Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Drumming Begins

January 10th, 2010
I woke up at 7:27 and used my private bathroom before going to breakfast with the whole group. I think either someone in the kitchen has lost her sense of taste or we're getting untasted food after someone got way too liberal with the salt. Many people couldn't eat one of the breakfast dishes and one of the lunch dishes due to the pure saltiness. Each meal is much the same. Lunch was white rice, a green vegetable that had been dried and rehydrated- I have no idea what it is in English and doubt it has an English name (this was the super salty dish), jerked fish strips cooked in a spicy with corn syrup sauce, a light bean paste soup made with the same vegetable, a stewed egg dish (I didn't try that) and kimchi. That's about what each meal is. Rice, Kimchi, a soup and two or three side dishes. It gets old.

The morning class let me start to get to know 임수희 Im Suhee, our teacher for the week. All the students, since we're not much over 20 people, have been combined together into one class. Soheui talked a lot, much more than I expected, it almost felt like a lecture instead of a participatory class, but I know it won't be like that the whole time. She's very petite, and I've seen her perform 소고춤 sogo chum before, she's very talented. The room was so hot—our apartment in Seoul has rarely gotten over 14 degrees this winter, because the four outside walls, all with windows has been much too hard to heat (without spending a fortune), but the room was 22, causing me to be drowsy as Suhee talked on and on. Talking was, of course, punctuated by drumming. It was actually surprising, but I think I'm a better drummer now than in summer 2009 when I took the drumming class, and honestly I haven't practiced. Is that weird? She would talk, have us practice what she was talking about, talk some more, ask just the 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari players to play, or just those three people, or that one, and then she'd have us all try again.

Among things she taught us, or reminded us: She wants 장구 janggu players to keep our left elbow way up near shoulder height, except when we're moving from the shoulder (not from the elbow or the wrist) to hit the drum. She wants the ggwaenggwari players to stop moving the ggwaenggwari around, but just to keep it held just below the neck (in height) and out in front of the chest. She switched back and forth from the two instruments are she directed and led and gave examples. At one point she dissed the senior students who pass on their mistakes to junior students, this was directed at Kyunghee students who are here without any of their senior members (Suhee took that as arrogance that the senior members don't think they have anything to learn from the pros). She told a long story about her nephew, too. It wasn't all drumming lecture. Today we have 13 janggu players and 10 ggwaenggwari players but more people will slowly appear during the week. After lunch it was more of the same; a lot of talking, then demonstrations of a pattern, then testing us on it, then all practicing together. At 5:00 we went to the seminar room at the museum and watched a video of an old performance, I slept through a lot of it, others slept through all of it.

At six we went to dinner, the featured food was fried pork "cutlets." I was excited to see though that there was also lightly steamed broccoli. During the dinner break I also managed to bring my computer to the office so I could post my blog, send out my writing for the day to my dissertation group and let everyone know I'm recovering from my surgery.

Our evening practice is without a teacher, just us, and since we're just over twenty people, it's sort of like the same size as a slightly small pungmul group. It was awesome. I brought my 상모 sangmo and 소고 sogo with me, and during the evening two hour period I will concentrate on sangmo. As the dominant personality, 은정Eunjeong took over the practice. No one needed to be in charge of practice, the standard would be for each person to work on what they need to work on (a source of great cacophony) and for after a time each school to set up a mini-practice. But Eunjeong made it all into one big group practice. Naturally Eunjeong is also a 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari player, so she led for most of the time, but also (the people she chose, when she chose) also had a chance to lead the whole group. It was in many ways like a performance, with the ggwaenggwari player choosing players of other instruments to do solos or for janggu players to come out and do the synchronized performance of 설장구 seoljanggu, a highly choreographed piece. All of the players, I should clarify, were standing up, holding their instruments or with them strapped to their bodies. 잎새 Ipsae took a turn on the sogo for a solo and 영록 Yeongnok did a solo on the 징 jing. It was tons of fun. When we took a short break I talked to SBS. They want me to do some TV show. I'm really stupid if I agree, I'm still waiting to see what they'll propose I do.

Our 뒤풀이duipuli for the evening included the most awesome food ever at a duipuli. Yeongnok's mom is a cook and Eunjeong conceived of this dish so they brought everything for it, including the all important sauce that Yeongnok's mom made. The dish was a salad with cooked 라면 ramyeon (instant noodles) with the water all drained off, snails (from several cans of snails) cut down a bit to a more reasonable size and raw carrots, onions and cucumber. The sauce was a vinegared red pepper paste sauce with sesame seeds in it. It was so awesome. Also since I helped chop the veggies (Eunjeong said- "Now that's how a housewife can chop!"), I got extra slices of carrot. And I really was feeling the intense desire for some fresh veggies. I talked about my research and their current studies with three of the four guys from Kyunghee University. They are in English, Sociology and Business. Since the whole conversation featured Pilbong Nongak and 양진성 Yang Jinseong (the head of Imshil Pilbong Nongak) it was a conversation that we all had something to say about, not just me. The one in English is very shy about his ability ("I'm only a second year student" "Yes, but you've studied English since you were a kid.") So, like Wonno, he's an English major who does not (so far as I can see) speak English.


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