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Music in Korea: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture

From the publisher’s website:

Despite its longstanding position as a distinct cultural force in East Asia, Korea continues to be underrepresented in world music texts. Music in Korea is the first brief, single-volume text to provide a thematic, succinct introduction to the music of Korea—a region whose volatile political climate has often overshadowed its rich cultural and musical traditions.

Based on author Donna Lee Kwon’s extensive fieldwork, the text features interviews with performers, eyewitness accounts of performances, and vivid illustrations. Kwon uses three themes—Korea as a transnational player in East Asia, the intersection of Korean music and cultural politics, and Korea’s maintenance of its strong cultural identity through both musical and aesthetic continuity—to survey the region and draw parallels and contrasts between its various traditions. Each theme lends itself to a discussion of Korea’s classical musical customs and its contemporary developments. Packaged with an 80-minute audio CD containing musical examples, the text features numerous listening activities that engage students with the music. The companion website ( includes supplementary materials for instructors.

Donna Lee Kwon is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Kentucky.


CD Track List

1. Korea from both sides of the border

Pyongyang, North Korea
Kosong, South Korea
Intersecting Themes
Transnationalism in Flux: From the “Hermit Kingdom” to the “Korean Wave”: From the “Hermit Kingdom” to the “Korean Wave”
Modernization and Cultural Continuity in North and South Korea
Music and Cultural Politics: Articulating the Border through Song

  • “Our Wish is Reunification”: The Story of Im Su-kyong
  • Popular Visions of Reunification

2. The court as cultural conduit

Court Music, Cultural Policy, and the State
The Movement of Court Culture from East to West
The Development of Ritual Music of the Court: Music, Cultural Politics, and the State
Court Music in Practice Today
Experiencing State Sacrificial Music
Ritual Order and Cosmology
Instruments and Music

  • Munmyo Cheryeak
  • Chongmyo Cheryeak

Tension and Release in Sujech’on

3. The politics of preservation and revival in instrumental music

Instrumental Preservation, Adaptation, and Revival
South Korea: The Politics of Preservation and Revival
North Korea: Music and the Masses
Solo Repertoires

  • The Development of Sanjo and its Spread to other Instruments
  • Changdan: The Rhythmic Underpinning of Sanjo
  • The Interaction of Rhythm, Mode, and Melody in Sanjo

Ensemble Forms

  • P’ungmul in the Village Madang
  • P’ungmul in the Streets: Political Protest Marches
  • P’ungmul on Stage: The Emergence of Samul Nori

Shamanist Ritual Forms

  • Chindo Ssikkim-kut (Cleansing Rituals)
  • Sinawi and the Cultivation of Improvisation

4. The singing voice

Central (Kyonggi) minyo
Southern (Namdo) minyo
Sijo-ch’ang: Cultivating an Appreciation for Sung Poetry
Text, Rhythm, and Melody
P’ansori: Intertextuality and Cultural Continuity
History and Development Through Multiple Formats
Performance and Repertoire

  • Warm-up Songs (Tan’ga)
  • Narrative Performance: The Song of Ch’unhyang

Expressive Elements of P’ansori
P’ansori Aesthetics
Contemporary Developments in Korean Musical Theater and Film
North Korean Revolutionary Opera
P’ansori and Film: Director Im Kwon-taek

  • Sop’yonje
  • Ch’unhyang

5. Colonial legacies in Korea

The Legacy of the Japanese Colonial Occupation (1910-1945)
The Enduring Popularity of Trot
The Emergence of Sin minyo
Engaging with Western Concert Music
South Korea: Tradition, Innovation, Synthesis, and Popularization
North Korea: Music, Synthesis, and Politics
Western Music and Modern Nationhood: The Making of Korea’s National Anthems

6. Negotiating transnational flows of culture

Shifts in the Global Mediascape
The Korean Wave
K-Pop and the Influence of Seo Taiji and the Boys
Music and Power
The Presence of American Forces and the Dawn of a New Era in South Korean Pop
State-sanctioned Popular Music in North Korea
The Politicization of Popular Music in South Korea: T’ong kit’a and the Song Movement
Cultural Continuity in Korean Popular Music: Indexing “Tradition” in Korean Hip-Hop
Moving Beyond “Tradition” in the Music of Jang Goon

Entry on here.

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