[NOTE CHANGE OF DATE] Passing Down the Old Songs in Sopori: Grassroots Preservation in a Korean Village

Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
7,000 won (non-member); free for members

On an island in the southwestern province of the Korean peninsula exists a small village called Sopori. Once one of the busiest port villages on Jindo, now Sopori consists of a rapidly-aging population eking out a modest living through agriculture. In this regard, the village remains similar to most rural villages on the Korean peninsula, yet a combination of its history and local proclivities towards the performing arts mark Sopori as distinct from aging villages fallen victim to rural flight. Because Sopori hosts one of Jindo’s regional intangible culture properties (Sopo geolgun nongak), and because of the village’s history of involvement with itinerant performance troupes, the village has been designated a traditional arts village. The designation granted the village funding to build a ‘traditional arts transmission center’ (jeotong yesul jeonsugwan) where local villagers take classes in drum dance and folk song while also performing for tourists who visit the vil lage. Tourist maps of Jindo now feature Sopori as a hot spot, promising a ‘traditional arts experience’ for visitors.

Based on the presenter’s fieldwork experiences on Jindo, this presentation focuses on transmission and performance activities in Sopo Village. Local preservation organizations such as the eomeoni noraebang (mother’s singing room) and the Sopo geolgun nongak preservation association have played a key role in the active maintenance and performance of local folk arts in the village. While undoubtedly the institution of the cultural properties protection legislation in the 1960s jump-started interested in local performance practice, the presenter contends that individual drive and intense local competition have been essential ingredients in the continuation of performance activities in the village.

Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung (Ph.D. Indiana University) is Associate Professor of Theory and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Korean Music at Seoul National University where she teaches classes on ethnomusicology, world music and Korean music. Finchum-Sung has published in academic journals such as Ethnomusicology, the world of music (new series), and Seoul Journal of Korean Studies. Her research interests include Korean folk performance preservation, promotion and education, public education policy and traditional music, musical articulations of multiculturalism, contemporary gugak performance practice, and musical tourism. She has presented papers at international conferences in the US, Canada, Japan and Korea as well as lectures and workshops on Korean music for organizations such as the National Gugak Center, The National Theatre of Korea, Korea Foundation and UNESCO. She is currently engaged in a field research project on transmission and cultural promotion in Jindo and completing a manuscript on 21st century gugak transitions. In avid pursuit of bi-musicality, she regularly practices and performs on the two-string spike fiddle, haegeum.





* this lecture will be videotaped and reposted online. 

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