Intangible Asset No. 82, a documentary by Emma Franz that follows Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker‘s journey to try and meet Koren shaman Kim Seok-Chul, has just been released on DVD. One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever had the good grace to see, this film explores not only the rich and diverse music and culture of Korea’s shamans, but also the core importance and meaning of music itself.
The film documents Barker’s latest trip to Korea (his seventeenth to be precise) to meet Kim Seok-Chul, having spent the previous seven years going back and forth between Australia and Korea in his quest. Teaming up with musician Kim Dong-Won, Barker travels through Korea meeting many other shaman’s/musicians each one showing a dedication to their music that is both awe inspiring and captivating.
My personal highlight would have to be Bae Il-Dong, a singer who has live by a waterfall for most of his life singing at the water to develop his voice. The scenes where Il-Dong is singing above a silent valley or signing on stage with Barker and Dong-Won accompanied by Australian jazz musicians Carl Dewhurst, Matt McMahon and Phil Slater are truly sublime.
Throughout the film the music that is featured showcases a raw power, a sense of visceral connection and bodily unity. A lot of what Barker learns about on his journey is very much that, the unification of the body with the instrument, and how each may intertwine to become an experience more than a performance.
This culminates when Barker finally meets Kim Seok-Chul. Now in his eighties, having been confined to a hospital bed, the shaman takes part in a funeral rite, and it is here you see the music as part of the mourning experience, and extension and release of the emotions and tensions associated with loss.
The film is quite simply put moving. Watching it, there is a very strong current of emotion and feeling over fact, and you really are taken on a journey along with Barker in discovering how Korea’s culture and music are so interlinked.
A must have for any jazz or world music fan, you can buy the DVD here and you can watch the trailer below.