Review of Intangible Asset Number 82 for Jazztopad’s ‘Movies on Jazz’ series:
One of the favourite motifs of the masters of Chinese painting was a miniature figure of a wayfarer travel- ling through misty mountain tops or surrounded with precipitous, forest-covered mountainsides, as the traditional Confucian worldview does not differenti- ate between nature and man, much like between an individual and society. In the Korean music culture such beliefs led to the establishment of an aesthetic that is both close and distant to the improvised music of the West.
Intangible Asset No. 82 from 2008 by Emmy Franz is a film that seemingly has the least to do with jazz when compared with other films scheduled to be presented at Jazztopad and maybe that’s what makes it fasci- nating. I said seemingly, as surprisingly many of the most precious values for performers of Korean music are fundamental also in jazz – with a characteristi- cally defined sense of community and improvisation at the forefront.
A renowned Australian percussionist Simon Barker has studied the music of the Korean drum master and sha- man Kim Seok Chul for many years and discovered that it contains everything he wished to know about per- cussion and rhythm. Despite numerous trips to Asia, the plans to meet the elderly musician remained to be just a dream. That is until Baker received a short mes- sage from Korea reading: “The process has began”.
In the journey through Korea to the mysterious sha- man he is joined by another percussionist Dong-Won Kim, who by acquainting the Australian with local mu- sicians introduces him into the secrets of Korean mu- sic, aesthetic and worldview in general. At that point Intangible Asset No. 82 becomes a road film, a study of nature and landscape as well as a philosophical debate all in one. Only in such context we can fully enjoy these particular scenes in this artistically-refined documen- tary, in which music may only be imagined through suggestive images, without actually hearing it.
When we – along with Barker – compose ourselves from the amazement at the news of the existence of “non-rhythm”, the percussionist’s guide says the words “rough beauty”, as the shortest description of the essence of Korean art. This automatically points us towards Thelonius Monk, whose famous compo- sition “Ugly Beauty” practically became a two-word artistic manifesto for many improvisers, from Anthony Braxton to Evan Parker.
“I feel like I’m watching something I shouldn’t be watching” – said Baker at one point during his journey. I do not have such doubts – it’s a film that every jazz enthusiast should watch.