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Vernacular music and female musicians in late Chosŏn Korea, 1700–1897 Suh, Jiyoung


This dissertation investigates the Late Chosŏn Korean vernacular music genre known as chamber music and a new music community comprised of professional musicians from diverse social strata, including female musicians in chamber music practice. I raise a series of questions about music practice in social relations: the formulation of the court music domain in the Confucian platform; cultural assumptions surrounding musical activity and the place of musicians; the characteristics of chamber music among the cultivated and the vulgar; the agency of musicians in social distinctions, such as class, gender, and region, in the Late Chosŏn and the specific positionality of female musicians in diverse music venues.₃ The dissertation is divided into four major chapters. The first chapter covers the issue of ideal music within a Confucian framework, the taxonomy of court music, the contentions surrounding the enjoyment of music, and the movement of court musicians into private music venues in the Late Chosŏn period. The second chapter deals with the formation of chamber music, focusing on the specific location of chungin (second status) musicians who had multifaceted relationships with the patron group from the upper class and their interventions in the reshaping of chamber music as cultivated. The third chapter deals with female musicians called kinyŏ (known as female entertainers; courtesans), not least interrogating the complex character of the female musicians who performed both for official ceremonies and in private chamber music venues. The fourth chapter delves into the voices and narratives of kinyŏ that included their strategies as part of the struggle for social recognition. I further examine the environments of kinyŏ who engaged in commodifying the musical and cultural assets in kibang (known as pleasure quarters) and pursue the intricate connection between female musicians and the urban entertainment business in the Late Chosŏn period. My analysis of chamber music and professional musicians articulates the dynamic cultural forces that reformulated the dominant aesthetic based upon Confucian morality. The heterogeneous social realities captured in the music scene will enable us to reconsider Late Chosŏn society, which has been explained with the blanket term “Confucianization” applied to all social levels.  

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