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Korean traditional music lecture program in English to begin in July
  • June 28, 2021

Korean traditional music lecture program
in English to begin in July

Updated : 2021-06-27 15:15

By Park Ji-won

The year 2020 was may be the memorable year for Leenalchi, an alternative pop group consisting of four traditional pansori vocalists, two bassists and one drummer, as it rose to stardom with its addictive music. Many were surprised at the possibilities presented by traditional music thanks to the band's popularity, and Korea's rich music traditions, but not many know the origins and history of pansori, a traditional style of narrative music. For those who want to broaden their understanding, the Seoul Donhwamun Traditional Theater is launching a new English-language lecture program on traditional Korean music to provide foreign residents of Korea with practical information about the genres to help raise appreciation of the country's rich musical traditions.

Through the "Korean Music Lecture Series," lecturer Kim Hee-sun, a professor of ethnomusicology at Kookmin University, will teach the basics of Korea's traditional music in English. She offers two lectures, each running for two hours. The two lectures will run on July 10 and 11, and then will be rerun again for more people on July 24 and 25.

In the first lecture, she explores four themes: history, system & individual, genre and instruments. For the history section, Kim will teach the history of traditional music of the 1392-1910 Joseon Kingdom to the present day, largely focusing on the contexts of musical production and appreciation. Regarding system & individual, she will talk about Joseon-era court music, the intangible cultural heritage system and music education, and introduce some of the artists who played key roles in preserving and transmitting the traditional art form. She will also explain the differences between various genres such as court music, pungnyu, folk music and religious music. And she will introduce various traditional instruments used in performances.

Lecture 2 introduces key venues and events where the music can be enjoyed, based on the groundwork set in the first lecture. She will introduce various traditional musical and dance venues as well as musicians active. In addition, pansori singer Jang Seo-yoon will perform accompanied by Lee Woo-joo, a pansori drummer known as a "gosu."

"So-called fusion gugak musicians which may include Leenalchi, is closely related to the development of Korean traditional music … Many would think that all Asian music is similar, but it is not. Korean music is a lot different from that of China and Japan. While China and Japan use regular beats in their music, Korea uses more irregular beats, which makes it more unpredictable, liberated and jazzy, thus very artistic. Also, Korean traditional music has a variety of genres ranging from court to folk music," Kim told The Korea Times by phone.

"There has been demand for this kind of lecture amid rising global popularity of Korean culture. We made the program for beginners so they can easily start enjoying Korean music. If the program receives positive reactions, we are also planning to expand it to a medium-term program."