Korean multi-instrumentalist and composer Park Jiha has released a new album called The Gleam which is a meditation on the intersection of music and light. According to the press release, She distils light into sound, from the first flicker of morning on the horizon in “At Dawn” all the way to the moment when full darkness falls again in “Nightfall Dancer,” capturing the essence of it in notes and silence.
The album had its origin with the piece “Temporary Inertia,” she explains, which was created for a performance as “a meditative improvisation in a bunker designed by the architect Ando Tadao, where the ceiling had an open light way going across the room, it slowly moves during the day and leaves a very special impression when inside. I thought I could capture the emotions light gives me being just as an observer, the textures, intensity, warmness… the constant movement of light itself seems to look inert at points and needs time to be seen, to reveal things and angles you wouldn’t realize otherwise.”
Like its predecessor, Philos, The Gleam is a completely solo work, all the music composed and played by Park Jiha on the piri, a type of oboe, the saenghwang, a mouth organ (shown on the album cover art), the hammered dulcimer known as the yanggeum, and glockenspiel. There’s a stark clarity to the sound, yet it’s never spare or empty. There’s a searching warmth to what she does. It’s minimal without being minimalist, occasionally presenting itself with the formality of traditional Korean music that is her background, although she feels that the distance she’s put between herself and that teaching is “really what made my music what it is now.” At other times her playing is an improvisation that spirals free into the sky. It all comes together into a beautiful whole and it always flows with a natural rhythm. Like everything, it breathes.