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Sunday, January 28, 2024

Han-earl Park - Sunday Interview

1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

The pleasure of play is when people find of their place, make connections, negotiate, compromise, reevaluate, take ownership of their space and their actions. The ambiguity of action and reaction; the unknowability of connection.

The pleasure of play is when trust is a choice, and we choose to trust. When we don’t take each other for granted. When we are fully cognizant of the potential for violence and cruelty, but we choose to take compassion, affinity, consent, desire and agency seriously.

2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

It’s not one thing for me. It’s never one thing. What you bring to the stage is your humanity—messy, beautiful, dysfunctional, joyous, contradictory, mutable, stubborn, insecure, fractious, but also empathetic and compassionate.

Each musician is different, and each group is different. It’s good, I think, to be sensitive to who the group is, and what the group could be; to be open to what is possible, but cognizant of the differences and inequalities that exist in any ensemble.

3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

Today it’s Little Richard. (Ask me again tomorrow.)

4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

Sorry. I could only answer that with a cautionary piece of science fiction.

5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to find ways of refracting improvisative play through narrative tropes, forms and techniques. I’d like to see where this takes me.

I’ve been searching for a kind of poetic compression, maybe; working on forms that journey from parallel docks to narrative theater or film, maybe. I’m currently thinking of ways in which improvisative play might become a kind of acting—less autobiography, more embodiment, or a kind of personification.

And to find ways of doing this safely, with compassion and sensitivity.

6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like

Of the recent music that’s caught my ear, I love the 100% distilled virtuosic mischief of Nova Twins. And then there’s the punk-disco of Gacharic Spin whose most recent album, W, is technicolor nuclear candy.

I’ve also been revisiting the Pet Shop Boys. I’ve been struck by their take on ‘Go West’ in particular—an AIDS-era piece that’s simultaneously sweet, triumphant and elegiac. It’s reminded me that political art, especially in difficult times, is often best presented with earnestness.

In terms of music that speak directly to my own practice right now, there’s Sine (check out their song ‘Don’t Know My Name’ for starters). If I played in a rock band, that would be the sound I would be aiming for. Sine reminds me a little bit of groups like Tackhead in terms of attitude and vibe. I’m bowled over by how they manage to leverage studio-based techniques into their music while retaining a kind of energetic jam-band sound.

7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Other than financial stability? I need to work harder on making sure that I consistently and correctly, in my speech, gender non-binary people.

8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

Peculiar Velocities, I think, has some of my best playing. Or, maybe better: Catherine and Nick absolutely brought out the best playing from me. (Thank you!)

Juno 3: I can confidently say that it sounds like nothing else out there.

Of Life, Recombinant: Part of me is still surprised I managed to pull that off, and that it works as well as it does.

9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

Very, very, very rarely.

10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

Michael Jackson, Thriller. (Probably.)

11. What are you listening to at the moment?

Deadly Stares by Mellowdeath.

Catherine Sikora’s All My Winters.

Download both. (Thank me later.)

12. What artist outside music inspires you?

A lot of writers and film-makers. And increasingly so to the point where I don’t know if my interest in narrativity is fueled by these artists and their works, or if my compositional and improvisative concerns are making me seek a deeper connection with fiction and the telling of stories.

I was reading China Miéville’s short story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion, for example, while mixing Peculiar Velocities. And I think a big part of why I was able to keep focus on the drama and messiness and excitement of Eris’ performance on that recording was because I was taking that journey with Miéville’s fantastical, twisted, dark, deeply affectionate humanism.

I was on a flight watching Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, and, at that mid-point-turn in the film, I knew—I knew immediately—what my next piece was going to be—its shape and its form, and the intended effect on the listener. It took me a few years, and a whole bunch of stuff on the cutting room floor (and the end result owed as much to Lynch as it did to Bong), but out of that came Of Life, Recombinant.

And I was reading N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became while mixing Juno 3, and her book—her voice and her writing style—became a constant source of inspiration during that process. Certain techniques of writing, say, the way Jemisin evokes place and subjectivity and interiority (the people and places in her book feel so real to me—like I know them personally), would push me to do certain things with the mix. Jemisin’s book demonstrate to me what was possible, and how I might go about achieving those effects in sounded form.

Han-earl Park reviewed on the Free Jazz Blog:


Han-earl Park said...

Thanks so much, Paul.

btw, for those interested in my answers to question 11, have a listen:

• Mellowdeath, Deadly Stares
• Catherine Sikora, All My Winters