[Online Lecture] Blistered Fingers and Bleeding Throats: The Aesthetics of Korean Traditional Music

Jocelyn Clark
Tuesday, June 9, 2020 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Online Zoom meeting

Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch lecture series

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We are inviting RAS members and friends to the RAS online lecture via Zoom

**  How to join the lecture:

1) Go to Zoom meeting link: 


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Meeting ID: 881 8976 8849

Password: 151692

4) Join the talk no later than 19:30, June 9 (Seoul)


Blistered Fingers and Bleeding Throats:

The Aesthetics of Korean Traditional Music 


The sublimation of physical and emotional pain and its transformation into beauty is historically one of the central tenets of traditional (South) Korean “folk” music aesthetics. Singing or playing an instrument often requires physical sacrifice, evident in, for example, bleeding blisters on the hands or lesions on the vocal cords. The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca described the famous cante singer La Niña de Los Peines as singing with “a scorched throat—a furious, burning duende.” In Korea, the duende emanating from the “scorched throat” of the pansori singer is connected to both the “welling joy” (and humor) of heung as well as han—what Korean drummer Kim Dong-Won has called “fermented sorrow,” the layers of festering pain that accumulate over a lifetime. Kim and the pansori singer Bae Il-Dong have resurrected a little-known aesthetic term from literature, jolbangmi, to describe the wood-scraping and voice-scratching “rough beauty” of Korean musical aesthetics. In this talk, I explore the Korean aesthetics especially as they relate to the metaphysical, physical, and historical suffering experienced by performers of Korea’s traditional musical forms. I relate these to other Korean art forms, their grounds in history and philosophy, especially to the Daoist notion that “Great skill may appear  inelegant, or coarse,” and discuss the future of these aesthetics in a global post-COVID 21st century digital world.

Jocelyn Clark (Ph.D. Harvard University) is a professor of East Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts department at Pai Chai University. She has published in academic journals such as The World of Music, Asian Musicology, and Perspectives on Korean Music. Her research interests include music of place, and contemporary “national music” performance practices in Korea, China, and Japan. She is engaged in long-term field research on sanjo and byeongchang, Korean traditional genres of which she is also a practitioner—the first foreigner to officially be included in the Important Human Intangible Cultural Asset System. She has commissioned and/or premiered over 30 new works for Korean gayageum, both as a soloist and as part of the East Asian zither ensemble IIIZ+.


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