by Michael G. Nastos
March 1, 2008
An ethnic fusion of enormous proportion, Chinese-American violinist Jason Kao Hwang teams with Korean Sang Won Park, who plays zithers - the bowed six-string ajeng, and the twelve-string plucked kayagum. This combination produces a haunting resonance for music that bears fruit in improvised techniques tempered with high intelligence, common sense, and wisdom of the elders. They have created their own language, unique unto itself, with tones and timbres that border on otherworldly, but are rooted securely on terra firma. The apropos titled opener "Listen" is a call-and-response piece, with Hwang's skillful tones contrasting the edgy, dirty harmonic overtones of the ajeng. The epic 15+ minute "Grassy Hills" is a song of peace and tranquility, with a dance element and somber section, solos from both instruments, and the kayagum strings bent for a vibrato affect, an arresting sound for sure. There are two traditional pieces; the beautiful 600 year-old folk song waltz "Ari Rang" which has been heard in many variations, in this case with vocals, while the more contemporary "Third Sight" evokes a guttural and visceral anguish within it's deliberate two-step stomp. "Embers" is a simple solo soliloquy, as the two only play in tandem near the end, and then in passive tense. Considering how different Asian culture and dialect is from the rest of the world, Local Lingo is a perfect title. This collaboration of two virtuoso musicians is a delicacy, a sonic vibration rarely heard in the western world, worthy of your serious investigation and consideration.