Musical Stories (Op-Ed No. 1): Hyun Ji Oh

15 May

Music as a Gateway to Other Cultures

Written by Music and Music Education M.A. Candidate, Hyun Ji Oh

_MG_8642(Hyun Ji Oh standing fourth from the right)

In autumn 2013, as a final project for Dr. Marsha Baxter’s Comprehensive Musicianship course, I began to learn the Korean instrument known as the gayageum. I am Korean and the gayageum is a representative string instrument of my homeland, while this is the first time I had the chance to learn the instrument formally. I am ashamed to say I wasn’t familiar with Korean traditional music and musical instruments prior to this experience. I soon found that I was genuinely fascinated by the gayageum, and continued to practice with increasing passion during visits to the Korean Performing Arts Center in midtown Manhattan, where on March 28, 2014, I was privileged to join a gayageum performance entitled “The Scent of Spring.” I performed Korean modernized songs along with my gayageum teacher, Jung Hee Oh, and other guest performers.

I found the process of preparing for the performance to be challenging. I was used to preparing for western music performances, so this new experience was unfamiliar to me, from learning how to bow to an audience, to how to sit properly, to wearing the traditional Korean gown known as the hanbok. Although all of this was challenging, it also was exciting and educational. Not only did I immerse myself in Korean culture in a way I never had before, but I also met many good people doing so. I became friends with many Korean performers, as well as performers from other countries. I met people who came from The India Center and had shared so many fascinating facts about their nation’s music and culture. They invited me to visit their center and learn more about Indian instruments. If my busy academic schedule ever allows me to do so, I plan on taking them up on their offer.

_MG_8550(Hyun Ji Oh playing the gayageum, back row, third from the left)

I think the reader can tell that this performance was a very meaningful experience for me. It may sound strange for a Korean person to say that an experience like this one helped her learn about other cultures including her own, but Korea’s culture and traditional music have such deep historical roots, that a modern Korean needs to work hard to become acquainted with them. Indeed, I have learned that becoming familiar with any culture, and especially a foreign one, is not an easy endeavor. It takes years, and calls for tremendous efforts. Nonetheless, I think pursuing music is a great way to familiarize oneself with other cultures. Because music exists everywhere and thus is related closely to our daily lives, we can experience and understand other cultures through music, without hesitation.

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2 Responses to “Musical Stories (Op-Ed No. 1): Hyun Ji Oh”

  1. JM May 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    What a beautiful and touching story ! I love your passion and it gives me the desire to learn a new instrument and also to discover a new culture! Indeed, you perfectly understood the relationship between a culture, the history and its application on Music. Your story allows us to understand traditional music in a simple and easy way to access to the beginner. I encourage you to continue to make us discover the music in this beautiful perspective. You had an amazing initiative which looks like a beautiful life lesson!

    I hope to read you again soon!

    All the best,

    JM

  2. J. Swee. May 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Amazing story! Congratulation for this beautiful experience and I hope to assist one day to this kind of event! I’m passionate aboute Korean culture thanks to my wonderful (and beautiful!) korean girlfriend. I’m always happy to rediscover a part of the Korean culture. Thank you for sharing this moment.

    J. Swee

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