When my Korean comrade Jeongeun Maeng sent me a packet of precious CDs months ago, I was instantly struck by a poker of elegant black covers containing discs whose graphics reproduce 45 rpm vinyl records. Respectively dated 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011, they include a handful of intriguingly difficult-to-penetrate improvisations occurred during a series called “THE House Concert”, a name deriving from the fact that the very first events took place in (pianist and organizer) Park Chang Soo’s private residence in Seoul’s Yeonhee-dong area. This July marks the tenth anniversary of THC, thus a celebration of this significant artistic endeavour’s longevity is appropriate.
The cycle has basically maintained its essential traits, as per Maeng’s portrayal: “entrance fee, program form, sitting on a floor (to hear the vibration of the sound through a whole body!), red wine after concerts, reviews from audience, and live recording after agreement from musicians”. Since the beginnings, several moments of financial hardships were endured and the locations for the sets had to be changed at various junctures. An important aspect is the opening to genres: THC is not exclusively about free playing, but it offers a chance to follow a great number of cultural and sonic ramifications in the local scene, including classic and traditional materials.
Speaking of the recordings I’m in possession of, two of them feature alto saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan together with Park Chang Soo. The way in which the respective voices get mixed whenever they’re matched is certainly polite to each personality, and the preferred method of making notable sounds appears to be searching for the “right” spots to let the instruments’ resonances connect inside a discursiveness made of few colours. A somewhat entrancing tendency to staying in the same type of harmonic stasis for long minutes before moving on to diverse types of emission and dynamics: sometimes enlivening, rarely dull, frequently severe. There is no opportunity for excessive lenience: you enter a ritual of sorts, and watch it unfold without interfering – whatever happens, happens.
Park’s brilliance on the piano is all the more evident in his solitary testing of the components of pitch, which he carries out in different ways. By caressing the strings with electric gizmos, picturing an aura of evolved idealism within refined structures, or hammering the left side of the keyboard – Palestine-style – for perpetual sessions of menacingly dark upper partials, the House supervisor is clearly in total control throughout the performances. The short haikus embedded in 2011’s act (the 275th of the saga!) equal small signatures of wisdom; when we think of this man’s hands, we also imagine them pushing this crucial venture forward for at least another decade. In times of worldwide cheapness increasingly gobbling everything with a meaning, this would translate as my sincerely deepest wish.