Hilary V. Finchum-Sung

Hilary Finchum-Sung

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Since its rapid growth in the nineties, K-Pop has become a multi-billion dollar industry and an integral part of South Korea’s image both domestically and abroad. In stark contrast and despite support from the South Korean government, Korean traditional music, or Gugak, remains a somewhat unknown tradition in and outside Korea.

How do we define Korean traditional music? What position does it hold in contemporary South Korean society? What role has the government played in its evolution since the end of the Korean War? Will Gugak follow a path similar to K-Pop – a product designed for export – or is it still a living and thriving tradition? To answer these questions, we had the pleasure of interviewing Prof. Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung.

Prof. Finchum-Sung earned her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Indiana University in 2002 and is now Associate Professor in the Department of Korean Music at Seoul National University. She has served as the Chair of the Interdisciplinary Major in Music Education at Seoul National University, and formerly worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley. She has also published in several academic journals, including Ethnomusicology, The World of Music, and the Seoul Journal of Korean Studies.

The interest, ironically, that is being shown to Korean traditional music outside of Korea, and also by foreigners in Korea, has actually spurred an interest that is domestic […] If something that is Korean is given attention abroad, [Koreans embrace it].

The gugak music featured in the episode comes from the following recordings:

  • [7:00] 김정림 해금 독주곡집 2 – 산조와 풍류, 2004, “지영희류 해금 짧은 산조”
    (Jeongnim Kim, Haegeum Solo Compilation 2, Sanjo and Pungnyu, 2004, “Ji Yeong Hee Haegeum Sanjo, Short Version”)
  • [21:26] 국립국악원이 추천하는 한국의 전통음악, 2001, CD 2 : 한국의 기악 2 / 6. 시나위 (서용석 외)
    (National Gugak Center’s Recommended Gugak Listening/ CD 2 / Korea’s Instrumental Music 2 / Sinawi [southwestern-style shaman ritual instrumental ensemble music])
  • [40:57] 판소리, 김소희 [’95 춘향가(春香歌) 완창집(完唱輯)]6CD FA, CD 2, “사랑가 대목;사랑 사랑 내 사랑이야”-진양조,중중모리
    (So-heui Kim, Original Pansori Collection – Chunhyangga (Song of Chunhyang), CD 2, 1995, “Sarangga (Love Song)”)

The interview was conducted on April 20th in Seoul.

For more about Pansori and its modern-day expression, listen to our interview with EWHA Womans University Professor Heather Willoughby.