On 24 July 1896, three young Korean men in Washington DC were recorded on Edison wax cylinders by the famous American proto-ethnomusicologist Alice Cunningham Fletcher, as they sang traditional songs from their home country. These recordings, now stored in the Library of Congress, predate the next known recordings of Korean music, made in Japan, by eleven years. There were only a few Koreans in the United States capital at the time, most of them associated with the Korean Legation that represented the largely unknown country named Chosŏn. These musical recordings, part of the complex story of early Korean-American relations in the turbulent late nineteenth century, resulted from circumstances involving an extraordinary collection of interesting and influential people, from exceptional historical events in Korea and the United States, and from a fair dose of serendipity. The recordings form one part of a wider research project that might be described simply as Korean music in late-nineteenth-century America, the other parts being two museum collections that include Korean musical instruments and the matter of Korean musicians sent to the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.More details can be found here. The lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Residents' Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Somerset Palace in Seoul, which is north of Jogyesa Temple, and is 5,000 won for non-members and free for members.
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