P’ansori Today: Reconciling Tradition and Creativity in Modern Society

Author: 

Anna Yates-Lu

PhD defended at: 

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Summary: 

P’ansori, a form of traditional Korean storytelling through song, has been designated for preservation at the local, national and international level as a musical genre of great artistic value. While this highlights the genre’s value as heritage, there have been critiques of the rigidity of preservation strategies applied to it while, at the same time, an active scene has emerged that aims to create new forms of p’ansori. Few accounts of p’ansori have to date moved beyond assuming a dichotomy to exist between maintaining tradition and creativity, and it is this that this thesis explores, demonstrating that the old and the new co-exist much more commonly than is usually acknowledged to be the case. Creativity can also become a form of preserving a tradition, while questions of what is to be preserved, how, and by whom, are constantly negotiated. Through surveying recurring issues that emerged during research in Korea and beyond – preservation, education, developing as an artist, and p’ansori in the global arena – what becomes apparent is that most, if not all, p’ansori practitioners engage with both tradition and creativity in their artistic practice. A further layer of complexity is added to the account because of the status today attributed to p’ansori as a genre representing Korean identity. When a genre becomes representative of a culture, much is at stake in choosing how it should be practiced within and beyond a state or nation, while modern audiences also place demands on performers and performance. Hence, many artists who are active today are preoccupied by the question of how best to find their place within the p’ansori genre. The thesis provides an account of the issues currently being discussed among those involved in the p’ansori scene, offering insights that will hopefully be pertinent for other traditional genres as they engage with modernity.

Defended: 

2017