Hwang Byungki: Traditional Music and the Contemporary Composer in the Republic of Korea
Andrew Killick (University of Sheffield)
Date: 17 October 2014, 5:15 – 7:00 PM
Venue: Brunei Gallery Room B102
Before the twentieth century, the repertoire of Korean music was handed down and reworked by successive generations of musicians, and the ultimate origins of pieces were unknown. The concept of the composer as an artist who creates an entirely new musical work came only with the introduction of Western music, and the first Korean composers wrote in a Western idiom. When new music later came to be written for Korean instruments, too, it generally adopted other features of Western music besides the composer concept, such as harmonic accompaniments and Western musical forms. An exception is Hwang Byungki (b. 1936), who has adopted the Western stance of the composer to “modernise” rather than “Westernise” traditional Korean music. This presentation examines how Hwang has been able to extend the tradition of Korean music by innovating, sometimes quite radically, without losing touch with traditional aesthetic principles. Setting Hwang’s work within the context of historical processes that made Western-style music the main form of musical expression for most Koreans and gave traditional music a special role as a powerful emblem of national identity, it addresses the broader question of traditional music’s place in a rapidly modernising yet intensely nationalistic society, and explores how new music for traditional instruments can provide a means of negotiating between a local identity and the modern world order.
Andrew Killick is Senior Lecturer in ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield, past co-editor of the journal Ethnomusicology Forum and associate editor and substantial contributor to the East Asia volume of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. His book Hwang Byungki: Traditional Music and the Contemporary Composer in the Republic of Korea was published in the Ashgate SOAS Musicology Series in 2013. He is also the author of In Search of Korean Traditional Opera: Discourses of Ch’anggŭk (University of Hawaii Press, 2010), and his writings on Korean music have appeared in such journals as Ethnomusicology, Asian Music and Korean Studies. He has known and worked with Hwang Byungki since 1988, and wrote the notes to Hwang’s most recent CD at the composer’s request.