Making Records of All Kinds of Korean Music, 1906: The Earliest Commercial Korean Music Recordings and Their Historical Significance

Lecturer: 
Jihoon Suk
Date: 
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: 
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
Admission: 
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (student ID checked at the door); free for members

 

In the first decade of the 20th century, the newly-established record industries in North America and Europe were eager to expand their market to all over the world. Starting in 1902, the London-based Gramophone and Typewriter (G&T) company began a series of recording sessions in non-Western countries, usually referred to as "recording expeditions," to record music and other types of performing arts for potential customers in the non-Western world.
 

During these recording expeditions, there were always "intermediaries" in the area, who, not only acted as "talent scouts" to find performers willing to make recordings, but also acted as sales agents for the recording companies. Korea was no exception in the eyes of the executives of the G&T company. The 101 sides of Korean recordings recorded by the company (but eventually produced by its American affiliate, Victor Talking Machine Co.) in 1906, were the direct results of their third major recording expedition to Asia. 
 

The musical importance of these 1906 Korean recordings cannot be stressed enough, as they provide rich resources for studying the earliest attainable forms of Korean pre-modern music. Their production history also reveals an interesting dynamic between the Western record companies and the Korean public, which paralleled the socio-economic effects and outcomes of the coming of the "West" to the "East" at the turn of the 20th century. (It even reveals a surprising connection with the RAS!)
 

This lecture will include a demonstration of early sound recording technologies, both playback and recording technologies using period equipment. It will also include several sound clips of several extant 1906 Victor Korean recordings.

Jihoon Suk received a BA and MA in Korean modern history from Yonsei University. While he calls himself a "generalist" in terms of his knowledge on Korean history, his primary research focuses on the roles of the modern non-textual media (sound recordings, films, and photographs), as it was one of the most crucial factors shaping the modern perception of Korean "traditional culture" or "national culture" as we see today.

He is also an avid collector of vintage sound recordings, which led to his involvement with the Korean 78rpm Discography Project and Archive (http://www.78archive.co.kr), a near-complete online database of Korean commercial records issued between 1907 and 1945. He also has been working with various museums and archives in Korea and around the world, including the Independence Hall Museum of Korea, the Korean Film Archive, the National Gugak Center, U.S. Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, and the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

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