Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drumming with Songpa Sandae Noli

November 27th, 2010
송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli rehearsal starts at 3, I arrived a couple minutes early with a DVD of three recent performances to give them (not excerpts but the entire performances). The rehearsal was small, people are busy and Saturday is a hard time to meet, but also the rehearsal on Friday (I have to remember to ask for regular permission to attend that) was both well attended and resulted in various tension/arguments that may have made some people say “to heck with it” and skip rehearsal today. We practiced the basic motions then 함완식 Ham Wanshik had us all grab 장구 janggu and practice drumming for about twenty-five minutes. I found the style of teaching really hard, but mostly because I am the weakest drummer by far. Also I’ve never tried drumming with my hand hitting the drum head on the left instead of the stick (which is how it’s played for accompanying Songpa Sandae Noli). We practiced two different 장단 jangdan (rhythmic patterns) but when Ham told me to play on my own (and demonstrate that I’d learned it/knew what I was doing/how well I could do) I completely froze up. I was still trying to figure out how to coordinate two different types of hand motion I had never tried before (hitting and damping) with the stroke of the drum stick in my right hand on the other side of the drum. It really frustrated me, not that I was annoyed at Ham, I wasn’t, but just that I still can’t even do such a simple thing. No wonder the group is very picky about who drums and super sensitive about how people drum. I was obviously upset, but I really just needed to spend the whole 25 minutes practicing one jangdan while the others drummed louder drowning out any of my potential mistakes. Since Ham literally went around the circle of drummers after every two-three minutes of practice, most of the time was watching/listening to others drum by themselves and comparatively little was actually drumming ourselves.

After class ended 원석 Wonseok and 승현 Seunghyeon both came to me and told me some various tips, Seunghyeon assured me he could only drum well because when he was young he’d been ordered to practice, screwing up he’d been hit and cried and practiced and been wrong and been hit and cried.

After drumming Wonseok and Seunghyeon rehearsed Act 2 (옴중, 먹중 놀이) for probably the first time they’d ever done it (I also think it was unexpected that they’d be asked to do it) but before class had started Ham was talking to 김명하 Kim Myeongha about how he’d practiced and done the comparatively easy parts (like the 8먹중 who don’t have speak except for group lines) for only a few years and then the old gentlemen that he’d learned from had made him start trying the other roles, because it was hard (Ham emphasized that it already felt hard to him) to dance at the same level as one got older (Ham also listed off how old various now-deceased Songpa players had been when he first began to learn). We practiced the basic motions one more time for the day and then quit.

I wanted to talk to 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk (the office manager) and 탄종원 Tahn Jongwon so I went to the office to wait for them to come back. Ham Wanshik and Kim Myeongha also went there and we discussed the North Korean hostilities (not a vocabulary set I know well in Korean) for a bit until Kim Yeongsuk and Tahn came back to the office. Then Kim Yeongsuk told me to leave but I said no, and stayed for a very frank discussion of group issues that I shall keep off this public record. Suffice to say I have to take down some (all? still not sure about that) of the video scenes I uploaded from Namwon. Some of the performances were not good enough (according to them) and the group is evaluating how to improve.

When the discussion ended and Ham and Kim Myeongha left, I kept talking with my friends (actually in Korean culture they’re older than me so we’re not really friends, but I like them just as much as I like my other friends who –are- the same age as me). After a bit we decided to go watch Social Network. It was better than I’d expected, even sort of suspenseful in parts.

Cell photo: leaves on the street as I walked to the bus stop

November 28th, 2010
Got up early and went hiking on 아차산 Achasan with 이경호 Yi Gyeongho and Aniko. I’ll post photos when I get around to it.

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