Monday, February 14, 2011

From Sangmo to Songpa Dari Balpgi

February 11th, 2011
In the morning I practiced 상모 sangmo with the class until at 11:20 when everyone went outside and bowed goodbye to me. 이재정 Yi Jaejeong ran me to the bus station. Unfortunately just as I was leaving I realized that my hat (a green fleece hat my mom made) was misplaced. I couldn't find it again in my few minutes before leaving even though I checked the most obvious places. Frustrating!

In 전주 Jeonju I had lunch at a vegetarian buffet with my awesome friend 월덕 Woldeok who has gotten engaged (and chosen a wedding date) since I saw her a month ago.

I reached Seoul rather later than I wanted to and scrambled to go meet a friend who was on her way from one country to another and only in Seoul for about 15 hours as a layover. She spent the night. I'd say who except she doesn't want other friends in Korea to feel dissed because she only saw me. It was really awesome to see her, but I'm afraid she was so jet-lagged I did most of the talking.

February 12th, 2011
I had to wake up at 5:30 to prepare a very light breakfast and walk my friend to the airport shuttle, and surprisingly I stayed awake afterwards and got some work done. At 1:30 I arrived at 서울 놀이 마당 Seoul Noli Madang, the home of 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli for rehearsal of 송파다리밟기 Songpa Dari Balpgi (Songpa Bridge Crossing).

Songpa Dari Balpgi is registered for protection by the City of Seoul (Songpa Sandae Noli is registered by the nation). Dari Balpgi is a perfect example of a reenactment. The life of the ceremony is gone, it's just motions that people (we) are going through because it has some historical significance and has been chosen (somewhat arbitrarily) to be labeled "important heritage" that should be protected. It is taxidermized culture. On the other hand, if you openly admit something is a reenactment, and don't pretend that people in the modern world actually do march around Seoul guarding and escorting local governmental figures as they survey the region on important days of the year, there isn't any harm in it, right? Ceremonies, like Songpa Dari Balpgi, tend to be quite openly reenactments and acknowledged by participants and observers as non-living culture. There are some other reenactments that are not clearly taxidermized; chief among these is National Intangible Cultural Asset # 1, 종묘제례(악) Jongmyo Jerye(ak). This is a ceremony for honoring the ancestors of the Yi (former ruling family) line and the associated music (ak). The participants include professional musicians and college students BUT they also include a large number of Yi descendants holding tablets with ancestral names. To those people it's a pretty big deal to be part of the ceremony, and they (maybe not all of them) do feel a real connection to their ancestors. So –that- ceremonial reenactment is in much more of a grey area.

As I explained last summer when I performed in Songpa Dari Balpgi, most of the performers are members of Songpa Sandae Noli with a group of about 8 singers (who manipulate 소고 sogo) who sing 선소리 Seonsori (standing songs) during a key part of the reenactment. These singers and about a half dozen other people are not Songpa Sandae Noli members, but the rest are. And on Saturday we prepared for the big 대보름 Daeboreum (first full moon of the lunar new year) event first by filling small bags with roasted in the shell peanuts while others made bundles of cloth for torches, then by rehearsing Dari Balpgi. We had to rehearse outside, of course, and it was -10 celsius which made it so we really rushed through practice.

Cell photos of An Byeong'in directing us and a bunch of us milling around the 마당 madang practicing.

Afterwards 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk, my friend and the office manager, asked if I knew one more person we could get to perform with us (someone had bailed out). I agreed to contact some people and she clarified that she wanted as many young men as possible to show up on Sunday morning at 10:30 to rehearse Songpa Sandae Noli. I contacted friends from KNUA and by the end of the day had a good response.

The rest of the day I just worked on some computer stuff and went to bed super early.

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