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Nam Center for Korean Studies pres.

Nam Center Colloquium Series | Re-centering Female Narratives through Murmurs and Song

Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies

Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies
Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies
Cosponsored by the Department of Ethnomusicology.

In the fields of ethnomusicology and folklore, it has become a well-known ‘given’ that the act of singing has the power to re-position marginal voices to the center of community dialogues. When people gather to share their voices, they both claim a public role and re-center narratives to include their experiences and their perspectives. Understood in this way, such expressivities are key to building and nurturing fluid social relationships. This presentation focuses on the role of heungeulsori (murmuring sound), an individualistic and improvisatory expression of female desire and angst, in both private and public realms. In Korea, heungeulsori historically has served as an emotional outlet for women, and these murmurs were often an indirect communication, uttered on the periphery in either hopes the message could be received or, at least, released onto the air. Here, I examine diverse contexts for the performance of heungeulsori and consider the ways by which performers evoke individual, community and regional identities through pointed use of melodic and narrative tropes. By examining public presentations of a once-private form of female articulation, the presentation touches on the ways by which concepts of genre and related expressivities transform in accordance with societal transformations and the human relationships therein. The solo voice does not act as an anomaly, despite its power in redirecting narrative. Rather, it engages with pre-existing social structures, reinforcing values of social place and function alongside those of aesthetic expressions tied to women’s roles in Korean society.

Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung (Ph.D. Indiana University) is currently the Executive Director of the Association for Asian Studies. She formally served as Dean of Student Affairs at Seoul National University's College of Music and Associate Professor of Theory and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Korean Music at Seoul National University (2009-2019). In addition, Finchum formerly taught in the MA in Asia Pacific Studies Program at University of San Francisco and served as an administrator and researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of East Asian Studies.She is a Korean music specialist with research interests in sustainable practice in traditional Korean music performance, musical genealogies, gender roles and performance, and emotion embodied through sound. Finchum has published in academic journals such as Ethnomusicology, the world of music (new series), Acta Koreana and Seoul Journal of Korean Studies, as well as contributed entries to publications such as The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (2019) and numerous edited volumes. She has presented papers at international conferences in the US, Canada, China, Japan, Egypt, England and Korea as well as lectures and workshops on Korean music for organizations such as the National Gugak Center, The National Theatre of Korea, Korea Foundation, UNESCO and the Asia Society of New York. In avid pursuit of musicianship, she regularly practices and performs on the two-string spike fiddle, haegeum.

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Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies
Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung, Executive Director, Association for Asian Studies

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