Park Jiha ~ The Gleam

Korea’s Park Jiha uses an uncommon setup of piri, saenghwang, yanggeum and glockenspiel, which still seems exotic when one learns that those first three instruments are versions of oboe, mouth organ and hammered dulcimer.  But when using music to reflect the interplay of light from dawn to dusk, one needs something surprising to convey the subtle spiritual aspects in addition to the physical.  While thousands of artists ~ perhaps millions ~ have been inspired by light, few in recent memory have been as distinctive as this.  The mystery of these instruments to Western ears helps Park Jiha to communicate her main point: sunlight should be multi-faceted and mysterious.

“The Dawn” starts with single notes like trumpet calls, each note a single beam bursting across the horizon, announcing the day.  As the track progresses, the notes ~ like the beams ~ begin to bend.  One can picture the sun on the sea, the sudden surprise when lightening turns to declaration.  “Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans” continues to spread the gleam like butter across the horizon.  The piece was composed for a short film, yet seems a perfect extension of the opener.

The excision of any track would interrupt the arc of the album, which mirrors the arc of the sun across the sky.  This being said, the center of the set is denser in instrumentation and bursts with creative energy.  In some midday regions, there is almost too much sun ~ too hot, too bright ~ while in others, midday is a time to frolic.  “Light Way” honors this time with burning screeches, melodic passages, rising volume and a full use of the stereo spectrum.  In its wake, “A Day In…” is a festival of light, a contrail of joy.

After this, the sun will start to set.  Many will rue the dying of the day, as if they could have paused the earth’s rotation.  Some will embrace the encroaching dusk, knowing the light will recede with a flurry of curious tricks, magical shadows and impossible hues.  In like fashion, the album’s closing chapters take on an aura of descent, culminating in “Nightfall Dancer,” in which the glockenspiel seems to exude starlight, reminiscent of a music box lullaby.  The sun is not the only star.

“Temporary Inertia,” composed for a performance piece by Ando Tadao, stands outside of the arc like a film song playing over the credits.  This snapshot is taken from an alternate angle, removed from the movement of time, in which light itself becomes the property of contemplation.  The light never actually leaves; it is the earth that turns away.  (Richard Allen)

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