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…]
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.
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.
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. Twisted harmonics, miscellanies of tones whose fluidity belongs more to states of exhausted drowsiness than labyrinths of analytical overspill. Superimposed images gradually losing the distinctness we had laboriously achieved in our mind. Bursts of paroxysm that, in the long run, disclose unexpectedly appeasing qualities. Each spin adds further layers of interpretation, not to mention the sheer aural thrill. As per Park’s words, “I’d like to think that listeners might find their way into their own space, and find their world refracted through it.” There will be no problem with that, if that audience is awake and profoundly receptive. [Read the rest…]
I really appreciate that Massimo Ricci embraced the subjective and poetic. It’s the kind of approach that I’d hoped that reviewers would take when writing about this work.
Elsewhere, Ken Waxman of JazzWord describes a bullet-train journey of ‘sound mutations’ between moments of ‘guitar-ness’ and the guitar as ‘sourced textures’:
Sometimes bell-ringing strums, power crunches or mechanized drones are emphasized to the extent that expected guitar sounds are at a premium and arise unexpectedly…. The concept is evolved at its greatest length during the almost 29½-minute title track. With whispered sibilant vocalized noises sometimes snarling in the ether, muted rumbles inflate to voltage buzzes that include oscillated hisses with silent interludes before hardening into a wavering horizontal line. As over-amplified knob twisting tones and shaking bullet-train-like rumbles become aurally prominent besides the electronic impulses, by midpoint is appears that a psychedelic-era freak-out may be in the offing. Although the narrative echoes from harsh to harsher, yet following an elephantine-like chord variation fragmented parts blend into nearly opaque solid matter and abruptly stop. Like a notable train trip, gratification come from sights glimpsed… not the final destination. [Read the rest…]
And, writing in salt peanuts*, Jan Granlie finds “a kind of meditative music for sophisticated souls”, a music that is “consistently melancholic while simultaneously arch-modern and exciting”:
Og selv om dette er musikk som krever en del av lytteren, skal man gi gitaristen tid. Man skal lytte gjennom hans lydverden flere ganger og etter hvert plukke opp detaljer og, kanskje også, forstå hva den godeste gitaristen vil fortelle oss. For selv om dette ikke er det enkleste historiene, så er det fascinerende å følge med i hva han skaper av lydbilder med gitaren. Og i sistesporet, «Of Life. Recombinant», hvor han har «damer på rommet», og er platas hovedspor som varer i nesten en halv time, skjer det utrolig mange spennende ting man skal følge med på. [Read the rest…]
Han-earl Park digs deep into techniques and sounds and presents a fresh palette for the guitar. Pyrotechnics abound, but not in any kind of traditional sense. [Read the rest…]
Plus, with the inclusion of Catherine Sikora’s corners (“absorbing, pushing against and playing off the natural reverb”), and Nick Didkovsky’s CHORD IV, aJazzNoise’s selection almost like an informal Eris 136199 reunion!
Keith Prosk also chooses Of Life… for his Top 10 at Free Jazz, and in his review at harmonic series, Prosk writes of a music that “explores and rearranges material, or things whose characters seem similar though never the same, through its durations”:
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 its representation of real-time activity that ruminates on its material, it is as if it provides a glimpse into the improvising process, whose hushed reality of painstaking practice might often be misinterpreted as something closer to strokes of inspiration out of the ether. In between chaos and composure, it is something closer to the complexity of life. [Read the rest…]
Park’s approach changes, from jangling notes, to ambient passages, to twangy folk themes, to long-held chords. In doing so, he incorporates extended techniques into more conventional practices to the point where the former guide and direct the latter. [Read the rest…]
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.
Grunting tonal bursts? atmospherics? weaving sinuous melody? In his review of Eris 136199’s Peculiar Velocities, Paul Acquaro at Free Jazz describes a “masterful slice of trifurcated dialog” by turns “haunting, gracious and grating”, with tones that cut “like an exacto-blade.” He writes that, by the third track (‘Peculiar Velocities I’) of the album:
The guitars have adopted a slightly different aesthetic, using choppy, brittle sounds, they lay down a fractured soundscape replete with sonic barbs and suspended tones. Sikora finds her footing on this shifting ground and plays freely. As the track continues into ‘Peculiar Velocities II’ the fascinating part is realizing how connected the three actually are: this is not parallel play, rather it connects deep in the sub-systems. [Read the rest…]
This music does stem from a knowledge and practice of free improvisation, and can fit inside various ‘art music’ categories, but on one level to me it feels as good as any ‘noise rock’ served up by Sonic Youth, The Dead C, or any new-wave influenced beat combo who tend to attract the ‘angular’ adjective. [Read the rest…]
Having previously selected Peculiar Velocities as one of the Best of 2020, Dave Foxall writes in aJazzNoise that:
It’s mind-twisting stuff. Intensely ‘musical’ (whatever that means) and harshly jarring, gently testing Broca’s convolutions, seeking points of entry and storage, delicately inserting sounds, probing for reaction, disconcertion and delight. (i.e. It gets inside your head)….
An uncomfortable joy, a can’t-be-reproduced-in-the-laboratory combination of rare elements, a new musical alloy, an ongoing experiment, the perfect distillation of uneasy listening. [Read the rest…]
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.
New album from Han-earl Park will be released by New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings in November 2021! This suite has been in the works for over a year; it’s unlike anything I’ve done before, and I’m so very much looking forward to sharing this music with you. More soon!
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