How does improvisation work? I always wonder about this question, whether I listen to classic jazz, weird sounds that come out of some incomprehensible gadgets, the meandering voice of a pansori singer. Whatever it is, the main feature of any improvisation seems to be the obvious: surprise.
This weekend, we went over to Hapjeong station and crossed the street to Hongdae. In a street full of cafés and bars, we were looking for Yogiga (요기가 표현 갤러리), an underground gallery and performance space in the literal sense. Today, the experimental improvisation series Bulgasari (불가사리) would take place here.
We found the building, went downstairs, opened a door and silently creeped into the dark room, where some animations were flashing over one wall while electronic rhythms filled the air. At first, I had no idea if this really was the place we had been looking for, but as the concert moved on, we got comfortable.
Then came the performance we had come to see: Alfred 23 Harth (Germany, alto-sax, see a lengthy interview) and John Bell (New Zealand, vibraphone) rocked the basement, their instruments, and us. Hard to describe, so I made my first animated gif (not my very first, but the first in a long, long time) to give an impression. Remember that this was one of the more gentle parts:
The two musicians played together for the first time. Their performance began with a rather aggressive part, where both “attacked” their instruments and sometimes each other. The second, more laid-back, sometimes even a bit shy part, seemed as if both were experimenting separately with the sounds they could make. It turned into a percussive part then with Alfred, for example, borrowed a sticks, mallets, and a violin bow to treat his instruments. Finally, reunited the show ended in relative harmony—and with a lot of applause.
I should have written about the other great performances, too… Instead I’ll just made a collage-style triptych of the final open-improvisation where all the musicians involved played together (Alfred had to leave early, unfortunately):
Yogiga is a rather long and narrow room, so we moved our heads constantly to grasp the totality of what took place here: Rhythmic waves moving from here to there, people interacting with each other right next to each other or from one of the room to the other. A complex “wall of sound” that was in constant transformation.
Come yourself next time! The Bulgasari-series takes place every month, the last Sunday in the afternoon. Some audio impressions of the various concerts that have taken place at Yogiga can be found at soundcloud and on youtube, see also the facebook page and twitter channel of Hanjoo Lee (이한주) who runs the place, as well as some posts (1, 2) by other bloggers.
PS: After the show, we fittingly had dinner at Bakgun-ne Jeukseok Ddeokbokki (박군네 즉석떡볶이), literally “Bak’s ad-hoc ricecake-stew”, an improvised meal with sesame leafs, octopus, noodles, and cheese on top.
– 26 May 2013 (日)