Encounters with Samulnori: The Cultural Politics of South Korea's Dynamic Percussion Genre

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Encounters with Samulnori: The Cultural Politics of South Korea's Dynamic Percussion Genre

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Title: Encounters with Samulnori: The Cultural Politics of South Korea's Dynamic Percussion Genre
Author: Lee, Katherine In-Young
Citation: Lee, Katherine In-Young. 2012. Encounters with Samulnori: The Cultural Politics of South Korea's Dynamic Percussion Genre. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation interrogates how diverse actors ascribe semantic, affective, and political meanings to instrumental music under changing historical circumstances and in different performance contexts. In what I call an “ethnographic reception study,” I employ historical and ethnographic methods to assess the ways in which the popular samulnori percussion genre from South Korea has been imbued with associations as divergent as a sonic symbol of Korea to narratives of resistance against the state. Through five chapters, I track some of the contested and multiple meanings as they interact, both in historical moments in South Korea and vis-à-vis transnational circulations that led to the genre’s transmission outside Korea. As a genre of percussion music that was first created in South Korea in 1978, samulnori has had a complex reception during three dramatic decades in modern Korean history—leading to life-changing encounters from its fans while also eliciting scorn from its detractors. As a dynamic musical genre that is now notated and largely nonverbal, samulnori has served as a user-friendly sonic canvas upon which identities and affinities have been easily grafted by non-Korean fans, leading to the development of amateur samulnori ensembles and musical communities around the world. By considering the ways in which the samulnori genre has been evaluated, interpreted, and practiced by different actors, I show how the genre’s complex reception exhibits a relational and imbricated set of meanings over time. Last, by considering the cultural politics of samulnori from diachronic and synchronic perspectives, I offer a working methodology for contemporary studies of music reception.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288955
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