Cross-cultural interaction studies how people with different cultural backgrounds communicate in different or similar ways among themselves and how they handle to communicate across culture. In music, cross-cultural interaction is related to ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology is a field that studies various approaches of the study of music and the way material, biological, social cultural and other dimensions emphasis with it.
In this essay, I will approach two case studies related to two very different styles of music and the perception that human being have in its parts and the way of how this music influence and is seen by other people from other cultures around the world. For this analysis I have picked “Music in Korea” from D.L. Know and the famous piece “4’33” by John Cage. “Culture can include how people live, role expectations, child rearing, practices, attitudes about time and money, definitions of achievement, concepts of beauty, art, music, food and a host of other things. Nonetheless, culture is only one element of who a person is” (Carballeira)
In Korea, the traditional music struggle to maintain a sense of original cultural identity but this has become very difficult to maintain due to multiple external influences from abroad, especially in South Korea. In many of the rural and village areas from Korean Peninsula exists a band called “p’ungmul” composed from percussion music and dance form ubiquitous which is one of the most popular band who still sing the folk music with vigor and dedication.
“P’ungmul” helped on the past as a method of empowerment in the face of physical or political hardship. This power of metamorphosis of the music only shows the remarkable flexibility that how this music adapted to the need of time. As an example from the book “Music in Korea” we have different adaptation of the “p’ungmul” “Before the age of industrialized agriculture “p’ungmul” was once integral to the work of agricultural guilds, where members played “p’ungmul” to enhance the productivity of various farming tasks. More recently, it has become a potent vehicle for political protest.” (Music in Korea, p. 79) Due to political protests have become increasingly frequent, the people from Korea were starting to get accustomed to “loud percussion music as student danced to farmer’s music (“p’ungmul”) dressed in traditional farmers white clothes, and battled with riot police” (Music in Korea, p. 80). This example show as how music was influence by the developed of the culture and by the things that happen in the country during the years.
The music evolved from the streets to the stage and gained a new title “Samulnori” and was formed from four instruments of percussion arranged on the stage deriving from the rhythms, performance techniques and music of “p’ungmul.” In the same time the stage music developed in Korea and had two important performers Kim Duk Soo and Yi Kwang-su. The group was so good that they become successful thru their fast tempos, dynamic style and virtuous rhythmic sequences. They became successful as a world music phenomenon, going in tours not only in Korea but extended in Europe, Japan and United States. This was a fresh and new way to approaching the tradition and transforming into something more contemporary that spread all over the world, as the music to be interacting with other cultures.
Another important tradition for the Korean people that spread nowadays all over the world and gained different interpretation is the shamanist ritual tradition that in the revival era embraced various forms. But this tradition had native culture and believes in the Korean culture which served during centuries as an inspiration and an influence for many instrumental, vocal, dances and drama gender. This is also an explanation why we have today so many interpretations of the shamanism traditions and how this traditions spread all over the world. The songs could be oral transmitted further from generation to generation and another influence was the migrations of population.
Going forward, to approach a genre found at the opposite side from the Korean music is the music of John Cage, in particular the most discussed piece “ 4’33” .” In the entire piece, the pianist comes to the piano, put his score, turned the pages but he isn’t paying one single note. After 4’33” he got out of the scene and the piece is done. Cage thru his piece raised a new concept, that in silence we can create our own music. The music that was hear in that 4’33” minutes was only the sound of the cars from the street, the whirring of the air-conditioning system and the squeaking seats.
In conclusion, “Samulnori” broke some cultural boundaries and worked on fusion project with famous Korean vocalists, Korean beak-dancers and European jazz-artists. Their success led to rise of other groups as Puri and Gong Myoung that created other percussion-fusion-heavy oriented groups. The same did Cage by implementing a new concept into the history of music, letting the people from the entire world what is music and what isn’t music anymore. Can every sound by transformed into music?
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