Somewhere on the edge | Various Artists


Seoul Milk (Excerpt) by Alfred Harth | 17:26




In avant-garde circles, multi-reed instrumentalist Alfred Harth needs no introductions. He has played with some of the most important improvisers in the world, including Chris Cutler and Cassiber, John Zorn, Fred Frith, Wilber Morris, Peter Brötzmann, and his longstanding collaboration with Heiner Goebbels is for what he is perhaps best known. Elliott Sharp has included his work on his latest edition of the “State of the Union” compilation, and the Harth/Goebbels collaboration was even sampled by prominent Japanese experimental turntablist and guitarist Otomo Yoshihide for his Ground Zero project.Since early 2004 Harth is a steady member of the Otomo New Jazz Ensemble as well the Otomo New Jazz Orchestra(ONJO).


In 2000 he gave first concerts in Seoul and in 2001, Harth moved to Seoul with his Korean wife artist Yi Soonjoo. He has since performed and recorded with some of the best Korean improvisers, including trumpetist Choi Sun-bae. More recently he has worked with Choi in the quartet, Ensemble Naeil, along with haegeum player Kim Eun-young and Kim Gyu-hyung on buk and in the quintet „mode O“.


Despite his long-term association with avant-garde improvisation, Harth refuses to allow his musical inclinations to be overly pigeonholed. His taste is wide-ranging, and his musical palette is highly diverse. The recently recorded “Seoul Milk” is indicative of Harth’s musical range. This piece is a fifty-six minute meditation and narrative about his aural life in Seoul, encapsulating field recordings, a vast array of samples, and his own voice and instrumentation in a sonic collage that can only be described as an electroacoustic/ambient/beat ode to the country we love and reside. The piece is comprised of well-chosen and strategically inserted samples of neighborhood delivery trucks plying their wears of salt, vegetables, fish, and fruit through the streets of Yeonhee district, children playing, dogs barking, and the piece closes with samples of the opening ceremony of the World Cup Stadium.


For this release, “Seoul Milk” has undergone a complete overhaul. Harth has remixed the entire recording and added additional samples. The piece has transformed from a collage with field recordings and techno elements to one adhering much more closely to the avant-garde tradition of free improvisation, the place where Harth made his name. For western audiences, one of the real treasures of the recording is his inclusion of material from his frequent collaborator, Choi Sun-bae, one of the fathers of Korean free improvisation and criminally under-recorded in Korea. Harth acknowledges not only his debts to his jazz forebears on this recording, but also to his Korean colleagues who have motivated a number of his projects, both live and recorded.


“Seoul Milk” is one of Harth’s most inspiring efforts in his immense catalogue of releases and recordings. Anyone who lives in Korea, whether native or foreign, cannot but notice how effectively Harth crafts his assemblage of sonic objets trouvés and how such sounds merge with their own aural diaries. “Seoul Milk” is a superb document of the sonic life of a richly dynamic city, our city, and we can thank him for this record of splendorous sounds that will validate the reveries of anyone who has bothered to open their ears and listen to the opulent resonance and reverberating textures of Korea.


2005, William L. Ashline


containing sound sources by Choi Sun Bae, Kim Hyung Tae