry into improvisation—but it does lay the parameters for what kinds of interactions might be possible, and what kinds of interactions might be… difficult. These tactical macros that make up Metis 9 are often ambiguous, possibly nebulous, to the point of, I suspect, being paralyzing to non-improvisers. They are somewhat akin to the rules that are enrolled when you see young children in free play. The rules only exist if they serve the play—if they are fun or interesting or lead to further engaging play—and are freely mutated, reinterpreted and jettisoned when play leads elsewhere. So they aren’t really compositions as such—that would take a kind of authorial appropriation that would be unfair on the efforts of the performers—which is why I stuck the term ‘macro’ on it: it’s a shorthand instruction that expands into a real process, but the process itself is not knowable from the initial instruction; the performers—the actual interactive agents—are responsible for that.]
You can read more in the current issue of jazzColo[u]rs. The issue also includes Andrew Rigmore and Antonio Terzo’s review of Anomic Aphasia (SLAMCD 559).
Thanks to Andrew Rigmore, Antonio Terzo, Piero Rapisardi and jazzColo[u]rs for the profile and their support, and to Scott Friedlander and Fergus Kelly for the photographic portraits that accompany the article.
But the thing that’s tugging at me right now is the possibilities of the score in the context of improvisative performance. Ideas, some specific, some nebulous, all as yet untested about what might be possible…
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-practitioners 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…]
You can also read my struggle with a question about the necessity of music, my take on the current digital music scene, and the politics of ‘extended technique’:
So what’s being ‘extended’ by ‘extended technique’? Is it akin to, say, a colonial explorer extending their influence and territory; ‘discovering’ a land (regardless of whether some other people were there first)?
Had an interested online exchange with Hans Tammen on the subject, and it struck me how much the term ‘extended technique’ is a way to distinguish pioneers from the rest of us. Where you draw those lines (between common practice and extended technique) says much more about your own history and prejudices than some essential quality of the technique in question.
Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith once pointed out how Stockhausen claimed the invention of certain ‘extended techniques’ for the trumpet that were patently false if you had even a passing knowledge of practices outside of West European traditions. Did Stockhausen, and his supporters, claim these techniques because of a kind of ignorance, or as a deliberate erasure of other traditions? Either way, it requires a heavy dose of privilege to ignore, to justify your ignorance, or to mark peoples and cultures as irrelevant. [Read the rest…]
I moved to Brooklyn back in December 2011, and I’m grateful and privileged to have been part of, even briefly, such a gracious, vibrant, creative, fun and welcoming community.
I’m particularly indebted to Andrew, Jesse, Michael, Adam, Anna and Andrea for introducing me to the (cultural) geography/neighborhood(s); to Bruce, Wadada and Ras who gave me my first few gigs; and to Tim and Evan for offering me sideman gigs. And a very big thanks to Josh, Catherine and Nick for much of the above, and for collaborating on some long-term projects. To everyone, I hope to repay the your generosity (and hope to catch up when I’m back in Brooklyn/NYC).
Now back in Cork, and, for what feel like the first time in a long time, I’m arriving without a gig in town (and, to my surprise, I’m not too unhappy about that). Some plans ahead (solo performance at SARC for starters), fingers crossed, something will work out.
Two non-stop sets of improvised music. This live recording juxtaposes the formidable creativity and muscular technique of veteran improviser-saxophonist Paul Dunmall, the imaginative cyborgian virtuosity of guitarist Han-earl Park, and the ever inventive playing of Mark Sanders, arguably the most sought-after improviser-drummer of his generation. [More info…]
A solo performance by guitarist-constructor Han-earl Park exploring, with feedback and resonant buzzes, the complex, cavernous acoustics of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, and the interactions between artifact (guitar) and the body (guitarist). For ‘Strokes and Screwballs,’ Park is joined by violinist-improviser Marian Murray for a conversational improvisation. [More info…]
A stark, real-time evolution of on-stage relations. The performance took place during Seoul-based experimental electronic musician Jin Sangtae’s European tour. Featuring clanking hard drives, buzzing electronics, noisy guitars and machine gun percussion, this recording captures Jin’s meeting with guitarist-improviser Han-earl Park, and composer, drummer and intermedia artist Jeffrey Weeter. [More info plus the 24-bit edition…]
“Sounds reverberate and carry in unexpected ways, and music improvised here [The Glucksman Gallery] runs the risk of losing all definition. That [Han-earl] Park and his co-improviser Franziska Schroeder gracefully avoided this testifies to their alertness, sensitivity and experience working together in other spaces…. Indeed the evening had the feeling of conversation, with the instrumentalists demonstrating the improvisatory give-and-take of a convivial exchange of ideas.” [More info…]
A performance by Catherine Sikora, a saxophonist with a striking, compelling sound. She has been described as “a free-blowing player’s player with a spectacular harmonic imagination and an evolved understanding of the tonal palette of the saxophone”. Sikora was joined by cofounder of the London Improvisers’ Orchestra, trumpeter Ian Smith, and guitarist Han-earl Park. Smith and Park had just come off the tour as part of the power-trio Mathilde 253 (with Charles Hayward) with Wadada Leo Smith. [More info…]
The (provisional) project page for Metis 9 is now live:
Metis 9 is a collection of improvisative tactics, and higher-level interactive macros for ensemble performance designed, designated and specified by Han-earl Park.
Metis 9 has ‘glorious noise’ or ‘frenzy’ at its root, yet it is not so much structuring the noise as it is a meta-layer of complexity that performers can introduce at will. Metis 9 does not tell the performer what to play, or provide all the details of how to interact, but it is an additional network protocol for interactive possibilities. Group improvisation is always the primary protocol; Metis 9 provides secondary or tertiary tactics that create an additional focused complexity. The decision for each bloop and bleep is still retained by the ensemble. These macros enable specific interactionist schemes to be expressed in an open improvisative context; it is improvisative play channeled by group consent.
Metis 9 builds on my experience teaching improvisation at University College Cork, and performing as part of large ensembles led by Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, Evan Parker and Pauline Oliveros. Metis 9 includes tactics developed from performances and practices of Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley, John Zorn and Anthony Braxton, in particular, and the form of its practice (training and instruction) is inspired by the ensemble improvisation-composition works of George E. Lewis among others.
Featuring Richard Barrett on electronics and Han-earl Park on guitar. Richard Barrett is a UK composer as well as an improvising electronic musician who plays in Furt, Forch and with Evan Parker, all of whom record for the Psi label. Originally UK-based guitarist Han-earl Park has been living in NY for the past couple of years and working with many Downtown players like Louise Jensen & Michael Evans (who he played with here at DMG last Sunday – 1/20/13), Harris Eisenstadt, Tim Perkis and Anthony Braxton. When Mr. Park was living in the UK, he worked with Paul Dunmall, Charles Hayward and invented a device called io 0.0.1 Beta, that played its own improvisations. An impressive resume for sure. Han-earl left us with this duo effort and I’m glad he did.
I dig the intense exchange between these two gifted improvisers. There are a number of bent sounds which make it hard to determine who is doing what. What electric guitar sounds I recognize are sharp, focused and quickly formed & let loose. Han-earl does not sound like a jazz guitarist and doesn’t play any of those popular licks. More often he is playing a series of broken yet tight phrases which fit perfectly with Mr. Barrett’s more rounded electronics. The fractured phrases that erupt throughout this disc often sound like just one musician playing by himself since we never know where one sound begins or ends or what it will turn into. There are a few rubbed string sounds which remind me of Fred Frith at times but that is the reference I can pull out of my own listening encounters. Otherwise this is duo is completely unique, exciting and engaging.
btw, I have yet to perform with Mr. Braxton (I assume Bruce meant Wadada), and I’m from California, but otherwise the description, especially “fractured phrases that erupt throughout this disc often sound like just one musician playing by himself since we never know where one sound begins or ends or what it will turn into”, is pretty accurate! Thanks for listening, Bruce.
Questo album è solo un assaggio della musica coraggiosa, entusiasmante ed iconoclastica che si può trovare gratuitamente — sotto licenza Creative Commons— sul sito dell’etichetta Bandcamp ed altri ad essa collegati. “Cork, 04-04-11” è la registrazione — di ottima qualità — del concerto tenuto dalla sassofonista Catherine Sikora, dal trombettista Ian Smith e dal chitarrista Han-earl Park a Cork, Irlanda, nell’aprile del 2011. E da troppo tempo la relativa pagina giace fra i preferiti del browserdi redazione, per cui è giunto il momento di darne conto. Si tratta di creatività made in Ireland, per quanto Park e Sikora oggi si siano stabiliti a New York. La sassofonista di Cork possiede un timbro corposo al tenore ed una limpidezza che la pongono sulla scia di maestri come Jerry Bergonzi o Charles Lloyd (il lungo assolo in Red Line Speed), ma anche fra gli avanguardisti più temerari della scena europea. Particolarmente originale la chitarra di Park, le cui baritonali e caustiche idiosincrasie sembrano fornire lungo tutto il setspunti in prevalenza ritmici agli intrecci fra tenore e tromba. Molto noto in patria, Smith vanta collaborazioni con Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Steve Beresford ed è co-leader di rinomati gruppi del free londinese come Forest e Trian: il suo secondo Cd da titolare, “Daybreak” (Emanem, 2000), coinvolge fra gli altri Derek Bailey e Oren Marshall. La sua fantasiosa tromba apre irriverente in 바르트, e si accompagna a chitarra e sax in Red Line Speed, ripartendo, a metà brano, da un pianissimo soffiato che diventa più lungo e sinuoso, fino a tornare a tessere trame aeree e sorprendenti insieme al sax, la cui chiusura solitaria è quasi toccante. Tromba silenziata per Massimo’s Imagined Juxtapositions, con certe inflessioni milesiane tipiche di Wadada Leo Smith ma in qualche piega anche debitrici delle sfumature di Cherry e Dixon. Quanto al progetto dietro all’etichetta, è di per sé innovativo, permettendo agli utenti in molti casi di scaricare gli album battendo essi stessi un prezzo e, come in un’asta, il Cd acquisisce un suo valore di mercato e quindi un costo. Ovvio che chi prima arriva…
…There is no doubt that Sikora is the most luminous of the three, so much so that this recording is, now and forever “one of Catherine Sikora’s early recordings.” This is less the recording’s fault and more the fault of Ms. Sikora’s continued emergence as a leading, steering voice on the tenor saxophone. [Read the rest…]
I feel honored to have been part of an orchestra of performers of that caliber. As best I can make out, the final lineup of the Silver Orchestra on the night was:
Thomas Buckner (voice), Jennifer Choi, Wendy Law (strings), Casey Anderson, Casey Butler, Jamie Baum, Marty Ehrlich, Sara Schoenbeck, J. D. Parran, Jason Mears (winds), Ted Daniel, Taylor Ho Bynum, Mark Taylor (brass), Yuko Fujiyama (piano), John Lindberg (bass), Han-earl Park (guitar), and Bobby Naughton, Susie Ibarra, Martin Obeng, Harris Eisenstadt (percussion).
Was great to catch up with some old acquaintances, and meet many new people. Some things to take away: the trio of drummers to my right (Susie, Martin and Harris) always sounded fantastic; Mark’s fluttering, playful solo was a highlight; Angelica Sanchez for her sense of humor; musing with Jason about the possibilities (and practicalities) of large ensemble creative music; and Yuko and Taylor making the sections breaks clearer for the rest of us.
And of course, thanks to Wadada for taking time to guide us through his compositions; always a pleasure. Happy Birthday, Wadada!