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Ensembles in the Contemporary Korean Soundscape -

War, occupation, and education inspired contemporary adaptations in Korean traditional music throughout the Korean peninsula. The political and psychological divisions fueling a quest for distinction in the North have led to decades of musical revisions infrequently heard and little understood by those outside of the regime’s borders. In the South, concerns over lost traditions stimulated the development of cultural heritage and education systems emphasizing preservation. Consequently, a divide between musical heritage and creative activity developed mid-twentieth century as the traditional and the ‘traditionesque’ both struggled to express contemporary Korean identity in the face of domestic cultural perils such as Westernization and deficient public interest. In both North and South Korea, traditional performance genres and contemporary referents have generally come to represent a metaphorical home, one emblematic of Korean cultural roots and twenty-first century identity. At the heart of these dramatic transitions has been the ensemble; from large-scale Western-influenced orchestras to intimate chamber ensembles. The ensemble has been a constant over time as a principled representative of both current circumstances and potentialities. This special issue seeks to explore shifts in Korea’s musical culture through an examination of the many ensembles—court ensembles to fusion teams—that now represent it.
With diverse ensembles inside Korea’s musical world providing a window through which we can discuss musical change, the issue’s coalescent theme is that of soundscape. In ethnomusicological parlance, the term has come to indicate all sonic phenomena accidental and purposeful, natural and manipulated connected to a particular place at a particular time. The atmospheric sounds of Korea’s twenty and twenty-first century rapidly changing environment have contoured the character of the populace, inspiring ensemble acoustic expressivities. Contributors provide a well-rounded representation of the ensemble within the contemporary Korean soundscape. Individual articles explore the genesis and revival of the court ensemble, the modern traditional music orchestra, the young kugak team phenomenon, North/South trans-border collaborations, diversifying identities in ensemble performance, and domestic-to-global shifts in contemporary performance. The ensemble has increasingly diversified through collaborations, heritage cultivation, and global influence, effecting new potential and expectations for a Korean sound.


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Ensembles in the Contemporary Korean Soundscape -

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