New Music: Far East Funk
The Far East Side Band
at the Nippon Kan Theater on June 26 , 1993
New York's Far East Side Band made a bold new-music statement in an intimate concert presented by Soundwork Northwest. The trio of first- and second-generation Asian-Americans made liberal use of the traditional music of their Chinese, Japanese, and Korean heritages.
Jason Hwang played a mutated five-string electric violin with virtuosic intensity in six of his own pieces, which were amply consumed with the spirit of improvisation. His modern device was in direct contrast to Sang-Won Park's elaborate and authentic kayagum and ajang. The kayagum has 12 silk strings, a rounded fret board, and movable bridges that give notes an eerie, distinctly Eastern edge.
Bending the strings of the kayagum or raking them with a bow of resined wood, Park was able to skip between funky Eastern bass lines, psychotic atonal counterpoints, and the reverent beauty of ancient phrasing. Making his violin sound alternately like a regular violin, a heavy-metal guitar, and a concert piano, Hwang eked out an equal amount of neotraditionalism in traditional arrangements that quickly dissolved into free-style avant-jams.
Bringing the stringed instruments together was Yukio Tsuji's percussion and haunting wind melodies from his shakuhachi. His drumming often left the realm of rhythm, becoming more musical, even, than the other instruments. My Western ears found the traditional elements of the pieces more interesting than some of the contemporary tangents, but a new musical language was truly at work.
- Ted Fry, The Seattle Weekly, July 7, 1993