Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Studio Time

June 22nd, 2011
Today 윤지희 Yun Jihee, the 해금 haegeum player for 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli came to the studio to add haegeum tracks to two of Karjam's songs. One of those songs, "Losar Dodlih" will have more different tracks on it than any of the other songs on the CD. Normally I like sparser arrangements and Karjam likes fuller arrangements, but I'm pretty excited about this. I think Jihee is super super sweet and she was ultra-professional. We had to leave the studio after that because another client was coming.

June 23rd, 2011 Karjam's Birthday
For Karjam's birthday we watched "Super 8" (we liked it), bought Karjam really good quality headphones (he was stoked!) and went to a fancy-dancy Chinese restaurant. Honestly I could barely eat my main dish and only enjoyed the shared bokchoy. My soup? Best not to mention it. But Karjam was stuffed and very very happy.

June 24th, 2011
We worked on re-recording some vocal tracks for the CD and making editing choices on the other tracks.

In the evening we went to see a 가사 gasa and 시조 shijo concert (these are two types of sung poetry of the Joseon Dynasty and to many people NOT very attractive because they're very very different from what most people are used to). It was super cool, though, and Karjam enjoyed it because he loves hearing different types of singing and new things. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Karjam and I Spend a lot of Time in the Studio

June 19th, 2011
After working on my conference paper for several hours I headed to the 국악원 Gugakwon to meet up with 최해리 Choi Haeri, a dance researcher that professor 조경만 had introduced me to. The conversation was very fruitful and rewarding. Both because Haeri is really knowledgeable and intelligent and gave me great new information and shook loose some ideas that have been percolating in my skull, and also because I think we could become friends, certainly she's quick thinking, critical and intelligent, just the way I like my friends.

During our conversation even there was a constant stream of other people coming through because a performance was beginning at 5. I had tickets, as it was 진옥섭 Jin Okseop's big deal annual performance, and there were a lot of people I knew there, including 엄승용, 고석진, 손병만, 이병옥, 이수환 and many many more. After the bell had already started ringing to tell everyone to go in and find their seats Karjam finally arrived. I need to start telling him things start 30 minutes before they actually do. It really stresses me out when he's late.

The 30,000 won seats had been sold out when I got around to buying tickets (the entire show sold out!), and I decided 40 or 50,000 per seat was too much for me to justify, so we were in the 20,000 won seats on the third floor. Karjam was frustrated that he couldn’t see well enough. That's true, we couldn't. The show was interesting. I studiously recorded all of Jin Okseop's emceeing for later analysis. I need to go visit him and take a photo of him. His name will definitely be sprinkled throughout my dissertation. After the show a friend of Haeri's introduced me to one of the performers, but it wasn't the performer who had wowed me… not quite sure why Haeri thought I should meet her. Mid show 장사익 Jang Sa'ik had come up on stage and sung two songs. Karjam was even more blown away live than when we listen to Jang's music at home, so he insisted that I introduce him to Jang afterwards. Mind you, I've met Jang before and I'm a total fan, but that doesn't mean Jang knows me. Whatever, I'm ballsy enough to walk up to the most famous person in the lobby and say "my husband, a Tibetan singer, really wants to meet you." They took a photo together, exchanged cards and Jang invited Karjam to stop by for tea and Chinese noodles. Hmmm…. Should we really?

June 20th, 2011
During the day Karjam and I hung out with 영훈 Yeonghun at the studio as he mixed some of Karjam's songs. Then I went to 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum. Class was interesting. We had two new students, both students majoring in 연극 drama, both at Bongsan Talchum because they strategically believed that learning a Korean way of moving (what the man said) and more about traditional theatre (what both said) would be useful for them in their future. Also this graduate student, 김현철 came back. He was in class in August and September, but was back now after the school year ended. He majored in 국악 Korean music for his undergrad and is now majoring in Music Education. I like him, but he looks like he's in high school. Speaking of, 현석's friend 동호,  attended his second class. And 미행 Mihaeng is back. She gave me some nice handmade soap. She's so negative I really wish she wasn't back, but she likes me, so… I'm torn. Oh and 윤희 Yunhee, the dancer, came back. It was a lively day. We practiced 7 monks and did 할미 Halmi (grandmother) only.

June 21st, 2011 Summer Solstice
We had recording again today, with Hilary Finchum-Sung coming in the morning to record a violin track for "A Song for Tsemphel" (this title might change). The song is so sad, because Karjam's friend is serving a 15 year prison sentence for political reasons and Karjam misses him so much (and worries about Tsemphel's family). The song had already been quite good, but it didn't feel as sad as the lyrics. With the addition of Hilary's violin track the song really came alive. When we listened to the song after she was done both Karjam and I cried.

We had lunch with Hilary and then it was time to meet 김유나Kim Yuna. Originally we were going to have a special student of Hilary's Bitna do the 아쟁 ajaeng, but her grandmother got seriously sick, so Bitna introduced another ajaeng player. I've been emailing with Yuna but this was the first meeting. She was so cute in her black high heels, ruffled white blouse and black skirt. Her hair even was quite stylish. She had taken my injunction to be ready for the camera quite seriously. She needed more of Yeonghun's explanation than any other of the musicians so far, as it was her first time in the studio, but her expression of nervous delight to be putting on the headphones for the first time was just delightfully cute. Karjam and I stayed at the studio integrating Samkuchet's singing into the two songs (she sent files from Gannan) until nearly 8 pm.

Most of a Week

June 13th, 2011
I went to Yonsei to get ready for my class I'll be teaching at Dankook University—I had to print a bunch of things and also find some books and copy certain chapters, all in preparation for making a kick ass reader. I estimate I should get it to the university by the beginning of July, so I still have a tad bit of time. That is good because the library is even lamer than I expected and I could not find some extremely key books—however I was able to use credit that had been on my card since 2006 (!!!) to do the copying in the library.

I barely had time to get home and get back out the door with my stuff for 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum.

At class we had a small turn out, a new high school student, 동호,  plus 윤식, 하연, 세준, 수미. We practiced the 7 of 8 monks in order, then did 애사당, 소무, 할미 and 사상좌.

June 14th, 2011
I got odds and ends done, but no real writing again. Argh.

Karjam and I went to an amazing 판소리 pansori performance in the evening at 풍류극장. The performance featured one senior singer, 송순섭 and two of his students (one an 이수자, one a 전수자), as well as two 고수 (accompanists for pansori), one for the master and one for the students. The show was really great, and Karjam loved it, too.

June 15th, 2011
I honestly am so far behind on updating this. I cannot remember anything special happening, I think I just worked on my conference paper the entire day.

June 16th, 2011
I worked on my paper for most of the day then at 8 we had to go to the studio to add the last of 고석진 Go Seokjin's percussion tracks to the CD. It was sort of frustrating. Karjam was in a poor mood and that impacted his decisiveness and also made him dislike almost everything. It was actually more than sort of frustrating. And since he was irritated at me, I couldn't (as I normally do) make some choices when he was being indecisive. I'm a very good tie-breaker. At 1 (in the morning) we were all exhausted and Karjam still wasn't happy, but we called it quits. Then Seokjin, Karjam and I went to a GS25 and had instant noodles, instant ddeokbokgi and kimchi from a vacuum-packed bag. No this was not my idea.

June 17th, 2011
I think I spent the entire day writing on my conference paper, increasingly freaked out that I wouldn't get it done.

In the evening I had 상모 sangmo class at Sogang University. It was awesome! Even though I haven't been able to have a class in a long time, today I was amazing! And I learned a whole routine to enter the stage (or the center stage for a solo) which will come in handy later on. Yay!

June 18th, 2011
I took the bus to near Songpa Sandae Noli and then sat in a coffee shop and worked on the paper until time to practice. Class was very sparse, just 함완식 Ham Wanshik, 이수환 Yi Suhwan, 함승헌 Ham Seungheon and me. Yi Suhwan was teaching the motions and since he and I had a falling out over him repeatedly changing the English on the 송파산대놀이 facebook page (please visit it and "like" it), even though I'm the native English speaker who writes about Songpa Sandae Noli in English, he ignored me and taught Ham Jr. while Ham Sr. drummed and I just followed along. He was teaching him the part of 노장 Nojang, the old monk, so that was actually kind of interesting. This is one of the two parts that Yi Suhwan jealously maintains control of and almost always performs. From a dance perspective it's the most difficult solo in the entire drama. The most interesting part of class was a debate between Ham Sr. and Yi about changing motions in the dance. The debate may go in the dissertation word for word (I wrote as fast as I could).

After class I went back near home, but stopped at Chan's Bros and wrote for at least a couple more hours there before I went home.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Weekend-- Dentist, Giant Ceremony, Seminar, Ahn Eunme

June 11th, 2011
This is the definition of busy: to meet my really awesome friend 김월덕 Kim Woldeok and her new husband 주원 Juwon we actually went to the dentist. Juwon is getting an implant. This trip to the dentist ended up being very expensive. 750,000 won.

I left and headed home for a couple minutes and grabbed my camera to go to 경복궁 Gyeongbok Palace for a huge ceremony and spectacle. Not an actual performance per se. What happened was that France took these dynastic records 150 years ago and they were finally returning the records to Korea, so the government decided to add some pomp and ceremony, sort of Joseon Dynasty style.  

The important part for me was that 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak, 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae, 봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum and 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli all had to parade out and dance around. It was a chance to do a favor by taking photos and bow to a lot of people. Curiously the Pilbong crew was all college kids, or even high school kids like Hyeonseok—I mean they were people I've studied with, not under. I didn't see one person I know to be an isuja even. This is in contrast to the people from Goseong who came even farther, all of them, even the really fairly elderly farmers.

Photos of Bongsan Talchum are ready first because they already asked me why I hadn't given them the photos yet...
Kim Eunju in the front

Sometimes the lion attacks and eats a hapless bystander. This little girl got away. 

June 12th, 2011
I met this professor, 조경만 Jo Gyeongman, through FB (we have a mutual FB "friend"), and he invited me to a small seminar that he was presiding over. I went to the seminar not because I thought the topic would work well for me, but because I suspected some other members might be good contacts. It was really tough—everyone had read and prepared, and they were discussing very highly theoretical concepts (about eco-anthropology) in Korean. I mean, how well can you discuss the Panopticon in English? Okay, now try to explain it in Korean. No, I didn't do that, but Prof. Jo explained it to the rest of the people. If I wasn't familiar with Foucault, trust me I would have missed the entire point. It was all 75cent vocabulary with the occasional equivalent of "a" "however"  "if" etc. thrown in.  Okay, maybe I exaggerate a tiny bit. But seriously, if I'd done the same reading it still would have been tough for me to keep up (much less add to the discussion). On the other hand there was another member I've arranged to meet next Sunday.

After that I hurried to my neighborhood to watch Ahn Eunme company rehearsing Princess Bari. They'll be doing a 17 minute version later this week via-Skype. They have to do it in the middle of the night because the other side is watching it around noon in Toronto! It was really interesting and fun, especially the mix of 민요 minyo with 판소리pansori that they're using as the major auditory color of the piece. There are four singers- two men and two women, with one singer of each genre a man and one a woman.

Cheonha Jeil Tal Performance

June 10th, 2011
Today Karjam had his very important day of adding percussion tracks to the CD. 고석진 Go Seokjin, a talented traditional drummer and dancer agreed to take on the task of creating most of the percussion tracks for the CD.  He was, unfortunately, returning from Jeju Island where he'd been performing, and he ended up taking a taxi with only some of his instruments—the recording didn't get finished, in other words. The final decision was that he would add percussion to 7 of the 11 tracks, but they only got through four. Or mostly through four, as there may be a little of some other percussion instruments added next Friday when they finish the recording. The remaining three tracks are the three traditional tracks, mostly those will be a cappella with just a little bit of an intro.

I had to leave before they'd finished up to get to see 천하제일탈 Cheonha Jeil Tal's first piece, which I had not seen before. The piece was very very good.

First 손병만 Son Byeongman performed monk 1's dance, followed by monk 2's monologue and then monk 3's dance, moving into 합동 circling and then he left the stage. Next 허창열 Heo Changyeol performed 문둥북춤 Mundung Bukchum, brilliantly and perhaps just a bit longer than normal, it seemed that there was some extra 소고춤 sogochum at the end but I could be wrong. Finally 이주원 Yi Juwon entered from the back of the audience as 이매 Imae from 하회별신굿탈놀이 Hahoi Byeolshin'gut Talnoli. He did indeed pull an older Korean woman and then a foreign man from the audience, adding the extra moment of amusement when the woman could not be enticed to speak in English to the foreigner and Juwon had to suddenly out of character explain.
Next the players donned new masks and acted out a play with two parts, the second humorously about plastic surgery (and its popularity in Korea). I found this second section to be ineffective as it was extremely reliant on dialogue for long stretches, and while it had acting it didn't have much of any dance.

After the show I had dinner with the players and musicians, who were all getting ready to leave for Namwon, where they'd be performing on Saturday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two Interviews and Bongsan Talchum

June 7th, 2011
I essentially spent the whole day writing. It was so productive, I was completely amazed.

June 8th, 2011
I spent a lot of the day writing, I had intended to go to a concert in the evening but instead I stayed home and worked.

June 9th, 2011
I interviewed the 인간문화재  National Human Treasure for 북청사자놀음 Bukcheong Saja Noleum today. It was not the best interview, as she kept wanting to give me very "what you want to hear" answers instead of the real deal and not really stopping and getting off auto-pilot enough to hear that my questions weren't what she was used to (all the time). Ah, sometimes it's like that.

After that interview I talked to 장용일 for a bit and then went upstairs, 현석 had already arrived and we went to dinner- I interviewed him during dinner. He's a very directed kid, and fairly outspoken—I like him. The interview was good, since we've already talked a million times since I first met him in September.

봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum class today was quite good—we had 하연, 세준, 병호, 병우, 정현, 수미, 하연's friend, 주원 (almost two hours late), 현석 and me. So I took a group photo, because when I am writing the section of the dissertation on the class the only other people I'm mentioning from the class are in three cases no longer around. And in one case only attending on Monday. So this was the most I was ever going to get on the same day, I think. The two high schoolers will use pseudonyms in my dissertation. The others will use their real names. We only practiced the 8목중 the eight dark-faced monks, but we also did the solos at the end.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

K-Pop in Early June including Late May Releases

Boyfriend has released their debut single. It's titled "Boyfriend"  and unless you understand Korean it can be a bit confusing if we're talking about some boys (not men) asking you to think of them as your boyfriend, or if they're actually looking for boyfriends of their own. This confusion on the part of Western viewers is clear in the comments which repeatedly mention their femininity and call them gay—the stereotyping that makes anyone with good skin (touched up in some cases for sure) wearing pink and singing "eh, eh, eh" in a cute bubbly voice gay—when will Westerners grow up?! At any rate, the song is bubbly and cute and poppy with a decent beat but there's nothing really unique here.

The group Sunny Hill has released "Midnight Circus" one of the most interesting K-pop songs of the year by far. I'm really impressed. The video is strange, with a long intro, the circus theme, and a catchy song. It's not something I'll listen to over and over, but it's certainly better than most recent releases!

On the other hand FT Island's latest release, "Hello Hello" is pretty darn good, too! The music is fun, the video is a bit random with it's theme of an apartment fire, but I'm a sucker for groups where the members actually know something about music and can actually play the instruments they're holding. 

B2ST (Beast) who've actually came out with some pretty good releases in the past have a new song, "Fiction." It's okay, but not good, nothing near as powerful or catchy as previous releases, although I must admit the vocals sound measurably improved. Maybe it's just that the song isn't really my style.

Brave Girls has released their second song, "So Sexy."  I think these girls are not going to make it. Among other things there are just too many annoying busy tracks in the song, the over-production of it is driving my ears crazy. In addition it seems too much like they're just trying to follow the 2NE1 model of success, but with weird lyrics – at one point in the chorus sounds like they're repeatedly saying "hands up 5 Brave Girls spread your ankle." And I don't actually think they're sexy. 

Gangneung Dano Festival

June 5th, 2011
Luckily Karjam and I arrived at the bus station 2 minutes before the bus to 전주 Jeonju. If we'd arrived even a little later we would have had to wait an hour and a half. In Jeonju we decided to use the bus from the 시외터미날 to 남부터미날 in Seoul instead of lugging our bags and ourselves to the Express Bus Terminal. Also the buses are cheaper. We left 20 minutes later for Seoul and managed to get home by about noon. At home I had to quickly deal with Photoshop for some photos of mask dance dramas that were requested by 황종욱 Hwang Jong'uk of 고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae. I was happy to help him, but he wanted photos of performances I'd never gotten around to processing at all. Not photos of his art, but of three others—I'm sure he has a good use for them, but I didn't ask. I'll put some of those photos before this paragraph for your enjoyment.
Eunyul Talchum

Eunyul Talchum

Yangju Byeolsandae

Yangju Byeolsandae

Yangju Byeolsandae

We headed back to the Express Bus Terminal and took a bus to 강릉 Gangneung leaving around 3:30. In Gangneung we took a local bus to the festival grounds and wandered around just a little bit before the 8 p.m. performance of 강릉 관노 가면극 Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeon'geuk which was the reason I wanted to go to the festival. Otherwise the festival seemed really commercialized, there was just this one little strip with traditional performances and demos and a TON of commercialism on both sides of the local river.

The performance was (of course) very good. I had a chat with a few students learning the Gamyeon'geuk after the show, they were of the age that could be late middle school but I suspect early high school. They were also the most enthusiastic members of the crowd. Then I talked to the man who'd acted the part of the 양반 yangban character. They have a huge building right next to the festival site dedicated as a training center. Again, as in October, the actors all seemed pretty young, with the percussionists containing the older members of the art.

We had a hellish time finding a place to stay, the whole town was full of tourists enjoying the long weekend and the festival—we ended up paying 40,000 won for a small room that should have been 20,000 won.

June 6th, 2011
I had originally thought I might want to stay in Gangneung until the evening, but we got to the festival pretty early and decided to leave around 3 pm. I am really adverse to crowds and it was very crowded. I spent more than an hour watching a shamanic ceremony/performance sitting in a sea of short-haired permed grandmothers. It was actually really interesting to watch them, but the shaman was also fairly spectacular, a woman with a large number of disciples and a very good 장구 janggu player who she interacted with. Both sides of the altar had young festival workers/volunteers stationed with vacuums. They were kept constantly busy vacuuming drifting ash out of the air after people had burned a prayer at the altar.

I then watched two entire entrants in the 농악nongak (pungmul) music competition, both groups were quite similar to each other and I was not enormously impressed with them, but I was happy to see how many people were ardently engaged with Korean traditions, so I guess I should keep my judgments of their 상모 sangmo ability to myself.  
I also got to see some girls doing 열뒤기 (jumping standing see-saw). They were amazing. Back flips in the air and landing smack on the board and repeat. Seriously.
Our bus back to Seoul was stuck in serious return to Seoul after holiday weekend traffic. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Imshil Pilbong Nongak Dano-gut

June 4th, 2011
Karjam and I had to leave Bonnie and Curtis's earlier than needed to get to the performance, so we went very slowly to the bus station. Once we caught the bus I started running into my 임실필봉농악 Imshil Pilbong Nongak associated friends (인하 was on the bus with one of her friends). Karjam and I walked from 강진 to the training center and greeted various people, many of my friends were there, and of course I know the lion's share of the performers, too. The performance started slightly after 2. At first the group of performers was somewhat small (and a fair number of the afternoon performers did not do the evening, too), but they drummed up a storm in front of a group of tents set up to house a shop selling 파전, 김치전 and 막걸리 and several experiential activities (like making soap, which Karjam did, and making/decorating fans, which I did). After maybe twenty minutes or thirty minutes (long enough for the performers to already be sweaty) they started progressing in a parade across the road, over the small river and up to the sacred tree in Pilbong village (a little more than a kilometer from the training center). It was really beautiful as we walked through the terraced fields of rice seedlings to the tree, an old grandmother of a tree with a wide shade canopy next to an open-walled traditional building for village affairs or just resting on the way up or down the hill to the village. The tree was circled by braided (handmade) rope, adorned with slips of prayers, with an extensive altar set up in front of the tree. The drummers drummed, a ceremony was held with the village leader standing as a representative of the village as he read a long prayer (which was helpfully handed out to us!) then others took turns bowing in front of the altar and the tree. The drummers rested while everyone shared the ritual food and drink. Starting up again we proceeded down to the midst of the fields where many of our number were now engaged in planting rice seedlings into the mud under the layer of water in the flooded fields. Yes, you envy me taking photos of the drummers lined up next to the field as the rice planting continued. Awesome. Also they planted a fairly large field in very little time.

The drummers drummed back to the training center and up to the 한옥 hanok section of the village where the "Fantastic" group took over for a stage show. This group is made up of many of the younger members of the group and I've seen them perform as recently as last summer, but this time was different- there were five women featured as drummers and dancers, but they were not the best drummers and definitely not the best dancers. The show looked good from a photographic point of view, but trust me the moving image was, well, sad. These amazing male drummers (many of my teachers including 김동민, 이재정, 송하종 and so on) were back stage so that women could try to dance, although they didn't have the training for it. I was quite turned off, especially at some of the gestures towards sexual moves that they made in a clear pandering to an idea of what the audience wants.  The show also included some other non-Korean instruments- keyboard, violin—but nothing very expert or interesting.

After this show we all adjourned to a free dinner at the training center cafeteria. They did not waste much money on the dinner – small servings of side dishes, none including meat or fish and a large lump of rice, with a watery soup including some meat (obviously I didn't eat any) on the side. So after dinner Karjam and I enjoyed a snack from the snack selling tent—it was actually fried ddeok, which I had never eaten that way before, but it was very good. Then I decorated a fan while Karjam made a soap in a mold. The music started up again shortly after, with 이종휘 now part of the group. I took quite a lot of photos with flash, not sure if any of them are particularly interesting photographically, but I tried to capture things that are points in my research—including the audience dancing in the middle of the drummers at certain points in the evening and the audience taking over the instruments as the night grew late. Not to mention trying to get some good shots of the key people participating in their art, particularly the 상모 sangmo solos. I spent a lot of time dancing- in the center or outside the circle (when we weren't welcome in the center), often with my 개전연 Gaejeonyeon friends.

Karjam and I needed to get up early the next day so we went to sleep fairly early, around 1. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Still Recording Karjam's CD

June 1st, 2011
Karjam had another long day in the studio, but he essentially finished his part of the CD. In the evening we were so exhausted we had lunch in a restaurant before we made it home.

June 2nd, 2011
I had a surprising experience today. 허창열 Heo Changyeol had invited me to a critique forum for 광대 The Gwangdae's latest production, 홀림 낚시 Hollim Nakkshi. I thought that a critique forum sounded unlikely and pictured The Gwangdae players and their friends sitting around talking about the show. I was wrong. Changyeol and most of the members were present, as were various staff members associated with the show, but there were also a large number of participants in the forum with no direct link to the players. The forum, only offering some drinks and snacks (not even grand snacks, just "Ode" bars and "Dr Yoo" brownies and that type of thing), occurred in a large airy building in Daehangno. The room filled with approximately 14 commenters in addition to the staff and players, and a coordinator outlined a schedule of 7 items- we would discuss overviews, good points, bad points and then at the end the players and staff would be able to open their mouths and answer questions or address the critiques they'd heard.  Two and a half hours later I left to hit the bank before it closed, but by that time I had heard enormously deep and detailed critique of every aspect of the show. I was really impressed and amazed.

In the evening I worked on the computer.

June 3rd, 2011
Karjam and I woke up and took a bus to 전주 Jeonju where we toured the 한옥마을 Hanok Village and then met Bonnie for dinner. Her husband Curtis was at a work dinner, but we caught up with him at home.