Self and Others in the Studies of Korean Popular Music : a Case Study of T’ŭrot’ŭ
The research of Korean popular music tends to take different perspectives from those found in the research of other art forms, such as Western popular music and Western art music. For instance, we deal with the Western art music in terms of its period, representative artists, and transforming progress, while regarding Korean popular music as a territorially static form. This researcher interprets this phenomenon as ‘othering,’ caused by the lack of consideration on the insiders' subjective discourse and consciousness. Focusing on a Korean popular song genre, c(lit. trot), this paper tries to dissect the existent knowledge and its othering involved in Korean popular music research, and then reveals the voices of the insiders', emphasizing fieldwork, an ethnomusicological method.
The paper consists of two parts in the same order that we usually take in the ethnomusicological research. The first part, as a beginning step of the research, is a disentanglement of the archival knowledge. In the case of t’ŭrot’ŭ, it has been recognized as a Japanese Korean popular music due to its peculiar melodic and rhythmic structure during the formative period in the early 20th century, and widely restated in the academic writings both domestically and internationally without any further consideration on the insiders' detailed arguments. This is an obvious othering process caused by the specificity of intellectuals.
The second part of this paper, as a pivotal step of the research, deals with the insiders' social and historical consciousness, consisting of ‘1. t’ŭrot’ŭ and social class’ and ‘2. analyses of its performance practices.’ The insiders' voices collected from the fieldwork reveal that they consciously reproduced their cultural identity, reflecting on the social and historical meanings of t’ŭrot’ŭ. In addition, they tend to focus on singing practices rather than its structural aspects, in regards to the fundamental and distinctive elements of the genre. In sum, this paper, as a polyphonic writing, shifted its focus to the insiders' discourse and consciousness, and lessened othering phenomenon led by the traditionally analytical methodology on popular music in Korea.