Composed of a score set of two drums and two gongs, p’ungmul is a South Korean tradition of rural folk percussion. Steeped in music, dance, theater, and pageantry, but centrally focused on rhythm, such ensembles have been an integral part of village life in South Korea for centuries, serving as musical accompaniment in the often overlapping and shifting contexts of labor, ritual, and entertainment.
The first full-length book to introduce Korean drumming and dance to the English-speaking world, Nathan Hesselink’s P’ungmul offers detailed descriptions of its instrumentation, dance formations, costuming, characters, teaching lineages, and the complexities of training. Hesselink also evaluates how this tradition has taken on new roles and meanings in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, investigating the interrelated yet contested spheres of history, memory, government policy, grassroots politics, opportunities for musical transmission, and performance practices and aesthetics.
P’ungmul offers those interested in ethnomusicology, world music, anthropology, sociology, and Asian studies a special glimpse into the inner workings of a historically rich, artistically complex, and aesthetically and aurally beautiful Korean music and dance tradition.