My PhD Project

My name is Jan Creutzenberg. I am a graduate student in theatre studies at Free University Berlin. In my ongoing PhD-project I deal with the traditional performing art pansori (판소리), more specifically: with the various ways pansori is performed today in Korea.

This is a picture that I took at a performance of the ensemble Taroo (국악뮤지컬집단 타루). The performance took place one sunny afternoon in 2012 in the backyard of a traditional house in Bukchon, Seoul. The singer Song Bora (송보라) presents a part of the piece Simcheong-ga (심청가), supported by drummer Jeong Jong-im (정종임). I wrote about the event on this blog.

pansori singer Song Bora of ensemble Taroo

The following is a “rolling abstract” that gives a compressed overview about the current state of things. Please remember: This is rather an instrument to sort my thoughts than a planned-out proposal

Pansori is a traditional Korean form of singing-storytelling. Once a popular folk art that served to re-affirm and strengthen existing communal bonds, since its registration as “Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 5” in 1964 most pansori performances are sponsored or partly subsidized by official funding. But pansori comes in many forms, ranging from full-length performances at the National Theater to potpourri-shows at historical locations, experimental productions by independent ensembles and various kinds of theatre that incorporate pansori-style singing and acting.

My PhD project “Creating Communities” explores the communal potential of these different approaches towards pansori. As a highly flexible genre, pansori invites creative appropriation. A common point in the variety of existing pansori practices, however, seems to be the recurring attempt to create communal feelings among the audience. These attempts of community-creation might be rooted in different aspects, such as a shared cultural heritage, common beliefs in political positions, or simply the passion for pansori. I am interested in the ways community is enacted and produced in performance, by the singer(s) on stage and by the audience.

I use methods drawn from phenomenologically-oriented performance studies (in particular: Erika Fischer-Lichte’s Transformative Power of Performanceto analyze and compare different pansori performances and the ways all people involved interact with each other. I also consider the way these events are framed by institutional and discoursive structures, with a particular interest on the ways specific audiences are targeted and attracted. I put a special focus on my perspective as an “outsider”, both in Korea and in the theatre. This aspect relates to the analysis of theatre and public events in general: What actions shape the encounter between “strangers” who produce a performance together?

Some more concrete questions I am concerned with are:

  • How do singers, musicians, and theatre-makers attempt to involve the audience in their performance?
  • How are people participating in pansori in different contexts?
  • How can interaction evoke communal feelings—or, in the contrary, a sense of estrangement?
  • What effects can the peculiar pansori voice have on those who listen to it?
  • Does the image of pansori—as a valuable tradition and a unique art form—make participation difficult and in which ways?



4 Responses to My PhD Project

  1. Kyungmi Choi says:

    Hello, I’m a writer from tbs eFM’s “Inside Out” program and we would like to interview you on your phD project and your interest in pansori- please email thank you!

  2. Lee, SeungHee says:

    Hello! I am a graduate student who is majoring in (western) music history in Korean univ. and classmate of Theatre and Globalization in Coursera. Thanks for your sincere reply on my posting in Forum. I think your studies are very helpful to mine in the context of the musical culture and experiences in same area and (actually above all) interesting. I prefer to drop by here (if you don’t mind) whenever I feel difficulty with my dissertation. ;) Thank you!

  3. Dasol Kim says:

    Hello, Jan! Nice to meet you via online who are really interesting in Korean traditional music! I am Dasol Kim, a producer of EBS(Educational Broadcasting System). I am preparing a documentary about Korean traditional music called ‘Korean Music Trip’. I want to know if you can play a Korean traditional musical instrument like Geomungo, Gayageum or Danso, etc. It doesn’t matter you play it well or not. :) If you can play the instrument and are interested in the program, please send me an e-mail. The address is Thank you very much! :)

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