Ensembles in the Contemporary Korean Soundscape

the world of music (new series) Volume 1, Issue 1 (2012)

War, occupation, and education inspired contemporary adaptations in Korean traditional music throughout the Korean peninsula. The political and psychological divisions fueling a
quest for distinction in the North have led to decades of musical revisions infrequently heard and little understood by those
outside of the regime’s borders. In the South, concerns over lost traditions stimulated the development of cultural heritage and education systems emphasizing preservation. Consequently, a divide between musical heritage and creative activity developed mid-twentieth century as the traditional and the ‘traditionesque’ both struggled to express contemporary Korean identity in the face of domestic cultural perils such as Westernization and deficient public interest.  In both North and South Korea, traditional performance genres and contemporary referents have generally come to represent a metaphorical home, one emblematic of Korean cultural roots and twenty-first century identity. At the heart of these dramatic transitions has been the ensemble; from large-scale Western-influenced orchestras to intimate chamber ensembles. The ensemble has been a
constant over time as a principled representative of both current circumstances and potentialities.

This special issue seeks to explore shifts in Korea’s musical culture through an examination of the many ensembles—court ensembles to fusion teams—that now represent it. With diverse ensembles inside Korea’s musical world providing a window through which we can discuss musical change, the issue’s coalescent theme is that of soundscape. In ethnomusicological parlance, the term has come to indicate all sonic phenomena accidental and purposeful, natural and manipulated connected to a particular place at a particular time.  The atmospheric sounds of Korea’s twenty and twenty-first century rapidly changing environment have contoured the character of the populace, inspiring ensemble acoustic expressivities. Contributors provide a well-rounded representation of the ensemble within the contemporary Korean soundscape. Individual articles explore the genesis and revival of the court ensemble, the modern traditional music orchestra, the young kugak team phenomenon, North/South trans-border collaborations, diversifying identities in ensemble performance, and domestic-to-global shifts in contemporary performance. The ensemble has increasingly diversified through collaborations, heritage cultivation, and global influence, effecting new potential and expectations for a Korean sound.

Guest Editor: Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung

 

To order a copy of this issue, please visit our publisher's website here.

 

.::Table of Contents

 

Ensembles in the Contemporary Korean Soundscape: Foreword
Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung (7-14)

SamulNori: The Drums (and Gongs) of Affection
Keith Howard (15-36)

North Korea's Minjok Orchestra:
Reform and Communication
Dong Eun Noh (37-58)

Modern Orchestra of Korean Instruments from Its Birth to the Present:
A Critical Survey

Mikyung Park
(59-80)

Performing History and Imagining the Past:
Re-contextualization of Court Ensembles in Contemporary South Korea
Hee-sun Kim
(81-102)

Searching for a Niche without a Genre:
The Case of the Multi-National East Asian Traditional New Music Ensemble IIIZ+

Jocelyn Collette Clark
(103-19)

Designing a Fresh Tradition:
Young Kugak and Sonic Imaginings For a Progressive Korea
Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung
(121-44)

 

.:: Book Reviews (Helena Simonett (ed.))

 

Richard Moyle, Songs from the Second Float: A Musical Ethnography of Taku Atoll, Papua New Guinea (2007)
Kirsty Gillespie

Tong Soon Lee, Chinese Street Opera in Singapore (2009)
Hwee-San Tan

Raquel Z. Rivera, Wayne Marshall, and Debora Pacini Hernandez (eds.), Reggaeton (2009)
Ken Bilby

Cathy Ragland, Música Norteña: Mexican Migrants Creating a Nation Between Nations (2009)
Alejandro L. Madrid

Steven M. Friedson, Remains of Ritual: Northern Gods in a Southern Land (2009)
James Burns, Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-Drumming Community in Ghana: Our Music Has Become a Divine Spirit (2009)
Trevor Wiggins

Gabriel Solis and Bruno Nettl (eds.), Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society (2009)
Ajay Heble

Aaron L. Berkowitz, The Improvising Mind: Cognition and Creatitvity in the Musical Moment (2010)
Steven Spinner

John Koegel, Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City; 1840-1940 (2009)
Jim Lovensheimer

Marissa J. Moorman, Intonations: A Social History of Musican and Nation in Luanda, Angola, From 1945 to recent times (2008)
Frank Gunderson

Huib Schippers, Facing the Music: Shaping Music Education from a Global Perspective (2010)
Ted Solis

Martin Stokes,The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music (2010)
Eliot Bates

Su Zheng, Claiming Diaspora: Music, Transnationalism, and Cultural Politics in Asian/Chinese America (2010)
Marc L. Moskowitz, Cries of Joy, Songs of Sorrow: Chinese Pop Music and its Cultural Connotations (2010)
Ching-Yi Chen

Andrew Killick, In Search of Korean Traditional Opera: Discourses of Ch'anggŭk (2010)
Jun Yong Hwang


.:: Recording Reviews (Dan Bendrups (ed.))

 

Kulmus Hanefesh: A Musical Journey into the Hassidic Niggun. The Hebrew University, Faculty of Humanities, Jewish Music Research Centre in collaboration with the National Library of Israel (2009)
Kerrin Hancock

Michael Tenzer: Let Others Name You. New World Records 80697-2 (2009)
Dan Bendrups

Terompong Beruk: Le gamelan de Bangle. AIMP XXCID, VDE CD-1331 (2011)
Peter Dunbar-Hall

 

.:: Website Reviews (Frances Wilkins (ed.))

 

Music: Cape Breton's Unity in Diversity, http://beatoninstitutemusic.ca
Patricia Ballantyne

Take Six, http://library.efdss.org/archives/
Simon Keegan-Phipps

British Library Archival Sound Recordinggs: World and Traditional Music, http://sounds.bl.uk
Christine Dettmann

The Travelling Archive, http://www.thetravellingarchive.org
Davide Torri

London Sound Survey, http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk
Britta Sweers

 

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.::Individual Paper Abstracts

 

Ensembles in the Contemporary Korean Soundscape: Foreword
Guest Editor: Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung

In both North and South Korea, traditional performance genres and contemporary referents have generally come to represent a metaphorical home, one emblematic of Korean cultural roots and twenty-first century identity. At the heart of these dramatic transitions has been the ensemble; from large-scale Western-influenced orchestras to intimate chamber ensembles. The ensemble has been a constant over time as a principled representative of both current circumstances and potentialities. This special issue seeks to explore shifts in Korea’s musical culture through an examination of the many ensembles—court ensembles to fusion teams—that now represent it.  With diverse ensembles inside Korea’s musical world providing a window through which we can discuss musical change, the issue’s coalescent theme is that of soundscape. The atmospheric sounds of Korea’s twenty and twenty-first century rapidly changing environment have contoured the character of the populace, inspiring ensemble acoustic expressivities. Individual articles explore the genesis and revival of the court ensemble, the modern traditional music orchestra, the young kugak team phenomenon, North/South trans-border collaborations, diversifying identities in ensemble performance, and domestic-to-global shifts in contemporary performance. The ensemble has increasingly diversified through collaborations, heritage cultivation, and global influence, effecting new potential and expectations for a Korean sound.

SamulNori:
The
Drums (and Gongs) of Affection
Keith Howard

Korea's percussion bands, in recent years most often associated with the SamulNori quartet of virtuosic musicians, are eponymous with the Korean soundscape. Beginning in 1978, SamulNori assembled and recast the rhythms of nongak or p#ungmul, the music of rapidly disappearing local and itinerant percussion bands that had long been a common part of ritual, entertainment, farming and fishing activities, making these into a canon of repertoire pieces, samullori, designed for urban concert stages. This paper uses interviews conducted mostly with younger musicians and students between October 2010 and January 2011 to reassess the story of the first quartet, SamulNori, and the genre, samullori. It explores how the repertoire developed, how initial criticism was deflected, and how by the 1990s it became arguably the most popular Korean "traditional" music.

North Korea's Minjok Orchestra:
Reform and Communication
Dong-Eun Noh

In October 1990, the Seoul Traditional Music Orchestra received a warm welcome in Pyongyang and, in a reciprocal move, welcomed the Pyongyang Ethnic Music Orchestra in Seoul that December.  The Pyongyang troupe’s trip to Seoul provided an opportunity for the two orchestras to collaborate in a joint performance.  The performance marked an historic occasion: the first such performance since the division of the peninsula forty-five years earlier. Both musical systems—that of the North and South—had experienced incredible changes reflecting the socio-political and cultural developments that have taken place in each respective location. While the South arguably has adapted a musical system heavily emphasizing innovations within preservation, the changes in the North have been much more dramatic. Many of the musical characteristics fiercely protected in the South were eliminated in the face of renovations seen as necessary to creating music reflective of the North’s national character. The performance collaboration created an opportunity for learning and communication. Based on information gathered through this experience this paper explores the history and developments of the national orchestras of the DPRK. In addition, the paper offers an alternative perspective on "Koreaness" expressed musically, one rarely explored in writing on Korean music.

Modern Orchestra of Korean Instruments from Its Birth to the Present:
A Critical Survey

Mikyung Park

In South Korea, new large-scale orchestras were developed in the 1960s. While build of instruments from Korea's music tradition, the orchestras appeared to be in obvious imitation of the European classical orchestra, including a simulation of the Western orchestra’s basic arrangement and formation and the inclusion of a conductor. In other East Asian countries at the same time, orchestras of traditional instruments in a Western classical orchestra format also appeared. This article locates the foundations of Korea's modern traditional orchestra in regional dynamics marked by seemingly contradictory needs to preserve tradition yet innovate within a globally standardized format. Many scholars have dismissed the modern traditional orchestra as merely imitative, yet such an assessment has mininished its significance. The author argues the modern Korean traditional orchestra to be a success despite such criticisms and its beginnings to be the progeny of a phenomenon beyond simple replication. This paper seeks to analyze the dynamics of imitations and creation in the modern Korean traditional orchestra and inquires further into the implications of the orchestra's existence in modern Korean society.

Performing History and Imagining the Past:
Re-contextualization of Court Ensembles in Contemporary South Korea
Hee-sun Kim
 
Court music ensemble performance has been symbolically important in Korea. Yet, with the colapse of the Chosŏn dynasty and subjugation under Japanese colonial power, court ensembles experienced difficulties in transmission and preservation. Some performance genres were revived as memories of the past, yet during the process of revival issues of authenticity were brought to the fore and some revivals were not well-received by the general public. However, recent attempts at staging court ritual and banquet music go beyond a revival in constructing new meanings and contexts for the court ensemble. Re-contextualized (staged) performances attempt to communicate with modern audience by bringing new ways of understanding and embodying universe, time, and space. Re-enactment of historic royal banquet music creates new historic narratives, and dramatized stories of court musicians help the audience to imagine their society's past. As a part of a globally-directed "national brand" promotion campaigns, the performances have come to represent a prosperous modern nation. This paper examines the history, background, procedures and processes of re-contextualization of court music in contemporary South Korea.  I argue that the modern court music ensemble is a site for negotiating and re-defining meanings of “tradition” and “heritage” beyond concepts of “preservation” and “authenticity.”

Searching for a Niche without a Genre:
The Case of the Multi-National East Asian Traditional New Music Ensemble IIIZ+
Jocelyn Collette Clark

Since coming together in Darmstadt in 2001, the new music ensemble IIIZ+ (“Three zee plus”)—Chinese zheng, Japanese koto, and Korean kayagûm and percussion—has toured in France, Belgium, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, and the U.S., playing in various music festivals and independent venues. But selling the ensemble has turned out to be tricky. The successful future marketing of IIIZ+ to Korean audiences, in particular, will undoubtedly hinge on what place the ensemble can find for itself among local ideas of musical identity and representation. While ensembles like IIIZ+ serve as reminders of Korea’s inherent cultural connections with its East Asian neighbours and with the North Atlantic realm, others may perceive such collaborations including an ethnically non-Korean playing a Korean "national" instrument, the kayagŭm, as encroaching on what remains of Korea's musical uniqueness. To seek answers to the many questions that arise when a 21st century multi-national ensemble like IIIZ+ sets out to find a place in Korea’s (or any other Pacific Rim nation’s) national performance realm is thus to explore the complex terrain on which the broader debate concerning world music and globalization is currently taking place.

Designing a Fresh Tradition:
Young Kugak and Sonic Imaginings for a Progressive Korea
Hilary V. Finchum-Sung

Over the past ten years, the Korean soundscape has been subjected to an explosion of traditional music performance teams (chŏlmŭn kugak t'im) attempting to find their voices amidst the overarching responsibilities of adhering to tradition while creating a relevant, modern music. In this paper, I explore the Korean young "traditional music" team trend. With a brief examination of the historical base and development of these ensembles, I examine the present-day socio-cultural underpinnings leading to their proliferation as well as the meanings and motivations of team membership. In particular, the paper underscores the increased commercialization and marketing trends of these teams in the name of kugak globalization (segyehwa). Examination of young kugak teams offers a view of a prevailing orienting framework within which individuals, the government, and the music industry work together in negotiating a Korean sound and, thus, contributing to the formation of a contemporary Korean soundscape.

 

 

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