Monday, March 14, 2011

Dissertation Ideas Coming Together

March 14th, 2011
I worked on translation most of the day, then went to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class at the 중요무형문화재전수회관 Training Center for Intangible Korean Cultural Assets. Today was actually a sort of pivotal day for me at this class. For months, as you know but I rarely explain, I have been figuring out how to write about the things I do in my dissertation. I can't say everything, so I have to pick relative and important aspects to develop, right?

I've been leaning towards a certain focus with my chapter that will be primarily about Bongsan Talchum, and tonight two conversations that I had really brought it together for me. First of all, I have been thinking of this as a chapter on Bongsan Talchum, and as such I've thought that the primary people in this chapter were 김은주 Kim Eunju (my usual teacher), 장용일 Jang Yongil (who sometimes teaches and I like him and he's a senior member of the group who I have interviewed multiple times) and other group members. But now I understand that the real point in this chapter is about the people who are coming to learn and the fact that they are almost entirely made up of people who are already invested in either performing or traditional arts on a full-time basis, and they regard Bongsan Talchum class as a new skill to pick up and utilize somehow in the process of personal advancement (much like an office worker might try to polish his English fluency or get certified in a new computer program).

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of the Bongsan Talchum students, 박연식 Bak Yeonshik, turned out to be the leader of a 풍물 pungmul group that performed at the 대보름 daeboreum celebration in 송파 Songpa. Tonight I pushed him on what else he does, because he said he was teaching class during the day. He is employed with government funds (have to find out who his actual employer is) to go to five different schools where he teaches 민요 minyo (songs), 단소 vertical flute, 장구 janggu (drum), 국악 이론 traditional music theory and 정채성 Korean thought/philosophy. He rotates through 5 different schools the five days of the week. On Monday he teaches 3 classes, with a total of 25 students at a small school in a rural area, on Tuesday he has 180 students in 6 classes, on Wednesday 15 in an even smaller school, in fact he has 3 classes and one class has only 3 students, the entire fifth and sixth grade. Thursday he has 90 students, also in 3 classes and on Friday he has 120 students in four classes. He said that approximately 8% of Korean schools have someone like him to supplement their Korean music education (since the regular teachers are incapable) but that it was a higher amount before 이명박 Yi Myeongbak became president.

There was a student I hadn't met before tonight, he'd come on Thursday at least a couple times according to 하연 Hayeon. His name was 김용철 Kim Yongcheol. I stepped into a conversation during the evening that showed me (because he was also moving in demonstration) that he had significant dance training but then we had to get back to our class, so I quizzed him after class ended. He was born in 1965, he has his BA from Keimyung University in dance, then his MA and Ph.D. are from Sejong University also in Dance. The Sejong programs were theoretical programs but his focus was on choreography. He's performed around the world primarily in 창작 new creations for Korean dance (his aren't enormously traditional as he incorporates b-boy or modern dance moves with traditional moves). For four years he worked with the Seoul City Dance Company, but now he's teaching—he teaches at 한예종 KNUA, Sejong University and Jungang University as an adjunct professor of dance. He is particularly interested in Bongsan to learn new moves that he can work with in creating new works and keeping in shape because he has to keep up with his students.

Making ends meet in traditional arts. It'll be a lively section of my dissertation.

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