Dr. Eun Ha Park

Throughout her life Park Eun-ha has amazed everyone from global audiences and fellow musicians to participants in her meticulously-run workshops with her talent, artistry and commitment to her music. Born into a family with distinct artistic inclinations in the city of Daejon (140 kilometers south of South Korea’s capital city of Seoul), Eun-ha was first introduced a traditional Korean music at the tender age of six. She was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study from National Living Treasures such as Yang Do-il and Song Sun-gap, deeply immersing herself in the traditions of pungmul (Korean folk music that includes drumming and dancing) especially the small handheld gong (ggwaenggwari) and hourglass drum (janggu) throughout her years as an elementary school student. At the age of 9, she earned nationwide acclaim when she won Grand Prize in the individual performance category of the prestigious National Farmers Band Competition. Following this Eun-ha was selected to become a member of the Little Angeles troupe based in Seoul and toured over 21 countries.

Although Eun-ha was taught in the traditional method, which focuses on oral tradition, she is also an accomplished scholar. After graduating first in her class from Seoul’s Sejong University’s Dance Department, she then went on to become the first traditional Korean percussion player to earn an MA with a thesis on the relationship between dance movements and the rhythms of the janggu. She then become Korea’s first person to earn a PhD in Dance Studies from Yongin University. Thus her experiences have allowed Eun-ha to bridge both the “heart to heart” method of traditional music and the systematic discipline of formal study.

Her professional career began in earnest in 1984 when she became a founding member and first woman to join the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Art’s Samul Nori troupe. This opportunity allowed her to develop not only professionally as a musician, but also to travel the world and encounter a variety of different musical types while sharing her own. As a solo performer she has participated in events like the Other Minds Festival (2001) where she performed in a piece called “Rituel” written for Western ensemble and Korean drummer/dancer. The composer of “Rituel” Kim Hi Kyung noted, “The important concept of this piece was to keep the Korean traditional music unchanged for Ms. Park’s part and let the other instrumentalists improvise within that framework. It was particularly interesting to see the dialogue between Korean performer Park and the Western percussionist, William Winant…” Eun-ha has also performed at the Pacific Rim Music Festival (2003) and the Indo-Korea Traditional Arts Festival (2008) as well as giving workshops at universities in Wisconsin, Ohio and Santa Cruz.

Park Eun-ha currently performs for the National Gugak Center(formerly, National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts) where, as a master artist with nearly 30 years of experience, she also teaches the newer members of the National Gugak Center in addition to holding classes in music and dance at a number of prestigious universities in Korea.

Park Eun-ha has been a trailblazer in the world of traditional Korean music, both as a woman and an innovator. She is comfortable in both the traditional and modern aspects of her music and offers an excellent example of both the future of Korean music and how to get there.

“It was a joy to hear and see her perform…”

R. Anderson Sutton, Dean, School of Pacific & Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Seoljanggu(설장구) is a solo dance with janggu (장구, a double-headed, hourglass-shaped drum) which takes place as part of an individual performance in nongak (농악農樂 literally, Farmers' Music). Nongak is a popular performing art derived from communal rites and rural entertainments. It has evolved into a representative performing art of Korea, combining a percussion ensemble and sometimes wind instruments, parading, dancing, drama, and acrobatic feats. Nongak begins with the Farmers’ Music band dancing in various formations which is followed by the individual band members showing off their instrumental skills and acrobatic skills. Seoljanggu has always been seen as a virtuosic act reserved for the best janggu player in a troupe.

Dr. Park will perform seoljanggu of the Yang Doil tradition of Gyeonggi and Chungcheong provinces. The rhythmic patterns of seoljanggu in the Yang Doil tradition do not rely on complicated rhythms and have many empty beats/rests filled by dance movements. It uses many simple rhythms in both Chaepyeon (채편 right hand, struck with a stick) and Bukpyeon (북편 left hand, struck with a mallet). The dance movements of the feet and hand are small with details as well as big movements using wide spaces. Rhythms are played very softly in the beginning and they gradually get faster and louder. When Janggu is played at its best with hand and foot movements, it creates lots of joy and excitement as well as gracious dynamics. The performance will start with dasrum (다스름 literally, tuning) and move on rhythms of hwimori(휘모리presto), dongsalpuri(동살푸리), gutgeori(굿거리), jajinmori(자진모리 allegro), hoodoorook garak(후두륵가락), dolsangwoo garak(돌상우가락), and hwimori(휘모리).

Soechum (쇠춤) or ggwaenggwari dance (꽹과리춤) is a small hand-held gong dance. Although it is the traditional Korean dance, the current form is one of the products of creative succession of Korean traditional art by a new generation of players. It is an epitome of artistic charisma with harmonization of the sharp metallic sound of ggwaenggwari (꽹과리, a small hand-held gong) and dance. As soe (쇠, literally, metal) represents nature and chum(춤, literally, dance) represents humanity, soechum pursues complete unity of nature and humanity. Its use of samulnori rhythm and sinawi rhythm with lots of variations is quite exotic and interesting. Its rhythm is based on canon but emphasizes virtuosity and improvisation by players. Dr. Park will perform alone at this symposium. When two players perform soechum, the highlight is the ‘tchaksoe (짝쇠)’ section, where two players play intricate hocketing on two ggwaenggwaris or other percussive instruments such janggu.