Tuesday, October 02, 2007


A couple of friends of ours joined a panflute group last year and have been busy lately practising for a public concert. The existence of such a group here in Busan struck me as a little esoteric but in a city of over three million people (albeit declining), there are a lot of things going on out there and many subcultures to explore.

The group is more than just about occasional concerts and practice once a week - they undertake other activities together and even went to the Philippines on a collective holiday. Speaking of collectives, they are certainly disciplined in a way that seems to be more acceptable in Korea than I can imagine working in the West, and even though my wife wants to join I couldn't imagine doing so myself even though I've played in an orchestra previously and done performances so I know the score, if you'll excuse the pun. Maybe there's something great about feeling like you're a part of a tight collective group, but I think it would rapidly start feeling like a job to me.

I suppose this raises some interesting questions about how much I ever quite could integrate into Korean society - some foreigners 'go native' but while I think I could have happily done that in Japan there's something about Korea that makes me want to stand slightly apart from it.

After months of practice I was determined to go see our friends play on Saturday but because I'd been sick all morning I wasn't really in a fit state to attend. Fortunately, or stupidly, I managed to get myself out on the one-hour journey to the far side of Busan in the evening by drinking nothing more than a mouthful of water and eating a bread roll all day.

The performance was a slightly strange affair, with photographers running around in front of the stage with their tripods to take their shots, and the constant chatter of ajummas from start to finish. I think I would have enjoyed the music more if it weren't for the distractions. We'd brought flowers along for our friend but we had to give them to her before they began rather than after the whole thing was over because apparently this would be too distracting in some unfathomable way. Sometimes there seem to be so many rules but never for the things that matter.

We don't get out to the north of Busan very often so I was surprised when we left the concert hall, which was on a hill in a slightly wooded area, to hear a variety of strange bird and insect noises which suddenly made Korea seem much more alien again to me. It's completely different to the mountains after dark near where we live, even though it's only about 15 miles away.

Korean tags: 음악


Unknown said...

Busan Mike,

I really enjoyed the pan flute video.

I also enjoyed some of your observations about the Korean mindset. I laughed hysterically when you were describing Fan Death. You are so right about the thinking. My wife will secretly get up and open the door or crack a window if I leave the fan on while we are trying to sleep. No amount of "Foreign Evidence" will convince her that people don't die from Fan Death.

I enjoy reading your comments; keep up the keen observations.


Mike said...

Thanks Michael. You made me laugh about your wife secretly opening a door or window, because whatever they tell us, I think we know this is really what they always do :-)

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