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South Korean Drumming and Dance

Composed of a core set of two drums and two gongs, p’ungmul is a South Korean tradition of rural folk percussion. Steeped in music, dance, theater, and pageantry, but centrally focused on rhythm, such ensembles have been an integral part of village life in South Korea for centuries, serving as a musical accompaniment in the often overlapping and shifting contexts of labor, ritual, and entertainment.
The first book to introduce Korean drumming and dance to the English-speaking world, Nathan Hesselink’s P’ungmul offers detailed descriptions of its instrumentation, dance formations, costuming, actors, teaching lineages, and the complexities of training. Hesselink also evaluates how this tradition has taken on new roles and meanings in the twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries, investigating the interrelated yet contested spheres of history, memory, government policy, grassroots politics, opportunities for musical transmission, and performance practices and aesthetics.
P’ungmul offers those interested in ethnomusicology, world music, anthropology, sociology, and Asian studies a special glimpse into the inner workings of a historically rich, artistically complex, and aesthetically and aurally beautiful Korean musical and dance tradition.

296 pages | 16 color plates, 34 halftones, 2 maps, 1 line drawing, 13 figures, 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: East Asia

Music: Ethnomusicology


“Written with authority and sensitivity, P’ungmul offers an intimate understanding of Korea through one of the country’s most ubiquitous music and dance traditions. Nathan Hesselink reveals his profound respect and knowledge for the music and musicians by providing effective channels through which Korean musicians can speak of and for themselves. By translating and interpreting oral interviews with musicians and literary sources that have influenced their musicianship, he enables readers to delve into the formation of their thought processes and begin to approach an understanding of their worldviews. Textual sources on music come alive through Hesselink’s own experiences with the tradition, and in this way, he projects South Korean drumming and dance as a vibrant and creative expressive culture.”--Tong Soon Lee, Emory University

Tong Soon Lee

“In a style detailed yet accessible, Nathan Hesselink’s P’ungmul leads us to a sense of the ways in which participation in this rural percussion tradition fit into the flow of contemporary Korean life. Distinguishing between p’ungmul’s various contexts as a form of entertainment, ritual, and labor, Hesselink addresses performance aesthetics, ensemble interrelationships, and ensemble-audience expectations. Other highlights in this study include his explanation of the incredible array and succession of patterns that constitute performances, clarification of right and left playing styles, and extensive translations of interviews as well as narratives of his mentors. This book is an important addition to the burgeoning study of Korean music beyond Korea.”--Bonnie C. Wade, University of California, Berkeley

Bonnie C. Wade

"This monograph is especially valuable for its translations of literary sources and oral accounts from South Korean scholars and drummers. . . . An evocative portrait of a lively local scene of p’ungmal practice that is often presented as a romanticized imaginary of a national South Koprean tradition."

Yoonjah Choi | Ethnomusicology

"A great achievement. [The book] is written in a very accessible style and offers a wealth of unique insights and accounts regarding the tradition and practice of p’ungmal in contemporary Korean society. . . .Hesselink manages to maintain an engaging narrative that incorporates many interesting (and often funny) anecdotes."

Roald Maliangkay | Asian Ethnology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Introduction: On Visiting
1. Assets and Contexts
2. Historical Texts
3. By and For "The People"
4. Transmitted by Mouth, Taken In by Heart
5. The Repertoire
6. Timely Reflections
Appendix: Individuals Cited


Korean Musicological Society: Lee Hye-gu Award

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