top of page

박지하 / Park Jiha

Glitterbeat Rec. Park Jiha: Communion (2018)

-European edition-

It’s a good thing that certain artists start to use traditional instruments to create a new sound, or in a way keep the concept open for eventually allowing a new form traditional music. In this case, the approach of Park Jiha is more that of an improviser who gets inspiration mostly from the tradition and approach of how jazz and free music players start from, while keeping the sensitivity of creating harmony and harmonies. The core is most of the time a safe area of minimalism and repetition on which the, what I think is a jazz band, adds textures but also fit harmonic melodic interactions. In the first track the sound of breathing in the instrument is explored a bit too. The band keeps it calm mostly, only near the end lifts off for a slightly wilder moment on sax. I just hope that in the long run this also will allow more compositional ideas to it as well except just the basic moods foundation, even though for this release it worked pretty well.

Park Jiha: Composer/producer, piri (double reed bamboo flute), saenghwang (mouth organ) & yanggeum (hammered dulcimer) ; Kim Oki: Tenor saxophone, bass clarinet ; John Bell: Vibraphone ; Kang Tekhyun: Percussions

private 박지하 / Park Jiha: 자전적 소리의 기록 / A Record of Autobiographical Sounds [Single]

This Korean edition-only contains a mood-descriptive 10-minute cd with a lot of atmosphere building, semi-improvised composition with communicative harmonies. The intro starts with a basic hammering Zither rhythm mixed with clarinet-like harmonies played by the mouth organ. The second track harmonises further in a similar mood. Via the third track, returning to the zither rhythm, it gives us the impression of a different reflection of the same scenery, changing light and shadow over time, coming to the description of a unique perception. Except for mouth organ, bamboo oboe, bit of voice layer is added as well. Park Jiha’s own description of inspiration comes close to what we feal here : “I made this music thinking that I ‘borrowed’ the scenery instead of ‘capturing’ it, in the sense that I lay my music down in the scene. Though I can’t find roads in my sceneries, as I look into them, they provide new ways for my sound searching journey. A boat passes as creating a waterway in the sea without roads, and in the waves tailing the waterway grows a new waterway for my music to flow in.”

“I don’t want to play only traditional music.

I want to play my own music… my own stories.”

– Park Jiha

"Over the last few years a rising tide of new Korean artists have staked a place in the global music conversation. Groups like Jambinai, Black String and Park Jiha’s earlier duo 숨[suːm] have created exciting soundworlds that deftly combine the instrumentation and complex expression of Korean traditional music with an array of contemporary sounds such as post- rock, doom metal, downtempo jazz and classical minimalism.

While Park Jiha’s most recent musical endeavor, her debut solo album “Communion,” is another decisive step towards a more personal and forward-looking musical vocabulary, it also is deeply rooted in her traditional music education and background.

“I play a traditional Korean instrument called piri which is like an oboe. Piri is a double reed bamboo flute so it can be quite loud. Another traditional instrument I use is a saenghwang. A saenghwang is an instrument made of bamboo which has many pipes. It is similar to a mouth organ. It’s an instrument where the sound is made from inhaling and exhaling the air.”

“My main instrument is piri. But I choose saenghwang (mouth organ), yanggeum (hammered dulcimer), percussion or vocal according to the type of music I’m composing. Picking an instrument has to do with the voice in which I choose to talk. Just like human voice, every instrument has its own charm. Piri, which has the simplest structure - yet holds so many variations in playing - is for me the most attractive of all. The shape of the instrument is humble but it can express sensitive yet deep energy. I feel most like myself when I play piri.”

Though she has played piri since her youth, Park Jiha started her music career by founding the duo 숨[suːm] with Jungmin Seo in 2007 - after she had finished her musical studies. 숨[suːm]’s music, composed with an array of traditional instruments and buoyed by unorthodox musical structures, was an immediate and profound influence on the new Korean music scene. The duo released the album ‘Rhythmic Space: A Pause for Breath’ in 2010, and ‘숨[suːm] 2nd’ in 2014. Their innovative, neo-traditional compositions began to echo outside of Korea and they were invited to acclaimed international festivals such as WOMAD and SXSW.

But Park Jiha started hearing a much different music - one that directly interacted with more distant sound traditions and a more eclectic instrumental palette. Putting 숨[suːm] on pause for the moment, she started collaborating with John Bell (vibraphone) and Kim Oki (bass clarinet, saxophone) to create “Communion,” her first solo album. Originally released in Korea in 2016, the album’s compositions are sometimes hushed and other times slowly swelling and dynamic. But they all share a stark rejection of ornamentation. It is a music of fundaments and clarity. It skillfully unites hypnotic minimalism and experimental strategies with Park Jiha’s distinctive mastery of the piri, saenghwang, and yanggeum.

'The Longing of the Yawning Divide' is inspired by the solemnity and resonance of a monastery in Leuven, Belgium, a space where Park Jiha once rehearsed her band. 'All Souls' Day' constructs harmony and rhythmic lift between an unlikely grouping of instruments: the yanggeum, piri, saxophone, vibraphone and the jing. The album’s opening composition, ‘Throughout the Night’ is a precise and keening dialogue between the piri and the bass clarinet. The atmosphere is calmly radiant. The music navigating the world’s abundant noise, in an almost silent way.

One can sense that this music is deeply connected to its composer. It is not an abstraction. It carefully and conscientiously draws in the world around her. The flow of water and the dawning of seasons. Love and loss. Light. Shadows. Nothing superfluous. A meticulous balance. A communion.

“I don’t know what kind of music I will play in ten years. But I know for sure that I will have been living sincerely.”"

bottom of page