Fulbright Forum – April 28, 2017

Kendra Van Nyhuis

Rocking the Difference: Intercultural Acts of Music Making in South Korea

There are few mainstream outlets for rock music in South Korea, and live performances at clubs are extremely important for bands to gain and maintain a following. In order to put on and participate in performances, rock musicians in Korea must curate extensive social and performing networks. In addition to the Korean musicians, there is a small but active group of foreign musicians that also participate in performances. While it is relatively easy to play with only foreign musicians in foreigner dominated neighborhoods like Haebangchon, a number of foreign musicians perform and create bands with Korean musicians. At the same time, some Korean musicians work to incorporate foreign musicians in their shows and bands. My research works to untangle the variables involved in the formation of intercultural relationships, the power dynamics of those connections, and the effect those links have on both performative and sonic acculturation of members within these networks. This research will utilize intercultural network theory and theories of social mediation to highlight the interplay of cultural and genre affinities that help create and define performance network clusters in Korean underground rock.

This presentation will look at the relationship between networks, places, and intercultural interactions in Seoul underground rock. First I will discuss the difficulties in defining a scene, or an indie community, and why I have chosen networks as the theoretical framework for my research. I will then go on to examine the ways that different places play into the creation and definitions of networks. Whether a place is understood to be more ‘foreign’ or ‘Korean’ can not only determine who is more likely to play there, but sometimes what kind of genre one will hear and the level of talent one can expect. As part of this section I will also discuss some of the mechanics of putting a show together, and why network connections are so important for this act. Finally, I will focus on microsocialities of intercultural performances, and the way that these are both affected by place and are essential in the creation and maintenance of performance networks. These microsocialities highlight power dynamics within and across networks that play an important role in the compromises made by both performers and audiences in performance situations. Adjustments and shifts in behavior that result from the discrepancies of linguistic understanding, performance practice, and genre convention can often play out larger social formations represented by these differences.