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Concert notes: Scattered Rhythms

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from the Jazz / Gugak collaboration involving Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker on 11 April 2011, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a long drum solo. Companions was probably the virtuoso highlight of the evening, a drum solo in which Simon Barker managed to convey the sounds of a full samulnori quartet and more with just his drum kit. As if in a trance, he led us from meditative Buddhist gong sounds to robust rhythms from farmers dances.

Hyelim Kim and Simon Barker
Hyelim Kim and Simon Barker

Pojagi, the piece for taegum and electroacoustics was more intimidating on paper than it was in real life, and together with the semi-improvisatory Scattering Changdan for taegum and percussion introduced us to an intriguing sound world.

The duo received an enthusisatic welcome from the large audience at the KCC, in an event which also included an introduction to Simon Barker’s film about pansori: Intangible Asset Number 82. This documentary, which charts Barker’s search for enigmatic Korean shaman musician, Kim Seok-Chul, looks seriously worth tracking down.

The evening’s performance at the KCC was enterprising and adventurous, and it is to be hoped that we get similarly enjoyable evenings in the future.

Here are the programme notes:

Scattering Rhythms: Korean Traditional Music and Jazz is the creative collaboration of Korean traditional music be three prominent musicians from three countries: a taegum master Hyelim Kim (Korea), the eminent jazz drummer Simon Barker (Australia) and changgu player & SOAS professor Keith Howard (UK). The concert features traditional repertories and improvisatory pieces inspired by Korean traditional music and jazz. The programme will be announced from the stage, and will consist of a mix of traditional pieces and improvised music.

1 Ch’ŏngsŏnggok (taegum)
2 Pochagi (taegum and electroacoustics)
3 Sanjo (taegum and changgu)
4 Companions (percussion)
5 Scattering Changdan (taegum and percussion)

Contemporary and fusion elements emerge in pieces for electro-acoustic plus live performance, and in improvisations that take rhythmic structures from a wide variety of sources including, particularly, Korea’s shaman music, jazz and performers’ timbral explorations.

Hyelim Kim
Taegum performer, composer and researcher, Hyelim Kim is opening new possibilities for Korea music by using a traditional Korean instrument, the taegum, as a tool to promote exchange with a wide variety of musical cultures. She is now receiving attention as a young performer who is taking a lead role in breathing new life into Korean traditional music. She has been selected as the pioneering artist of 2009-2010 by the Korean Arts Council; was a performer at the New York Omi Residency in 2009; and was selected as the Kumho Young Artist for 2006.

Simon Barker
Simon Barker, known for “Intangible Asset Number 82”, studied in Australia with John Collins, and in New York with John Riley, Keith Copeland, Marvin “Smitty” Smtih, Kim Plainfield and Mike Clarke. He has performed throughout Australia, Europe and Asia.

In 2005, Simon created Kimnara Records, an independent label presenting new music by Australian improvisers. He is involved in collaborative projects including Chiri (Scott Tinkler, Bae Il-dong) Band of Five names, Showa 44 (duo with Carl Dewhurst) and Lost Thoughts (duo with Scott Tinkler).

In 2005 Simon was commissioned by the Australian Embassy in Seoul to create a cultural exchange event, and this led to the formation of Daorum, a group featuring Pansori singer Bae Il-dong, Korean traditional percussionist Kim Dong-won, Phil Slater, Matt McMahon and Carl Dewhurst. The group has since performed at numerous international arts festivals, most recently at the Lincoln Center, New York. He completed his PhD at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2010.

Keith Howard
Professor Keith Howard is Professor of Music at SOAS, University of London. He has written or edited 16 books. In addition to giving lectures, workshops and concerts at universities in Britain, throughout Europe, and in America, Asia and Australia, he is a regular broadcaster on Korean affairs for BBC, ITV, Sky, NBC and others. He is a member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts and sits on several editorial and advisory boards. He founded and managed the SOASIS CD and DVD series as well as OpenAir Radio.

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