Backyard or Street? From Pansori to Contemporary Art in Hongcheon

For the second pink factory-workshop on “tradition in motion”, I had prepared a presentation on contemporary pansori performances. As the title “Tradition of the Backyard, Tradition of the Street” indicates, I attempted to conceptualize two ways of reviving tradition for general audiences today: first, in the enclosement of the backyard, the center of a living place, for a small and possibly exclusive group; second, in the bustling street, outside and free, with people passing by and occasionally, and temporarily, someone joining. (You can find the bilingual abstract below.)

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The following discussion was highly productive. Everyone shared experiences and thoughts, touching on a variety of subjects, from pansori-related themes to more general concepts such as accessibility and shared authorship. Here, I’d like to add some background information on those matters that proved essential to pink factory’s mission and methodology. In a way, this is meant as a continuation of our discussion and the invitation to everyone interested – please join in!

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Like the workshop, I tried to provide the following material in bi-lingual (English and Korean) form, which turned out harder than I thought. The result is a mixed list of information, hopefully helpful in continuing our discussion. Please feel free to suggest other relevant information, links, ideas, and, of course criticism and comments.

아래의 자료는 강의처럼 영어 및 한국어로 제공하려고 했지만 실패했습니다… 결과는 다양한 정보의 목록이 되었는데 우리의 대화를 진행하도록 할 과정에 도움이 될지도 모르겠습니다. 다른 관련된 정보, 링크, 생각, 그리고 물론 비판과 코멘트를 뒷굴로 남아주신다면 감사드리겠슴니다.

The two performance series that I presented in my talk are:

(Gugak Musical Collective) Taroo’s “Taroo-Pan!Sori”-Project, a series of several events that took place irregularly on Saturday afternoons in the backyard of a hanok-guesthouse in Bukchon, Seoul. I have written on these events for the blog of the Jeonju Int’l Sori Festival (전수세계소리축제의 불로그에서: English and Korean), and for this blog (English only). See this page for all posts on Taroo. Taroo’s homepage (타루늬 홈피) offers additional “official” information and “following” their Facebook-page (타루의 페이스북-페이지) helps to stay up-to-date on their current activities.

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  1. The “Insa-dong Street Soripan”, initiated by singer Bak Tae-o (박태오) and instrumentalist Jo Sang-min (조상민), features short numbers by a variety of performers, mostly pansori singers but also other genres, such as minyo, or mask dance. This bi-weekly (now monthly) event is actually a revival of the “Byeorak Performances” and similar street concerts in Insa-dong by the (now historical) Ttorang Gwangdae, active in the early 2000s. I wrote numerous texts on the recent emergence of a mix of old Ttorang Gwangdae (Bak Tae-o, for example, participated in the Ttorang Gwangdae-contests in the early 2000s), and a younger generation of singers. For an introduction of the Ttorang Gwangdae, see my first installment of a series of (otherwise mostly archival) blogposts on the Insa-dong Street Soripan. This link goes to all my (English) posts that relate to Insa-dong. I also translated the “Declaration of the Ttorang Gwangdae” from 2004 into English (“또랑광대의 선언문” 한국어 원고). And there is a bibliography of Korean papers on newly-created pansori works (창작판소리에 관련된 참고문헌), many of them dealing with the Ttorang Gwangdae and their street activities (Kim Gi-hyeong 김기형 is a particularly meticulous writer on them).

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Some more information on topics that came up in discussion, in no particular order:

  • The first (historically recorded and now legendary) female pansori singer was first female pansori singer Jin Chae-seon (최초의 여성 소리꾼 진채선). She features in the historic movie The Sound of a Flower (도리화가, 2015, trailer) and Taroo has produced a musical on her called Romance at Unhyeon Palace (운현궁 로맨스, trailer), a title which gives away the whole plot. See my Korean review for the blog of the Jeonju Int’l Sori Festival.
  • We briefly talked about a new (well, relatively speaking, as it is now already over ten years old) pansori piece on StarCraft, Seuta Daejeon (“Great Star War”, 소리꾼 박태오의 “스타대전”) by Bak Tae-o, one of the original Ttorang Gwangdae and now a protagonist of the re-emerged “Insadong Street Soripan”. Two videos of Bak performing his piece are available on Youtube, one from the 4th Ttorang Gwangdae Concert in Jeonju, 2004 (제4회 또랑광대 콘테스트, 전주 2004년), (part2), another shorter section from the weekly TV show Gugak Hanmadang on KBS (KBS 국악한마당). Two websites also offer (different) excerpts from the lyrics and, in one case, an mp3-file (“스타대전”의 가사, mp3 포함).
  • Hae-kyung Um discusses “Great Star War” (and also translates some of its lyrics on pp. 38–40) and other new works in her paper “New P’ansori in Twenty-first-century Korea: Creative Dialectics of Tradition and Modernity” (Asian Theatre Journal 25.1 (2008), 24–57, via Project Muse). This is a quote from Um’s paper:

    Pak T’ae-o shows both musical and theatrical talent in his award wining new p’ansori Star Wars, which was originally composed as part of his final year requirement for a BA degree in p’ansori. The shifting tempo and pace is borrowed from the battle scene of the traditional p’ansori The Song of Red Cliff, which he studied with various master singers. […] The language used [in the excerpt below […] is predominantly contemporary Chôlla dialect but it also includes some Japanese accent and English words. (p. 38)

  • “Great Star War” is also available on record, as part of the double album Ttorang Kkangdae, Ggum 2003 (tracks 14–17 on CD1).
  • On the practice of Ttechang or Jechang (떼창/제창 齊唱), chanting in unison as a chorus, I found some interesting links: a list of famous ttechang-videos from recent pop concerts; ttechang-scenes edited into a video; an English Korea Herald-article on the phenomenon; a slightly longer text in the magazine Koreana
  • In “A Study on the Method of Pansori Audience Participation in Singing”, Yi Yu Jin elaborates on the historical practice of inserting popular folk songs (삽입민요) in pansori pieces as a crowd pleaser that I mentioned (이유진, “판소리 청관중의 가창참여 방법에 대한 고찰”, 판소리연구 22 (2006), 279–303, link).

Going beyond the theme of pansori, we also discussed the status of pink factory, formally private property, but one with “murky borders” and sediments of various past uses.

The public hiking path “Gosari-bong” (고사리봉 산행, bracken hill walk), for example, passes through the territory of pink factory and there are occasional hikers passing by (see two blogs with photos by hikers), probably wondering about that large silver cube on the side of the road. You can find guideposts for the trail, for example, next to the road leading up to pink factory.

농업기반공사 홍천, 춘천지사, 굴운2지구 공사사무소The artist accommodations and the seminar room are in a building that formerly served as a field office of the Korea Agricultural and Rural Infrastructure Corporation (KARICO, 농업기반공사), with the official designation 농업기반공사 홍천 춘천지사 굴운2지구 공사사무소. KARICO is “a public enterprise that carries out a rural improvement project, manages overall rural infrastructures, increases agricultural productivity by promoting the optimization of farming scale, and contributes to the economical and social development of rural area with the environmentally-friendly point of view.”There are still many traces to be found from the KARICO officers who worked here until some ten years ago. KARICO became the Korean Rural Community Corporation (KRC, 한국농어촌공사) in 2008, dedicated to “building happy rural communities”.

The former fish restaurant Yongsu (용수횟집) still on occasion draws (disappointed) guests. Closed down since last year, it serves as a communal kitchen and meeting place for pink factory now. Nevertheless, the restaurant is still “on the map”, at least online. And although a restaurant is not public property, it still was as a place to go…

[to be continued…]

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– 11 June 2016 (土)

  • Jan Creutzenberg, “Tradition of the Backyard, Tradition of the Street: The Location of Rewriting” Like other traditional arts, the singing-storytelling pansori is struggling to find audiences beyond the closely associated scene. While official support through the system of important intangible heritage provides funding for acknowledged singers and their “orthodox” performances, young singers go new ways in popularizing pansori. I will consider two recent attempts of approaching general audiences: in the “Taroo-Pan!Sori”-project, members of the gugak musical ensemble Taroo perform pansori in the calm backyard of a traditional korean house. The “Insa-dong Street Soripan” is a lose series of performances that include instrumental songs and dance in the bustling streets of central Seoul. The street and the backyard are two compelling metaphors for describing related strategies for creating temporal communities that differ in various details. Home and outside, private and public spaces, guests and by-passers – both relating to existing conventions and taking new ways, these approaches show the potential of rewriting tradition in Seoul. Do they also offer inspiration for sustainable art in the province? (pink factory 2016 international workshop series “tradition in motion”, #2: pansori – theatre studies, 2016–06–11, 4–6pm)
  • 이안 코이츤베악, “마당의 전통, 길거리의 전통: 다시쓰기의 현장” 다른 전통 예술과 마찬가지로, 이야기하면서 노래하는 판소리는 가까운 예술계외에 관중을 모집하는 것은 매우 어려운 상황이다. 중요무형문화재라는 제도를 통해 공공적인 후원을 받으며 “정통”의 판소리 공연을 하는 명창과 달리, 젊은 소리꾼은 앞선 이유로 판소리의 대중화를 새로운 방법으로 모색하곤 한다. 나는 최근, 일반 관중을 대상으로 탐구하는 두 가지 접근사례를 살펴 보고자 한다: 먼저, “타루판!소리”-프로젝트로 국악뮤지컬집단 타루의 북촌 한옥의 조용한 마당에서 펼쳐진 판소리 공연을. 그리고, 두 번째로 “인사동 거리소리판”의 판소리와 전통기악, 그리고 전통춤으로 구성된 인사동 길거리공연이다. 이 두 가지의 공연방법에 나타난 강력한 메타포, 즉 “마당”과 “길거리”라는 공간 개념은 일시적인 공동체의 환기 전략을 설명하기에 도움이 된다. “마당”과 “길거리”는 가정집안과 외부, 사적 공간과 공적 공간, 방문객과 행인처럼, 기존 개념과 관련되면서 새로운 방향성을 보여준다고 하겠다. 이는 전통 다시쓰기의 가능성으로 개별 지역의 예술에 대해서도 지속 가능한 방법적 모색에 영감을 줄 수 있을까? (분홍공장 2016 인터내셔널 워크숍 시리즈 “움직이는 전통”, 제2회: 판소리 – 연극학, 2016년 6월 11일 (토), 오후 4–6시)

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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