Taking Culture Seriously: Democratic Music and its Transformative Potential in South Korea

Author: Hesselink, Nathan

Publication details: The World of Music 49, no. 3 (2007): 75-106.

Weblink: https://jstor.org

Abstract: This article outlines my personal search for a working theory of democratic music in the context of South Korean folk drumming and dance (p'ungmul). Motivated by the call of Korean political theorists and folklorists of the late twentieth century for the identification and investigation of democratic elements within traditional culture, I attempt to locate such ideals in the musical structure and performance practices of an indigenous drumming tradition. Through an extensive review of the pertinent literature, I was able to identify five general principles of musical democracy that are consistent with established democratic theory. My analysis hopes to highlight the ways in which we can move beyond discussions of performative art in purely aesthetic terms, revealing the socially transformative potential of the artistic realm.