Thursday, September 16, 2010

Meeting Professors

September 16th, 2010
Wow. It was the fullest day I think I’ve had so far.

In the morning I went to audit Prof. Hilary Finchum-Sung’s class “Intro to Korean Music.” She’s the first foreigner ever to be hired by a Korean music department. Not music department in Korea, a department that teaches KOREAN music. Wow! Actually I know other people like Heather Willoughby who are also ethnomusicologists with Korea as their region, and probably Heather or others could have been as competitive for that job if they’d been on the job market at the time that SNU was hiring. Regardless, last year she was teaching music theory IN KOREAN! She did say there was a lot of new vocabulary involved in teaching that class, but I was incredibly impressed. In fact, I’ve rarely been more impressed. Close up when we ate lunch after class she looked tired, but when she was teaching she was high energy, pretty and talented. The class is still in the highly introductory period where she’s setting a base-line of knowledge for the students to stand on so I knew most of what she taught, but she did it very well, demonstrating 거문고 Geomungo (6 string zither), 해금 Haegeum (two string fiddle) and 장구 janggu (hourglass drum). She is actually on her way to being really good on the Haegeum, and she sang a little with a very pleasing singing voice. She had some music students visit class to demonstrate 대금 Daegeum (transverse bamboo flute), 가야금 Gayageum (12 string zither) and 피리 piri (double-reed oboe), because it was the introduction to instruments class. So I had lunch with her and will go back to her class again.

Cell phone photo with Hilary and two of the music majors:

After that I rushed to meet Professor 전경욱 Jeon Gyeong'uk, who is one of the top experts on mask dance drama, and among professors who teach on the subject the one I respect the most, hands down. He is also officially the person I am affiliated with for the Fulbright. It was very hard to talk to him, as there were six people in his office when I arrived (it’s always like that!) and he prepared us all tea (full tea production with all the pouring of water and discarding this and that and making sure the temperature was just right and what not. He’s a big tea aficionado. I had a five minute window when no one else was there, he went to the bathroom then sent a fax (and I waited for him to finish doing it) then asked the first question on my list, and he moved to his computer and attached documents that he sent me, and while he was doing that a reporter from the 중앙일보 Joong-ang Ilbo arrived, and until I had to leave he was still lecturing her (and preparing more tea). The lecture to her was very interesting, I won’t type it up in the public blog version in detail, but the short version was he was going off about changes to the masks that actually meant they were not as well made as in the past, lost artistic ability, ornamentation, realism, details, etc. It was sort of a rant. I told him I’d read what he’d sent and meet him again in a couple weeks.
Cell phone photo: Prof. Jeon makes tea

I rushed home, had a two minute cold shower, grabbed my 한삼 hansam (white sleeve extensions for practicing 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum) and my 미투리 shoes, loose pants and a t-shirt and rushed out to 봉산탈춤 where we had a fairly ordinary practice. I am worried about 원 중 Won Jung, who is applying to the National University of the Arts School of Traditional Performance. I don’t actually think he has much innate performance talent, and I wonder how much that counts (he wants to learn and devote himself to traditional arts, and through hard work he’ll get better… isn’t that what education is about?). His audition is Oct. 6th or 7th.

And I read academic Korean articles for tomorrow's class on all the bus and subway rides.

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