Friday, November 5, 2010

SNU to Sajachum

November 4th, 2010
In the morning I went to Professor Hilary Finchum-Sung’s awesome class on Korean music. Today was devoted to 시나위 shinawi and 산조 sanjo primarily. She brought in a bunch of students to play shinawi for us (this being shinawi as the group ensemble based on what was shaman-ceremony accompanying music), two stuck around to play sanjo (아쟁 ajaeng and 거문고 geomungo). It’s really awesome to be able to hear the music after Hilary’s contextualized it and explained it so well. Afterwards we ate lunch in the cafeteria together.

cell photo:

In the evening I headed to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class, 장용일 Jang Yongil was teaching us again. Us ended up being a very small group, only four others showed up, but one (선영 Seonyeong) left before class really got underway. She’s moving to France in a couple months. So it was just high school student수미 Sumi, 병호 Byeongho and the guy who is Byeongho’s back half of the lion: 조연혁Jo Yeonhyeok. We started with practicing the lion dance, and I actually tried being the back half of the lion to Seonyeong, I learned a couple of the tricky points to being the back half. It looks easier than it is, not that it looks particularly easy, either. Jang spent a fair amount of time explaining the entire meaning of the lion scene, at one point he quizzed me and I didn’t immediately answer (I didn’t quite get what he meant) and he starts scolding me about “how can I study this long and not know this.” I think he doesn’t quite understand that the point of my research is not to analyze the scenes (or become a world class dancer) but rather to look at how, where, to whom, in what way etc. he is teaching. (As well as other people teaching other arts and the other major prong of my research is looking at how shows are presented to audiences, how effective that communication is). He repeatedly emphasized that no one can dance these dances correctly if they don’t know what they mean (this was directed at the two guys who are just starting to perform the lion dance when other’s aren’t available, they couldn’t answer any of his questions).

Yesterday they had performed on the US military base in mid-Seoul, and I asked some questions about how the announcer had introduced the show, etc. This led to a long conversation with Jang (he’s so opinionated!) and it started to stir up some analytic thinking that seems based around an idea of a conceit that the audience understands directly from the artists, what the artists intended, without need for mediation. Comments welcome.

Dept. store already decorated for X-mas:


Georgeanna said...

I find it ironic that he was just saying, "You can't dance these without knowing what they mean" and yet he believes that the audience can really know all of the meaning of the dance from merely watching the dance. I say this because clearly you have been able to learn (or "practice," then, if it is more appropriate to say that instead of "learn" at this time.. I'm not sure) the dances despite his perception that you don't know all of the meaning behind the dance. So, clearly, I conclude, the dance's meaning doesn't have to be known to dance it, and therefore won't necessarily be communicated to the audience during the dance!

Either way, I find that.. lazy. Among other things. Lazy and/or simply willfully ignorant; that is, ignorant of the audience's need for further connection to what you're doing. Lazy to avoid giving them more of your time (to explain the mask dance at the beginning). You've spent hours practicing just to perform, but if the dialog and the context in which the mask dance developed is completely absent (or, largely so) in the present times, then a large part of the audience's ability to comprehend what you're doing is already, before you've set one foot on the stage, nonexistent (or, we may more kindly say, hampered). It is in this meager, diminished environment that the mask dancer must make their meanings, and how can they, with just a dance that itself - by virtue of being a tradition that had to be preserved - has possibly lost some of its meaning (if the meaning is conceived of as a shared creation by audience and performers)..

Sorry, I probably have skinned my ignorance on this comment. Ah,.. I tried.

CedarBough said...

awesome comment. I actually called you THREE times I wanted to talk about this so much but your phone was off last night.