First western book on an Asian composer writing for traditional instruments
Andrew Killick, Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology, has known the Korean composer Hwang Byungki since 1988, interviewed him many times, and even learnt to play some of his music on the kayagum zither. His 25-year study of Hwang’s music has now reached fruition in the first western book devoted to an Asian composer writing primarily for traditional instruments.
Andrew Killick’s book ‘Hwang Byungki: Traditional Music and the Contemporary Composer in the Republic of Korea’ has been published in the Ashgate SOAS Musicology Series. This is the first book in a western language about an Asian composer who writes primarily for traditional Asian instruments. Against the background of ever-increasing interaction between Asian and Western music since the mid-twentieth century, it examines in detail how Hwang has been able to extend the range of traditional Korean music in various directions without simply “westernising” it.
As a composer, performer, scholar, and administrator, Hwang Byungki (born 1936) has had an exceptional influence on the world of Korean traditional music for over half a century. During that time, western-style music (both classical and popular) has become the main form of musical expression for most Koreans, while traditional music has taken on a special role as a powerful emblem of national identity. Through analysis of Hwang’s life and works, this book addresses the broader question of traditional music’s place in a rapidly modernising yet intensely nationalistic society, as well as the issues faced by a composer working in an idiom in which the very concept of the individual composer was not traditionally recognised. It explores how new music for traditional instruments can provide a means of negotiating between a local identity and the modern world order.
Following a thematic rather than a rigidly chronological approach, each chapter focuses on a particular area of interest or activity—such as Hwang’s unique position in the traditional genre kayagum sanjo, his enduring interest in Buddhist culture and a meditative aesthetic, and his adoption of extended techniques and approaches from western avant-garde music—and includes in-depth analysis of selected works, excerpts from which are provided on an accompanying CD.