Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

December 31st, 2010
I went to Severance. It appears that my ear is mostly better; the doctor is concerned that I'll be out of Seoul for most of the next month, however. I have more pills to take.

In the afternoon I got a lot of work done in the newest local coffee shop, I think I'll make it a habit. I like the location, the tables, etc. The coffee was okay, and decently priced, if not great.

For ringing in the New Year I made fresh juice (경진 Gyeongjin's suggestion) from some of the organic satsumas that 경호Gyeongho sent to us. We had the juice and kissed and then I did 108 prostrations at our small make-shift altar while chanting. It was not very grand, but it felt good, very full of intention.

Ta-ak Project at KOUS

December 29th, 2010
Wednesday was less insanely snowy/icy and cold than the day before, but I didn't do a whole lot since it's my normal day off, except we went to watch "The Next Three Days" in the movie theatre. Solid movie. I wanted to watch "Tron: Legacy" but couldn't convince Karjam—at least his choice was good.

December 30th, 2010
I had my rescheduled 상모 sangmo class from two p.m. until almost four. 이종휘 Yi Jonghui was awake all night driving back from snowboarding so he was a bit tired, but class was good. We have a new member, 광호 Gwangho, who has already learned more than I have (but not as much as 현석 Hyeonseok). Class went pretty well, and Jonghui and I talked a lot about his performance (he was embarrassed with some mistakes that were hardly noticeable) and we discussed general arts politics. I need to formally interview him, however. Hopefully I'll be able to do a week of sangmo class the same week he'll be teaching at 필봉 Pilbong.

I went home and made a quick dinner, Karjam was nowhere to be seen, before I headed to KOUS for another show, this time that of the 타악프로젝트 Ta'ak (percussion) Project. The Ta'ak Project is basically just 고석진 Go Seokjin and 최영진 Choi Yeongjin. Seokjin is in 고성오광대Goseong Ogwangdae and Yeongjin is in 봉산탈춤Bongsan Talchum, so I know them both. I went to the performance with the 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang people (are you starting to see how interconnected all these traditional arts are?), and after the performance two of them (and I) went to the after-party to congratulate the artists on finishing their three performance run. I won't say more about the performance right now because I'm working on a whole long review of it, but I'll just paste in this one paragraph—please comment!

To see the scissors performed in the high-status KOUS hall has an extra cultural dimension for the Korean audience. Scissors, in Korea, were traditionally rhythmically clacked together by street salesmen of handmade taffy and nut brittles. These salesmen would sing as they manipulated the scissors in a showy but utilitarian way to cut and break up large chunks of taffy. The playing of scissors has never been known to be virtuosic, and is often associated with beggars, cross-dressers and other examples of the lowest rung of Korean traditional society. Go's scissors performance was virtuosic. Trained as a drummer and dancer for the mask dance drama Goseong Ogwangdae Go utilized the entire stage opening and closing the scissors and hitting the left and right hand scissors together in a fast and complicated rhythm. Pivots and leaps are followed by quick steps adapted from pungmul and Goseong Ogwangdae, in his white dress shirt, black dress pants and silver and black silk vest I realize that this is an appropriation of the lowest of Korean art forms, recreated as high brow art.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bongcheong Noli Madang Final Presentation

December 28th, 2010

Usually Tuesdays I'm at 상모 sangmo class, but I realized that no matter how much I really enjoy sangmo (I do, it's frustrating but I love it), I had to go to the final presentation at 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang where we would dance for the members of the group and our various "seniors." It was an irreplaceable opportunity both in terms of me being able to wrap up any future subsections of chapters on clubs and because I put in my two weeks and that's how it's supposed to end. Then happily 이종휘 Yi Jonghui called to say he needed to reschedule class… so I didn't have to give up sangmo!

During the day I went to get a new 민복 minbok because mine is so practically see-through and I needed to wear minbok for the presentation—but my favorite store didn't have the one I wanted in my size (frustrating!) so I went home with nothing but a new pair of 미투리 mituri slippers.

I went to Bongcheon Noli Madang early because I had arranged to interview Jang Mi'i but it didn't happen, I think she was purposefully avoiding it. At any rate there were already so many people there it wouldn't have been a good interview. The presentation went well. First there was a solo presentation of 문둥북춤 Mundung Buk Chum by 미경 Migyeong, then 선우 Seonu danced 원양반 Won Yangban as a solo. We had to dance our part twice, first only us, then the second time with the "seniors" joining in. Between the two performances the 풍물 pungmul players presented their pungmul playing, which was very good. I did okay, but not as good as when we were rehearsing. Oh well. I did, along with the other new students who finished the course, receive a certificate and small present. Then we all sat around in a large circle and people ate things I don’t, and I ate a lot of green onion savory pancake because it was what I could eat, and drank grape juice and ate oranges. Several people had already left when I counted 18 people in the room.

Waiting for things to get under way, my co-student 재숙 Jaesuk

The Special Performances (of course more than half the observers became musicians)

My awesome teacher, Jang Mi'i:

Awards Ceremony - Jaesuk with the Director of Bongcheon Noli Madang

No party without a cake!

The party, with lots of singing, gets underway

Singing into a cup, or to a stick of imitation crab, drumming by hitting together soju bottles:

Another Day at Bongsan Talchum

December 27th, 2010
I talked with 김은주 Kim Eunju about the performance, she raved about how Yi Maebang had been spine-tingling, goose-bump raising, totally unreally talented, dancing more femininely than a woman when he was younger. Our class was fairly ordinary, the two new people kept working on catching up with the group. 경은 Gyeong'eun, one of them thanked me for uploading the video of the basic motions. Before class finished I promised to upload another video with the other things we practice in class on it. I finished that video the next day, here's the link. It's really awesome because 1) Youtube now allows me longer than 15 minute uploads 2) It shows us practicing a certain part followed by (when available) the preservation association performers in performance doing the same part.

During winter vacation 원중 Wonjung will have a 10 day 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum intensive at school (during the same two weeks that I'll be doing 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae with other students from his school). He'll be taught by 손병만 Son Byeongman and 최창주 Choi Changju. During the rest of vacation he'll study 장구 janggu on his own reconnaissance to shore up what he feels are his weaknesses. I told him he should come to 임실필봉전수관 Imshil Pilbong Training Center but he explained that the kind of drumming he'll have to do in drumming class at Korea National University of Arts (I'd put a 'the' in that name but I am trying to get used to writing their name in English the same way they write it) is so different and the Pilbong drumming is accented in such a different way that he can quickly get in bad habits (partially because he hasn't been drumming that long so his foundation isn't super solid yet). I will follow up on that by asking others like 이종휘 Yi Jonghui to explain, because if that's true then it's very crucial information for why we only see certain types of drummers at the training center, and though they may be very good, they're rarely the type to be majoring in 타악 percussion in university. Yi Jonghui, on the other hand, did major in percussion.

Another task for the day was to nominate names for our group (when we perform). It seems the date has been set for Jan. 22nd, this might work out for me, it might not.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Yi Maebang's Final Performance

December 26th, 2010
Our main activity of the day was to attend 이매방 Yi Maebang (the most famous traditional dancer in Korea)'s final performance. He has so very many fans and former students (despite the high rates to study with him) that the large hall at the 국악원 gugakwon was sold out in the 50,000 and 40,000 won seating areas, with only a few seats left in the 3rd floor balcony 30,000 won seats that I bought for Karjam and myself. The 3rd floor was also swelteringly hot (especially considering the multiple layers we were wearing). There were high points to the show, but I felt that mostly we were there to support the traditional arts and pay tribute to one of the most influential figures in traditional arts. 양종승 Yang Jongseung, my mentor who is a senior curator at the National Folk Museum and was Yi's student during his own doctoral fieldwork (he is an 이수자 (isuja, third ranked) in one of Yi's arts, 승무 seungmu or the monk's dance, was the MC. Yi is one of the very few people in Korea to attain National Human Treasure status in two arts.

Yi himself danced part of three numbers, seungmu, 입춤 Ipchum and 살풀이 (salpuri is the other art he's listed for). In each case he seemed about to totter over. His steps were small and careful, his arms were shaking and each time as he went to leave the stage a young woman in Uggs ran out to at least 1/3 across the stage to support him as he walked off. When he bent down to pick up the scarf in salpuri I was concerned he'd get stuck down there. Honestly, I think he should have had his final performance a few years ago, he simply could not do justice to the dances or his own reputation. The best performances of the night were 보렴무 Boryeommu and 삼고무/오고무 Samgomu/Ogomu with women on the 3 drum sets and 7 men and 1 woman playing the 5 drum sets.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas (Even Colder)

December 25th, 2010
Karjam and I had a sweet Christmas. We slept late, discovered that our hot water line had frozen (and decided not to sweat about it yet), had a huge breakfast, were sweet to each other, went for a long walk, etc.

Karjam Shows off the haul in his Christmas stocking from Mom, Zack and his wife Irene, esp. the socks themselves:

As night fell we went for a walk to the top of Namsan- SO COLD!

Tatu and Yuso Performance (Freaking Cold)

December 24th, 2010
I went to Severance Hospital to get my ear cleaned again. I might not have needed to, but as I told the nice resident, I didn't want to gamble on it not suddenly getting full of gunk and painful over the weekend. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR EARS.

In the evening Karjam and I tried to hurry to the 국악원 Gukakwon for performances by 타투Tatu and 유소Yuso, but the bus was really uncooperative. We watched it pull out from the stop from the other side of the street and waited far too long for the next bus. The exact same thing happened on the way home as my toes turned to ice. Tatu performed first, which was fortunate, since even with hopping off the bus and into a very skilled taxi driver's vehicle we were still a tad late. The group presented several different acts from a bellydance (by totally non-competent dancers) plus Korean percussion piece for the first act to a 판굿 pan gut performance at the end, trying their best to enjoy 풍물 pungmul but also show something new and exciting to an audience that (of course) has seen pungmul before. In fact during their show I was worrying about Yuso. What was Yuso going to show that was much different from Tatu? However I needn't have worried.

Yuso's performance was spectacular. And I don't say that because 이종휘 Yi Jonghui is a really awesome 상모 sangmo instructor and I want to support him. It was truly a very amazing show. It wowed Karjam (he's been getting a bit jaded and bored with traditional Korean music). He kept exclaiming how much a Tibetan audience would love to see something like this! There were three parts to the performance. The first was a sort of 사물놀이 samulnori type piece with Jonghui playing 징 jing until it was time for him to play the second 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari part. The second part was a 모듬북 modeumbuk piece with one buk as large as those in the Buddhist temples plus others in various sizes. The final piece was their 판굿 pan gut piece, it was really awesome, the skills that the Yuso performers exhibited just blew me away. There was lots of great sangmo action, but I was tickled to see that Jonghui was not the featured sangmo performer.

Preparing for the Final Presentation

December 23rd, 2010
For Thursday my most important activity was 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheong Noli Madang class. But it was a full day because in the morning I met my dissertation support group ladies Jenny and Alice for coffee and research talk and then I had lunch with 회정Hoijung, my wonderful and usually much too busy friend.

Cell phone photo at "Lazy Sue's Cafe"

At Bongcheon Noli Madang we were busy rehearsing for the final presentation which will be on Tuesday next week (I'll skip 상모 sangmo class, I want to do sangmo more, but for research it's better to see the Bongcheon class to the end of the class and see how everything pans out). Oddly it took me more than half the class to collect my brain and concentrate on what was going on, I was so obviously spaced out that everyone commented on it. Everyone, however, was only a class of five people including 장미이 Jang Mi'i and 김선우 Kim Seonu. Apparently the gradual and nearly complete reduction of the student population over the course of the class is normal. The course that starts from next month and runs until the end of February will be intermediate and only meet on Tuesday. The beginning class will begin again and run in March and April. This means I have only one opportunity (May and June) to practice an intermediate class with the Bongcheon people. On Friday (but for the members not for just random students) there are other classes, and of course there are 풍물 pungmul classes offered as well. After class ended, as usual, we sat down and exchanged our views on how class was going while enjoying some snacks and tea. The pants I thought were too warm two weeks ago felt like wearing a refrigerator as I waited for the bus (and the second bus after the transfer) on my way home. The temperature has plummeted.

Pungmul Performance at KOUS

December 22nd, 2010
I went to Severance again and got my ear cleaned again. Please, remember what I have learned about ears: don’t screw with your ears. Q-tips, fingers and other items should NOT be inserted into ears, ever (wet or dry). If perchance your ear is gunky and not cleaning itself like it should, go have your doctor clean it out.

My big research-related event for Wednesday was to attend a performance with 양은석 Yang Eunseok and one of his former university club fellows who I’ve met and two who I had not met before. The performance we went to see was featuring a female 상쇠 lead soi or 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari player. The player, 유순자 Yu Sunja plays호남우도Honam Udo 풍물 pungmul music (Pilbong is 호남좌도 Honam Jwado). I didn’t know how they were going to set it up as a distinct performance (the show was at KOUS and last featuring a set of three lead soi players). Although of course I assumed that the performance would feature the lead soi and include at least some straight up pungmul pieces. There is a lot more to being a lead soi player than just playing the ggwaenggwari or soi. Here is a video (an ad plays first) of a man playing ggwaeggwari (the man who talks at the start of the video is 김덕수 Kim Deoksu, the most famous 장구 janggu player in Korea). I chose to show this video partially because it demonstrates the vital dance component of playing the gwaenggwari. This video shows how a gwaenggwari player, the lead soi in particular is also sometime singing or chanting, the man singing here is 양진성 Yang Jinseong, who runs the 임실필봉농악Imshil Pilbong Nongak preservation association and is the lead soi player for the group.

The show was much more than I had expected, although I do have some confidence in KOUS arranging good shows. First of all it was amazing to see that not only was the lead soi player a woman but most of the group was made up of female performers. The only men were two 소고/상모 sogo/sangmo guys, the 태평소 taepyeongso player (who is actually employed at the same place that Yang Eunseok is working so he’s not the usual taepyeongso player for the group) and a man who came out and did a special sogo/sangmo solo (who I think was just there to show some visual variety, not a member of the same group). Although the lead soi player was great, the costumes were bright and fun (not being an ‘official’ protected group allows you to do things like wear feathers in your hair instead of big puffball flower hats), and everyone was really on top of their game it was one sixty-something year old lead sogo/sangmo woman that impressed me the most. She was so much fun! First of all, her sangmo and sogo were amazing. Even though she did not leap that high, she was fast and nimble, she accented motions so expertly and was so amazing that she was immediately the favorite of many in the crowd. She was also a total ham, dancing as though she was retarded at times (this is traditional in Korea, I don’t know what will happen if PC thought ever hits here- it’ll really screw with some traditional arts), demanding more applause before she went on and in general dancing at an energy level you’d not expect in a woman her age.

The lead soi and the second janggu player sang at one point, at another the MC pulled a famous singer out of the crowd and she and the lead soi player sang while everyone else was off stage. There was a solo by the sangmo/sogo lead and the first and second janggu player danced 설장구 seoljanggu together. The one strange thing was that there were no 북 buk players in the group! A guest sangmo/sogo man came out, he looked magnificent—the black and white makes it look like he was wearing black, silver and white—he was. It was really cool looking. He had to have had his sangmo custom made in that color scheme. The entire performance was really fun and I wish I could have gone out with Eunseok and the others for some makgeolli but Karjam is against women drinking… so I came home instead.

The Lead Soi:

Janggu Ladies:

One of the only two guys in the group:

Really amazing sangmo/sogo woman:

These flips are hard if you're twenty:

Clowning around:

Cool Sangmo/Sogo Soloist Man:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sangmo and Holiday Packages

December 21st, 2010

I barely slept with the pain in my ear, and went to Severance again. I sort of went off on my doctor who yelled at me in turn for using the internet for self-diagnosis (Gyeongjin called the hospital and they told her new info so then I googled it). He vacuumed out my ear again. He also told me I should be admitted to the hospital for 2-3 days but I balked, so he made me go to the injection room and get a shot in the rump before leaving. I have to do the same tomorrow.

We got our holiday package from my aunt Barbara, very nice, and from dad and his wife, Irene. It was great! Irene even made a lantern for Karjam that says Om Mani Padme Hum in Tibetan! So cool! And I got my favorite Arbordoun Farm lotion and this scarf that’s just perfect to go with most of my clothes, among other things.

I had 상모 class, with 변태원 Byeon Taewon teaching us tonight. It was still just 현석 Hyeonseok and me in the class, a little lonely and boring. I worked on 일사 ilsa and have just started to somewhat reliably “catch” the motion to do 나비사 nabisa. I should really practice outside of class.

For the solstice we went up into the dark park on Namsan and sang and chanted and said some prayers. It was sweet but my ear hurt.

On Interviewing People...

December 20th, 2010
Karjam and I had lunch at 경진 Gyeongjin’s house. She made a great kimchi stew, a stir-fried meat dish for her and Karjam and a mushroom and bokchoy dish as well, plus rice and various side dishes like her mom’s homemade kimchi.

I rushed from her house to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum because I was interviewing the office manager before he went home for the night.

Interviewing people can be tough, it’s a real art and I’m not the master of the art form, for sure. It’s like this sensitive dance where you need to respond to them in just the right way, let them speak when it’s good stuff, manage to steer them back to your subject when it’s not, skip to the logical next question based on what they’ve just said instead of following a strict order, redirect, dig for a restatement if it’s unclear, etc. Of course personalities are important. Making the other person feel comfortable, joking around in a way that they’ll appreciate or being business-like if that is the best approach for them, it’s all got be hit perfectly to get the maximum benefit from the interview. It’s harder when it’s in a foreign language, of course, and I haven’t done many interviews lately because my ear infection is compromising my hearing which makes me hesitant to interview people for fear I can’t execute the dance I’ve described above. I ended up doing two interviews, one with the office manager, who I don’t know well and is a bit uncomfortable with me, and one with 김은주 Kim Eunju, my teacher on and off since early 2005. The two interviews were totally different, although the information I was looking for was essentially the same.

Interviewing people is much easier if they know you well enough to trust you and are comfortable with you. The office manager neither knows me well nor seems very comfortable, he seemed hesitant to go to the second room with me, so I had to interview him in a room with three other people all doing various things. But if other people are listening in, or if they might be, the answers you get are impacted by who those people are and what answer the interviewee feels both you –and- the people who can overhear will think. He was a bit nervous (also, undoubtedly he is rarely asked his own opinion as he’s the office manager, the person tasked with actualizing the opinions of others) and wanted to rush through the questions and the answers, making it hard for me to redirect.

It sounds like an unsatisfying interview, but it wasn’t. I got some key information from him to sort of establish a base line as I start to interview Bongsan Talchum performers. A very important thing to do with the people who come later in a series of interviews is to try to confirm or get a different take on the same information, so even though the interview was short and stiff, it allows me to have something to build off with the other interviews. I will come back to him in the future if I have a different set of questions, but he’s only been around since April and could be gone in six months or two years, so he’s not a key interviewee. He is, however, the only office manager, and as such it’s useful to hear things from his perspective.

My key interviewees with Bongsan Talchum are “teachers” (2nd ranked) 장용일 Jang Yongil, and 박상운 Bak Sang’un, “performers” (3rd ranked isuja) 정윤식 Jang Yunshik and 김은주 Kim Eunju and National Human Treasure (1st ranked, of course) 김애선 Kim Aeseon. Directly after the interview with the office manager Kim Eunju was hanging around so I interviewed her. The interview was 4xs the length of the office manager interview, and much more productive. First of all, although she’s naturally not the most opinionated person on the planet, Kim Eunju and I have a very good relationship. She’s known me so long that she has no problem understanding me, my research, my motivations and so on, in other words, she trusts me. I don’t have to dance around so actively with her. We had a very promising talk covering the direct subject at hand (presentation to the audience through announcing, pamphlets, posters, etc) and several other things that I was interested in getting her take on, now that I’d already got the recorder out and pressed play.

Class was fine, not particularly eventful, but felt busy since we have the two new people so there is always something going on (Kim Eunju will teach them for five minutes then lead us for eight minutes or so, so the room is never quiet and still). Then we ended fifteen minutes early so we could discuss our performance plans, which may be hard for me to participate in since I’ve got to be out of town.

Karjam is awesome. He helped me wash and condition my hair without getting water in my ear (which is kind of hard to do). It was really sweet. Like award-winning sweet.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Cold Weekend

December 18th, 2010
Karjam and I went to the traditional market, where we ate the most amazing 빈대떡 a sort of bean savory pancake, and I bought a couple presents. It was really cold, but it was fun, too. And I managed to convince Karjam we needed to buy a little electric heater because right now electricity is a lot cheaper than gas and our heat bill with the house still pretty darn cold was already really high for November.

Photos: Hanbok Accessories

Grinding the beans for the Bindaeddeok, frying up nummy goodness.

Other snack/meal food for sale. Karjam had this meat selection (you can see the impatient chopsticks wishing I'd get done taking the photo).

The market is a great place to buy your dried fish, pickled crab, or traditional clothing like 한복 hanbok

December 19th, 2010
My ear, last night and today, has gone back to almost the most painful it’s been during this entire blooming infection. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR EARS. Avoid ear infections. Seriously.

Other than being miserable, Karjam and I went out shopping mostly because I needed a hat with ear flaps to keep my ear really warm (I’m even wearing it inside and intend to keep doing so). We also found some other cool presents.

Cell photos of me today with my new hat (in Loving Hut vegan fast-food chain) and Karjam last week sometime.