There is more to Korean music culture than K-Pop. Contemporary performance in the Republic of Korea includes European classical, hip-hop, folk, jazz, heavy metal, punk rock, alternative, ‘world beat,’ and, yes, K-pop. It also includes traditional folk and court traditions along with the contemporary offshoots of these traditions. The latter includes a rich kaleidoscope of performance styles as well as musical aesthetics and allusions that have developed through the years, corresponding to changing identities and socio-political climates. New music for kugak (lit. ‘national music’; the generic term referring to traditional performance genres) emerged under the label ‘ch’angjak’ (creative) kugak in the early 20th century. From that time forward, the distinction between old and new kugak created an assumption that kugak performance was both inherently not modern and unchanging over time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Still, ‘new compositions’ distinguished mid-20th kugak-based creations from performance forms preserved under the intangible heritage system (developed in the 1960s). The newer styles and subgenres of kugak, in particular, emerged from a search for music expressive of contemporary identities. Up until the early 2000s, hybridity served as the basis for kugak development. Recently, however, new generations of both young and master performers have contributed fresh interpretations of tradition that diverge from hybrid forms and dig deep into Korean historic aesthetics. In this lecture/demonstration, we will explore key new works and trends contributing to freshly confident presentations of tradition in the 21st century. Such trends have brought kugak full circle as the heart and soul of innovation in the ongoing search for a Korean sound.
Ji-young Yi earned both the BA and MA in kayagŭm performance from Seoul National University and a Ph.D. at Ewha Womans University. She was the first Ph.D. in kayagŭm performance in Korean music history. Since her professional debut, she has performed numerous solo recitals in Korea as well as throughout Europe, Oceana and Asia. She has performed with the Shanghai Orchestra, Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra, Kyoto Orchestra, Ulan Ude Orchestra, Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra, Atlas Ensemble, KNM Berlin Ensemble, Del Sol String Quartet, among many others. In addition, she has been the most frequently invited Korean musician at international music festivals including the Edinburgh Festival, MIDEM, ISCM, Asian Composer's League, Otherminds Contemporary Festival, and the Pacific Rim Music Festival. She is currently Professor of Kayagŭm Performance in the Department of Korean Music in the College of Music at Seoul National University and Music Director of the Gimhae Municipal Gayageum Orchestra. She is a Candidate for Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 23, Kayagŭm Sanjo and Pyŏngch’ang. In 2011 Yi published a monograph, Contemporary Gayageum Notations for Composers and Performers, which was selected “Best Academic Publication” (2012) by The National Academy of Science of the Republic of Korea.
Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung (Ph.D. Indiana University) is currently the Executive Director of the Association for Asian Studies. She formally served as Dean of Student Affairs at Seoul National University's College of Music and Associate Professor of Theory and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Korean Music at Seoul National University (2009-2019). In addition, Finchum-Sung formerly taught in the MA in Asia Pacific Studies Program at University of San Francisco and served as an administrator and researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of East Asian Studies. She is a Korean music specialist with research interests in sustainable practice in traditional Korean music performance, musical genealogies, gender roles and performance, and emotion embodied through sound. In avid pursuit of musicianship, she regularly practices and performs on the two-string spike fiddle, haegŭm.