Saturday, April 30, 2011

Yi Saenggang is the Best Daegeum Player in Korea

 April 28th, 2011
So for mom's last day in Korea we stopped by the Seoul History Museum, which has an excellent exhibition right now of photos from a Czeck visitor to Korea who was here in 1901. That's all we had time to look at, although I was itching to show them the big diorama of Seoul. We had lunch, went home, took mom to the airport. It was sad to say good-bye, we had a great visit. I was only –much too snippy to be acceptable—once. That's like a record for me (not saying I wasn't mildly bitchy on other occasions but I only had to apologize once).

I went straight from the airport to the 중요무형문화재전수회관's 풍류극장 (the Pungryu Theatre at the Intangible Cultural Properties Training Center bldg) for the third installment in the series we also went to on Tuesday. This show I wanted to see because 이생강 Yi Saenggang, National Human Treasure for Daegeum Sanjo was playing. I love him! The other two featured performers were 정명숙 Jeong Myeongsuk who I've seen at KOUS and other locations quite a few times, she's a jeonsu gyoyuk jogyo for 살풀이 salpuli and 강정숙 Gang Jeongsuk, who I may never have seen before. She is a 가야금산조 병창 gayageum byeonchang National Human Treasure like Ahn Sukseon. The performance was very different from the performance on Tuesday. First of all it seemed that all three members were resistant to the talking that Ms. Oh wanted to see going on between numbers. However the show was almost fifty minutes longer- Gang played sanjo (in other words she only played and didn't sing) for a good twelve minutes or more, then also sang (pansori) quite a few numbers and Yi played four different types of flute (several numbers on most of them). It was really awesome. At the end Ms. Oh finally got Jeong to dance again (she protested "I thought I was only here to dance salpuri" but she did ipchum) and Yi accompanied her on the daegeum while two other musicians also played. Ms. Oh tried to get Gang to play or sing during this number and Gang refused to do either. I liked the show much more, and I also felt like I'd gotten my money's worth. The whole evening there were some very loud 추임새 chu'imsae people, including the guy one over from directly behind me. A lot of talk back in general. At the very end one of them insisted Ms. Oh sing. She sang about 40 seconds, but it was quite good. 

K-Pop Releases in late April

Rainbow is a group I've sincerely found little redeeming qualities in from their first release. The latest is "To Me" a song that has the advantage of a good strong dance beat. Unfortunately it still has the annoying girls of the group using English really awkwardly (seems to be a trademark) and generally just being a plastic cut-out concept of a money-making ensemble, instead of actual artists. (Yes, I'm being a bit harsh but even the dance to the best part of the song (the chorus) is just completely unimaginative).

A-Team released a new song "Run It."   The group must be new, can't remember hearing of them before. They're a group of apparently 7 rappers, they seem to have some serious talent (one is even a woman!) and a social conscience. In other words they probably won't be doing that well. Too bad. Give it a listen. The video is not worth much though, it's too artsy for focus, apparently.

제 블로그를 방문해 주셔서 고맙습니다. 저는 이 블로그에 일주일에 4번 정도 한국 전통 공연 문화에 대해 쓰고 있습니다. 처음에는  K-pop에 관심이 있으셔서  방문하셨겠지만 나가시기 전에 한국 전통 문화에 관한 것도 한번 봐 주시면 좋겠습니다.

NS Yunji has released a video in clay animation called "Talk Talk Talk."  The photo should let you know what the music sounds like. If you like that kind of thing, go for it.

San E, who had a first mini-album that I was completely impressed by (I thought he was super smart and funny and very good at rap), has released a crap-ass follow up. The song, 가면 안돼 (I Cannot Let You Go) , is a total freaking ballad with easy slow non-challenging rap about love (and loss). The reason that San E was impressive the first time was because he got away from that stereotypical trap of following what sells in Korean music, and here he is, smack dab in the middle of it.

After School has two new releases off their new CD "Virgin" (which has them in –red shoes- apparently Koreans don't know that that is a traditional sign of being a prostitute). Let's Step Up  is a tap piece. I don't quite get it, as in the clip that's online (which is a minute and a half long, much too long to be a teaser) the song definitely takes second seat to the tapping, which is pretty bad (except for one member).  The other song is called "Shampoo," no I don't think it sounds like a song name, either. Unless it's for an advert, of course. They've recently expanded their group, adding a member, and this video has a theme of a new girl coming in and getting hazed a bit and then working really hard to do well. But what irritated me about it (and I don't know if the video has anything to do with their recent auditions etc) is that there is this air of the male teacher/trainer/manager person has to legitimize the girl. It's in his eyes that she is working hard and eventually able to succeed.

2PM has released a Japanese track, "Waiting for the Take-off," so far only a non-HD track is online, sorry. At any rate, I think it sounds like bubblegum pop and I expect heavy-hitting mature dance tracks from 2PM, so I'm disappointed.

Former 2PM front man Jay Park has released a mini album including "Abandoned"  This Seattlite is a lightning rod in Korea, and I'm impressed he held off this long to release the mini album, which apparently are almost all songs he wrote (the way many a CD should be and the way K-Pop almost never is). He has an amazing voice and he's one of Korean pop's best dancers… he should go far, far, far if politics of the split from 2PM aren't dogging him too badly. It sounds good, not really my style but great.

Girls Generation (SNSD) has released the full version of "Mr. Taxi."  This track is also in Japanese, but it sounds more natural than 2PM singing in Japanese. I'm not sure why they'd call the song Mr. Taxi and then dress the girls up in taxi driver uniforms (if taxi drivers wore hot pants/skorts). It's a really fun dance track, I hope they release it in Korean.   

Dongdaemun Market and KOUS

April 27th, 2011
Karjam and I took mom to 동대문시장 Dongdaemun Market, Karjam bought her a modernized 한복 hanbok vest, it's really cool. We walked back along the 청계천 Cheonggyecheon, the awesome streamside park in central Seoul. Then in the evening I took mom to another performance, again dance at KOUS. It was so much less interesting than the previous week, but armed with her knitting (she hardly needs to ever look at it) mom stayed wide awake. I was struck by 진옥섭 Jin Okseop adopting a slightly more serious attitude, there were less jokes and more straightforward introductions to the pieces. Maybe he was just in a bad mood, I don't know.

The first piece, by 김진수 was really odd. First of all he was introduced as doing 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum but when I had first seen the poster for the series I was with 김은주 (Bongsan Talchum isuja) who looked at the poster photo (looking pretty much like Bongsan Talchum) and stated "I have no idea who this guy is." Neither the costume nor the mask looked quite 'right' to me and the motions were pretty different. Afterwards I ran into 고석진 in the hallway and I asked who he had come to see (김진수 and 최종실) so I asked him where 김진수 had learned Bongsan Talchum. He leaned in close to me and said "you know there are two types, the official and the unofficial." I would have asked more questions but right then another friend of his tapped him on the other shoulder, and mom was waiting.

Several were entirely forgettable but then 이민아 performed 승무 seungmu and I felt that she was powerful and expressive. The best two acts, though, were the last performed an exquisite 입춤 ipchum, she was very saucy, as though she was making love to the audience. And 최종실 Choi Jongshil, professor of percussion at 중앙대 Jungang University, was awesome. I intend to interview him before long, it just hasn't happened yet. He performed 소고춤 sogochum which is a lot more exciting than it sounds when you see someone do it really well! He would crouch and hit the sogo and the stick on the floor, as well as hit the sogo with the stick, it was very dynamic. All sorts of awesome turns and twists and perfectly timed hits on the sogo. I had met about 9 of his students on the subway, all freshmen. Their department takes 15 a year, and only one was not doing traditional percussion (she was doing Western drum set style). Two of those on the subway were doing 상모/소고 sangmo/sogo as their specialty.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bongsan Talchum Class, Changdeok Palace and Pansori!

April 25th, 2011
I wanted to get some actual work done so before meeting 지수 Jisoo for lunch mom and I went to Starbucks so I could put my headphones on and just concentrate on my writing. Lunch was quite delicious. In the afternoon we did a little shopping for mom. Had dinner, left for class.

This isn't my photography, but it's good photography, has the credit for the photographer and  it shows a great norigae
Tonight I had 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum and we arrived early enough to show mom the building a little bit, including the newly renovated shops on the first floor where the products made by the people in the system for the craft arts. There was a 10,000 dollar horsehair hat and other arts priced similarly. But they're all so beautiful, if I could afford a 1,500 dollar dangly 노리개 accessory for my hanbok I'd buy it! Class was a little odd because the performance (which so many class members are participating in) is Friday, and everyone was exhausted from rehearsals as well as their other duties. Almost everyone was late and no one had any energy for rehearsal. I did have a great talk with 김은주 Kim Eunju and박연식 Bak Yeonshik. I will be going with Yeonshik to observe him teaching classes (in public schools, teaching traditional performance skills and theory) on the 11th. I'm looking forward to that.

The biggest thing that I noticed and stuck in my head as necessary to write here is the common practice of having the performers sell tickets to the shows they perform in. Of course this doesn't extend to many traditional performances, which are often free. However when it's a show that is being mounted by a group of performers, then they are all tasked to sell tickets—each person is given a stack and told to get their family and friends to come. I'm not saying this is unusual, but it does contribute to a situation where most performances happen in front of an audience that knows other audience members and at least one of the performers, and that happens for the traditional performances as well. It is so common that when I'm going to a show at KOUS if I want to talk to the people next to me a logical question is "Who did you come to see?"

April 26th, 2011
We took mom to 창덕궁 Changdeokgung (Palace) and the Secret Garden (후원 or 비원 the former meaning more like back garden, the latter meaning secret garden). It was drizzling a bit, just like when we went to 경복궁 Gyeongbok Palace. Mmmmm…  Then we met my good friend 회정 Hoijung for lunch.

In the evening mom and I went to meet 경진 Gyeongjin (the last of my close Korean friends for mom to meet), Jan and Joji at 선릉역 Seollung Station and went to dinner together. After dinner we attended the performance of 안숙선 Ahn Sukseon (best best best singer in Korea and National Human Treasure for 가야금사조 병창 gayageum byeongchang), 정재만 (probably my favorite traditional dancer and National Human Treasure for 승무 seungmu) and 정철호 (a well known 판소리 pansori National Human Treasure). The presentation was sort of unusual. For one thing there was an MC, 오정해 Oh Jeonghae—she's a singer and a media "personality"—who was very active in the presentation. They had set up a raised seating platform with a table for tea and the performers sat there, behind whoever was presenting their stuff at that time, although with Ms. Oh. There was also a fair amount of conversation between each piece. I recorded it all, and might transcribe it, but basically they were trying to make people more comfortable with traditional culture, especially what they were seeing, and getting them some more education about it. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bongsan Talchum Performance (in the cold) and Wolduk's Wedding

April 23rd, 2011
We were supposed to take KTX back to Seoul, but since 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli practice was cancelled, we switched to the much cheaper bus. In the evening all three of us went to 남산한옥골 Namsan Hanokgol which is a completely unpopulated 한옥 hanok (traditional Korean building) village in Seoul accessible from 충무로 Chungmuro Subway Station. We were there for a performance of 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum but we were early enough that we could walk around a bit in the last rays of the setting sun on the picturesque buildings.

Quite a few of the evening class students showed up, or specifically 하연, 정현, and 신마. I sat in the front row with mom and took photos on my long zoom (most of the time) and Karjam stood u p above the entire seating area and took video looking down on us. Most of the audience evaporated during the show because it was beastly cold. The performance however was totally awesome, I am so glad that mom got a chance to see that particular show because they really were just blazing.

First they performed 사상좌춤 sasangjwachum, the dance of the four Buddhist novices. Next was the dance of the eight dark-faced monks, they performed monk 1 which I never get to see (except the other day when I went to see 최창주 Choi Changju's class). Then 2, 3, 4, and 8. Of course at the end all 8 danced together. Next they did the story of 소무 Somu and 노장 Nojang, the old monk. What was special is that they really did the whole thing, starting with carrying Somu onto the stage in the litter. The shoe seller and monkey came on and did their bit and last 취발이 Chuibali came and chased of Nojang so he could take Somu for himself. Finally (of course) they did 사장춤 sajachum, the lion dance. I truly think that the two who did the lion were probably the only comfortable people there (temperature wise).
After the show when I was bowing to everyone 장용일 Jang Yongil told me that they don't care if there is just one person in the audience, they're going to give it their all, but he also thanked us for staying in the freezing temperatures.

Mom and I went to Lazy Sue's and had tea and shared a dessert before heading home.

April 24th, 2011
Sunday was a really busy day. First we got dressed up and went to 김월덕 Kim Woldeok's wedding to 이주원 Yi Juwon. I had an immediately great impression of him, and I think that Woldeok must have been embarrassed to say that he was handsome, because she had said he wasn't yet he looked quite dashing. We took photos with the bride and then sat down to wait for the wedding, Karjam over on one side near the microphones he'd use to sing a congratulatory song, the two of us on the groom's side (better seats were available for filming Karjam and the wedding). It was a large hotel wedding where you sit at your lunch table to watch the wedding. After the ceremony (Karjam's song went off very well) we had lunch, took the group photos and all that. We also peaked in on the 폐백 pyaebaek traditional ceremony for a few minutes with Bonnie and Curtis.

Mom and Karjam went home, I headed to the 임실필봉농악 서울전수관 Imshil Pilbong Nongak Seoul Training Center where I was about 1.5 hours late to a rehearsal with 개전연 Gaejeonyeon (my 풍물 pungmul club) for our performance next weekend from 1-4. The room was packed with 19 participants all dancing and/ or playing instruments. It seems that there are three of us doing 잡색 japsaek (dancing in costume and playing the part of a specific character). I will be 화동 Hwadong , a male character who wears red robes and a red hat with pheasant feathers. I could have asked to do 소고 sogo but someone has to do japsaek and I enjoy it. It's certainly livelier than the other parts, although not a way to show off skills! In the future when my상모  sangmo is just a little better I hope to do sangmo, of course. Of course 은정/도령 Eunjeong was leading the rehearsal. She'll obviously be the 상쇠 sangsoi (꽹과리 ggwaenggwari lead player) for the performance as well.

I rushed home and then mom and I went to check out 인사동 Insadong although it was getting late and shops were rapidly closing. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jeonju and Daegu

April 21st, 2011
Mom and I woke up early and went to 광화문 Gwanghwamun area to catch a special free tourist bus to 전주 Jeonju. These buses, which go to 경 Gyeongju and 부산 Busan as well, are widely advertised as a great way to get foreigners a chance to see things outside of Seoul. A lot of foreign residents in Korea pan them because you can't ride the bus in the opposite direction if you wanted to go to Seoul for a day or a few. However I think it's a pretty good idea to get people around the country if they're just visiting Korea for a short trip. There are several ways in which the system is not so good, though. First of all it's not done on a first come, first served basis. It's done on a lottery system. I entered our names a couple weeks ago and got a confirmation email. Then I waited. I didn't see any other email, so on the 20th I got on the internet and went to the site where I entered our passport numbers and it said "reservation confirmed" and it also showed that there were (unless I was totally misunderstanding) still tickets available on the bus. But when we checked in at the site they said that we had not 'won' tickets (although every other name of every other person and the person(s) accompanying them on the list had 'won' tickets). I protested that we'd seen a confirmation email but never seen any other follow up email such as a 'sorry, you didn't win, try again' email. The young lady was apologetic and explained that she often gets people with the same complaint but there is nothing she can do; her job is just to check people in not to send emails related to the program. Fortunately some people who had 'won' seats didn't show up, so mom and I were able to get on the bus after all but it was a bit stressful and I had lots to say about how bad it made Korea look to foreign tourists if they experience something as confusing as that.

In Jeonju (and this is basically why I even decided to go) the bus took us to the 한옥 hanok village; an area of Jeonju where traditional style one story buildings made of wood with tile roofs are still common. We walked around the streets, and checked out the scenery, a couple 한지 hanji (paper) making workshop/factories and their associated gift shops, a calligraphy museum, some other craft halls and had a marvelous lunch. Overall I found the area too developed for tourism—it was a bit gross how much of it was predicated on rapidly relieving the visitors of their money. Most of the tourists, of course, were domestic, including several school groups, but I started feeling really claustrophobic and uncomfortable. The best part of the entire Jeonju experience (except for the lunch which was just the type of ordinary home-cooking I love) was our visit to the 경기전 Gyeonggijeon with a shrine for 태조 Taejo, the founder of the dynasty. The inside of Gyeonggijeon was just as run over with visitors but the area was far larger and the birds were chirping, the sun shining and the new leaves were practically unfurling as we watched.

We took a taxi to the Express Bus Terminal and took the 3:10 bus to 대구 Daegu, arriving  shortly before 6:00. We took another taxi to my 합기도 Hapkido studio and we spent the rest of the evening there until I felt that mom would turn into a pumpkin if I didn't take her to Georgy and Jinhong's and a bed. At Hapkido I led class (it was a day to focus on kicks) and had a pretty good time. It was fun that mom got see the 관장님instructor 15 years after she first met him.

April 22nd, 2011 Earth Day
I'm afraid I didn't do anything special for Earth Day. I guess I just have to say "every day is Earth Day!" In the morning I made pancakes for the four of us. Jinhong took mom to see some things and I worked on an application while Georgy made cupcakes (I had given her a cupcake cookbook because she loves cupcakes). After a lunch that Jinhong made I went to the post office to send my application (Jinhong drove me to a print shop and the post office, so sweet), and mom and Georgy went fabrics shopping at the traditional market.

I went back to 합기도 Hapkido and stayed there until 10:45. It was a test day so I mostly helped run the test, but I got some exercise in as well. When I got back to Georgy and Jinhong's only the latter was still awake.

Sangmo and a Performance at KOUS

April 19th, 2011
We took care of some odds and ends including getting mom's business cards printed. In the evening mom went with me to 상모 sangmo practice. It was an unusual class because 이종휘 Yi Jonghui was out of town for a performance, so it was just 현석 Hyeonseok and me. Except when I arrived 은정 (도령) Eunjeong and 승민 Seungmin were there, along with a guy I don't know and a woman whose named I've never learned, though I've seen her a lot. A little later 유미 Yumi showed up, too. It was really good to see them. The reason they were there was to practice for the 계전연 Gaejeonyeon spring performance that will be held on the 30th. Seungmin praised my improved sangmo, pointing out just how many people quit long before they get to the point I'm at.

Hyeonseok and I practiced more or less as we'd normally do with Jonghui there—moving through a logical series of motions, I didn’t do anything new, but I got a chance to practice until I was sweating.  

April 20th, 2011
Karjam and mom went to the National Museum, I stayed home and worked on my computer. After making a nice dinner we all went to KOUS to see a performance.

The performance, another in the current dance series, was particularly attractive because 이윤석 Yi Yunseok, National Human Treasure for Goseong Ogwangdae, was performing 덧배기춤. It was a day when I knew half the audience, the entire regular crew from 봉천놀이마당 Bongcheon Noli Madang (about 10 people), plus 10 of the K-Arts students, plus 김성범 Kim Seongbeom and 허창열 Heo Changyeol as well as (performing a special 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari part during Yi's performance), 고석진 Go Seokjin. I had permission to take photos during Yi's piece (as long as I didn't take too many).

The entire performance was really amazingly good, one of the best I've seen and our front row (literally front row) seats were great for seeing every detail. Unfortunately mom (who always has a hard time sitting still during concerts and such) was falling asleep almost the entire show. That sort of distracted me because I need to feel the energy of the performance but I kept being worried that mom was missing out (and I took her so she could appreciate it, not take a nap). It was a great show, although I got a little pissed when we had to hear the announcing schtick stupid un-funny jokes. The 태평무 taepyeongmu by 강삼숙 was awesome, one of the best I've seen. And 이철진's 승무 seungmu was the best I've ever seen except for 정재만 Jeong Jaeman (who we're seeing next week!). 황지인's 입춤 ipchum  was really good. The 소고춤 sogochum by 임은주 from 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum (she's an이수자 isuja) was exuberant, very fast-paced and fun but somehow I'd been expecting something more. 김선정's 살풀이 salpuri was disappointing, I've seen the dance too many times and it has to be done really well to wow me. There was no special flavor to it. Next was Yi Yunseok's performance, but he was exhausted from the performing trip to Malaysia and it showed. We all screamed really loudly but for someone who didn't know him and have a connection I wonder how it would have seen. I was really pissed when 진옥섭 Jin Okseop came out after his performance and said "I think he forgot the last half of the dance and just repeated the first half." You don't say that, even if it might be true! Next was 양길순's 도살풀이 do salpuri. Karjam and I saw her last year and thought she was great, this time I wasn't quite as impressed. Last was 문근성 who performed 설장구 seoljanggu (dancing with the janggu drum) very very very well. It was a great end to the show.

After the show I talked with Go Seokjin, Changyeol, Yi Yunseok, some of the Bongcheon Noli Madang people and the kids. Finally the performers left and we bowed their van away before dispersing. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gyeongbok Palace and the National Folk Museum

April 18th, 2011

The important thing was that we went to 경복궁 Gyeongbokgung. Because we had to take Karjam's computer to the service center I somehow convinced myself we could go to the palace at 1 instead of 12. That was silly, because we rushed a lot. At least it meant we spent less time outside in the on-off drizzling rain.

At 1:00 we took photos/video of the changing of the guards, which fortunately they decided to do despite the weather. I didn’t get anything earth-shattering as it was too wet to change my lens and I had the wrong one on the camera. Oh well. Next we cruised through most of Gyeongbok Palace, with a significant stop for me to take photos of Karjam that I hope will be good enough for the next CD. Yes, we're really hoping to record another CD soon, so keep your eyes peeled for it! He looked really handsome but he gets so self-conscious when I train the camera on him, it's so frustrating. Why can't someone as handsome as him be confident and flirtatious with the lens?  We went to the National Folk Museum which mom enjoyed but I know I didn't give her enough time there, which is stupid, because it's my favorite museum.

We had to leave after only 75 minutes because I had made us a reservation for the 4:00 opening of 경희루 Gyeongheenu. That is the giant open-walled building located in the pond at the palace. Since the beginning of April sometime for the first time in years they are opening it to guests, if you make reservations (the system ONLY works in Korean and you have to have a Korean gov't issued ID number so since I don't have one I had to call and make them work around the system). They have 3 times per day that you can go in, and each time they limit the number of guests. I was pretty confident that even if we were 20 minutes late it'd be okay, but it's good we were on time. It was only our group and another group of three that had reservations and as soon as we entered they locked the gate! The tour guide told us we had only 30 minutes and we had to follow her and listen to her for 20. She spoke in fast Korean on the geomantic positioning of the building, the philosophy behind the color choices on the roof, the mechanics of cooling the building on hot Korean summers, the activities that took place there and many other similar topics. Of course I couldn’t translate at her speed, esp. not into easy English for Karjam, not without losing track of what she was saying. Then she complained that I'd only come to take photos and wasn't listening! Uhhh… I can listen and take photos. So I explained that I certainly couldn’t translate into both English and Chinese in the tiny breaks between her sentences and that she was using advanced vocabulary that even if I understand it in Korean is hard for me to formulate into an English sentence while continuing to listen… and it turned out she could speak Chinese so she talked to Karjam during the free 10 minutes at the end when we were supposed to take photos. Unfortunately there was wire covering the upper story windows to keep birds from roosting and pooping everywhere. It was so awesome to be there, though. Wire or not I think I got some interesting shots. It was so cool, it felt very exclusive to be there with only 6 other people and the view across to the Blue House, across the palace, down on the pond, out towards 광화문 Gwanghwamun, etc. was awesome. Incidentally Gwanghwamun's sign board which infamously cracked right after the renovation was complete, is being repaired.
This is Gyeongheenu

Looking out from inside Gyeongheenu

The sad factor with the wire over the windows is that photos like this have obvious wire patterns...

Inside roof!

Mom and I took the bus and I ate Thai food with her at Buddha's Belly, then took the bus to class at KOUS, which Karjam went to pick up his computer (new fan, new DVD player something or other, less than 4 hours, about 100 USD at the HP service center—freaking LOVE Korea).

The final 진옥섭 Jin Okseop class was pretty good, the last thirty minutes anyway, but it ended earlier. Oh, I was given a CD for having perfect attendance. The CD is awesome, it's a collection of really old recordings curated by 배연형 Bae Yeonhyeong. It's amazing (listening as I type). Truly amazing to hear these voices off scratchy recordings from the 1920s and even before. I didn't take my computer to class as I would have had to carry it around all day, instead I just scribbled in my notebook. I got some fairly good quotes from him, but it's nearly impossible for me to hand-write and translate all but proper nouns and listen. That's why I really need to be typing my notes. Even with the extra key strokes to hit the toggle between Korean and English, I can still keep up with most of what he's saying. 

Culture Heritage Tour to Daecheon/Boryeong

April 16th, 2011
On Saturday I took mom with me to 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli. Everyone was really sweet to mom and the 피리 piri player with missing fingers, 주현 on 대금 daegeum and윤지희 Yun Jihee on 해금 haegeum were all there, plus of course 함완식 Ham Wanshik (Nat'l Human Treasure) on the 장구 janggu. So mom was able to hear a lot of awesome playing in addition to watching me dance. For dancers we had only 함승헌 and Ham Sr.'s friend. I really should learn his name. He was very sweet to mom and told her she was much more beautiful than I was and that she didn't look her age. Ham Jr. talked in English to mom, Ham Sr. was his usual friendly self. We did the basic motions, Act 3 (this time I was 먹중 which is the one of the three with a really long speech. I didn't do so badly!), then Act 4 (this time I was the old procuress who doesn't have any lines), then we did 말뚝이놀이 which is Act 10. I played 샌님 Saennim, the oldest of the yangban and the only one with speaking lines. I'd never paid attention to that character before. It was not half as much fun as being the youngest yangban, 도련님, who is a bit retarded and unruly.

After practice we walked a bit in the park there and then looked at the ice-skating rink in Lotte World before going back home.

April 17th, 2011
Policy Director of the Cultural Heritage Administration 엄승용Eom Seungyong invited me to go hiking with him and Prof. David Mason. It sounded like it would be fun—outside Seoul, spring weather, hiking, a temple, things I hadn't seen before… so I asked if it would be okay if mom tagged along and they said yes. A little later Seungyong clarified that we should pay our own ticket there (대천역 Daecheon Stn) but that after that the transpo and lunch would be provided. That sounded even nicer. I bought our tickets –to Daecheon- on Friday but not the tickets home as I had no idea when we'd be heading back to Seoul.

We woke up early and got to the station on time, then took the approximately 3 hour train ride down to Daecheon (this is the train station for 보령 Boryeong a town most known for its mud festival in the summertime. This festival is mostly marketed to foreigners, and I am adverse to it for that reason if not because nothing sounds good to me about wallowing in a bunch of mud with strangers who shouldn't be exposing as much (mud-covered) skin as they are). Actually my friend Eugene did a post about this—read it.  When we arrived the scene I had imagined (of Seungyong, David, some (perhaps English speaking) people interested in heritage and tourism) was abruptly shattered by the reality that Seungyong (undoubtedly incredibly busy) who is from Daecheon had combined our plan with a plan to get together the alumni of his high school. Many of these people were interested in heritage and promotion of Daecheon, Boryeong and the area, but not many of them worked in that area. There were several professors, a high school principal who was quite the cultural expert, local councilmen and other politicians, and more colorful characters amongst Seungyong's high school fellows, and there were also a few younger people (not sure how they got involved with the tour) and officials for Daecheon's culture and tourism department including an English-speaking tour guide (who like many, no let me change that, like most tour guides in Korea knew almost nothing but memorized (or cribbed on notepaper) facts without contextualization and with plentiful errors). She was one of those idiots wearing 3 inch fairly spikey heels on a cultural tour where we'd be clambering around in grass and woods and what not.

View of the Port of Boryeong
I was not in the most social mood and I find large groups of men in their mid-50s a bit much to deal with so I only really talked to five of the Koreans on the tour, they were all very nice. I was most impressed with the high school principal as he was legitimately excited about showing us these sites and had very deep knowledge. I also talked with Chris, a blogger David knows who had come on the tour. He seems interested in learning more about Korea, but hasn't gotten very deep into it yet. I should send him some suggestions for good books.  David who speaks no Korean despite a prodigious memory for Korean terms related to history and culture spent a lot of his time educating the tour guide (I would have done it if he hadn't, but he was much more prepared since he seemed to have brushed up on the local area and what we'd be going to see –and- as a professor of tourism (at Kyunghee University) he has a highly developed idea of how tour guides should be presenting things. Also some (though not all) of our sites for the day were related to his own areas of concentration, specifically religion). Sometimes I disagree with David's ideas, but I have to say I was immensely impressed with how he handled the social aspects of large-group-of-powerful-older-Korean-men. His manners were unfailingly correct and he handled things like an impromptu speech during lunch perfectly—thanking the vice-mayor (who'd joined us for the meal) and everyone else, remembering the names and hitting just the right tone. He really came across well, although he did give a short lecture in English that I thought should have gone deeper, because even though they do not know English well (many of them) they were pushed by the principal to really complex and detailed understandings when he was speaking and I think that David should have pushed their knowledge, not just their ability to understand English.

Really awesome informative principal

Gate to the Commandery

It's spring

Ink stone

As for the sites, well, I am not the type to feel comfortable being ushered on and off buses, into the pose for group photos, to the next stop and so on. Also I felt a little hesitant to ask questions in front of so many people for fear that I had misunderstood what I'd just heard or for fear that I'd garble my question. I did ask some questions one on one, though. The experience of going on a 문화유산답사 munhwa yusan dapsa (Cultural Heritage Educational Lecture/Tour) was interesting though in the context of a book chapter by Robert Oppenheim and as a reminder of another way that Koreans have tried to turn back and learn about their past/culture. Since I like to quietly explore things on my own, I don't normally get this perspective, but it's important to remember it as I write my dissertation.
We saw the site of the execution of several Catholic missionaries, including 5 French martyrs. We went to 충청수영성the commandery for the naval defense force in the region (part is being excavated but it's mostly ruins), and to 성주사지 the site of Seongjusa Temple, which is also now a ruin, but it's one of the original temples for the 9 mountain schools of Shilla Era Buddhism, so it was really awesome to go there—it was the biggest reason I wanted to go on the day trip, though I was also looking forward to hiking which never happened. We got to see a private and very unusual shrine to Sanshin (according to David who specifically wrote a book about Sanshin) and even stopped to see the training center for the provincial human treasure for ink-stone carving (used in calligraphy). We also had an elaborate lunch—almost all seafood including plentiful sashimi in Boryeong Port. The weather was lovely all day.
We didn't get seats for the train home. I managed to keep mom in seats almost the whole way (which was good since she really slept a lot) and Karjam sat between two cars, but I stood up all but perhaps 20 minutes. And my knees were already killing me.

We watched "Hanna" which was a little disappointing before going home. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mom Arrives in Korea and the K-Arts Students Have a Show

April 14th, 2011
We went to the airport on the new airport railroad and picked up mom. She'll be here for two weeks.

I ran off to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum soon after we arrived home. Class was sort of depressing. I made some silly mistakes when I intended to finally do this one part error free. I was just having an off night I guess but it really bummed me out.

April 15th, 2011
I woke up at 3:30 (two hours sleep) and got mom up (not hard because of the time difference). We went to 조계사 Jogye Temple for the morning prayers. I think our taxi driver there was drunk.

The prayers were good but because of mom's bad knees she can't do any of the prostrations, which is too bad. I did 108 before the service actually started, then during the main prayer suddenly my knee sort of popped and it started to be almost torture to do any additional prostrations. The service was particularly long with a series of prayers I haven't do much, but a nice 보살 bosal (volunteer in the temple) came and brought me a prayer book that included those prayers and I really enjoyed chanting, I understood a lot of the prayers we recited, much more than I understand the prayers I'm used to doing.

Before we left we bought some things, she bought 3 little gifts and I bought a ring for myself with 반야심경 the prayer Banya Shimgyeong on it. I think mom enjoyed the trip to the temple. When we left it was just starting to get light a little. We headed to the bus stop and took the bus back home and napped.

After we got up we went to the 찜질방 Korean bathhouse/spa. It was a good place to take mom, I think. We enjoyed all the saunas and pools before we joined Karjam in the co-ed area. I think we were there about 3 hours, but when we left Karjam decided to stay.

In the evening we went to the Korean National University of the Arts for the new student performance. All the new students in the School for the Traditional Performing Arts performed. The first piece was a court orchestra piece and I was really impressed. Honestly, that's not my favorite style of Korean music but I thought that the performance was highly professional, really I could not perceive any difference between their performance and that of any ordinary traditional music orchestra, despite the fact that all the players were freshmen (who would be approximately 18-20 American age). The next three pieces featured 거문고 geomungo, 가야금 gayageum and 해금 haegeum. Although I was looking forward especially to the geomungo, the piece was just a boring composition (it was a new work). The gayageum piece was Pachabel's Canon on 3 different pitches of gayageum (with three players per pitch). Blah. I am not a fan of trying to recreate a Western sound on a Korean instrument. It's a waste of the capabilities of the instrument. The haegeum piece also was nothing special. Next we had a vocal number with four pansori singers, a gayageum byeongchang player/singer, several minyoperformers and one women doing jeongga. I found their performance pretty good but not great, at least it got mom fully awake (she is jet-lagged). One really super fun aspect was hearing this type of singing with a knowledgeable (and supportive) audience. There was so much well done 추임새 chuimsae. The next piece was dance, a giant rendition of taepyeongmu and the only performance for the night with upper classmen (why? I see no reason why they couldn't have just had fewer dancers on the stage). It was frankly the most boring and soulless rendition of taepyeongmu I think I've ever seen. Mom fell back asleep.

Of course the important part of the show was the last act: the performance by the 연희학과 Department of Traditional Folk Theatre. The show opened with 13 (of 15 new students) on stage playing seated 사물놀이 samulnori. Actually they all began on 장구 janggu then they switched to samulnori. I was glad off the video camera as it made it easy for me to spot Ga-eun who stayed on janggu and Heesu who switched to buk. Of course as soon as I saw that Wonjung and Inseon were not there, I knew it was because they were in costume somewhere off stage. They entered the stage and the drums switched to a smaller configuration and one player re-emerged on 태평소 taepyeongso. Wonjung was dressed as the old yangban husband and Inseon as the old grandmother, his wife. They discovered each other and exchanged various fairly typical dialogue, then introduced the tight-rope walker. The tight-rope walker was very good, certainly 80% as good as the top performers, National Human Treasures, who I've seen. After he was featured there was a section for standing 풍물 pungmul performers, with Ga-eun as one of the two 꽹과리 ggwaenggwari players. She had a wonderful section being featured dancing with the large poof of ostrich feather whip that they manipulate much like a sangmo. There were several dance solos, including Heesu on sogo with wonderful manipulation of the sangmo. I am totally impressed. Two other Namsadangnoli trick performers came out (I think one was the same guy as the tightrope) and they dealt with spinning tops and disks.

It was absolutely a wonderful performance and I was so proud of the students. Afterwards I gave my students some drinks and told them they did a good job, while I was talking to Ga-eun Professor Kim Duksu came up and asked her who I was. I was a bit tongue-tied, but managed to ask him for an interview. He passed me off to another professor, a theory expert. I guess I'll have to try to ask him again at another time when I'm more prepared! I think mom had fun but she was really exhausted by the time we got home.