YoungEun Kim
Selected Works
Work List

A Story of Oseonbo: Sounds Lost in Translation 
Single-channel video, stereo sound
47 min 5 sec 

A Story of Oseonbo: Sounds Lost in Translation (2022) examines a musical score created during Korea’s modernization period, when a variety of cultures were introduced and tradition was often lost or transmuted.

Joseon Guak Yeongsan hoesang is a score produced in 1914 by Insik Kim, a teacher at the Korean Court Music Study Institute, as he translated the yanggeum (Korean dulcimer) score for the composition “Yeongsan hoesang” into Western staff notation. With oral sounds (gueum, or symbols used instead of notes to mimic the sounds of instruments) written in Hangeul, the score is the earliest known example of Korea’s old notations being adapted by a Korean into the Western style. Musicians at the time compiled scores on staff notation to introduce traditional Korean music to the outside world or apply the latter’s sentiments to Korean music. At the same time, there were also sounds and techniques in traditional music that could not be translated into the staff notation.

With centering mainly on interviews with traditional music performers, composers, and researchers, the work reconstructs their different speculations on the sounds and sentiments in the score that have been lost or transformed. By presenting past records and ordinary video footage, the work also explores colonial ventures in music education and contemporary musicians’ ambivalent sentiments towards what has remained through education. In the process, it raises questions about the staff notation and other forms of musical systems that have become institutionally entrenched as contemporary musical frameworks, while reflecting on today’s traditional music.

#1-3 Installation View at SONGEUN, Seoul (Photo by Jihyun Jung)
#4-7 Still cut

2 min Video Excerpt