Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Youtube Neoclassical Guitarist Revealed

Okay, I've been updating and my latest John Mayer post constantly just because new stuff and new gossip keeps coming up. The new gossip is, nightmare inducing, but nonetheless hilarious.

However, it's taken my focus off of South Korea which is unfortunate because Westerners, the bulk of my audience it seems, really need to learn more about the rest of the world. Since I'm here, I'll try to help you out with South Korea and northeast Asia. While I can't promise that I won't update that John Mayer post any further, I will share a bit of information on a Korean musician who is making waves

I found this post on The Marmot's Hole: The Real Korean Wave Hits the Internet. For you who don't know what the "Korean Wave" or, 한류, hallyu. 한류 is a cultural phenomena that has swept through Asia. Due to the popularity of certain Korean movies and television shows there has been a huge increase in the interest in Korean pop culture in other Asian countries. That, of course, is good for Korea in many ways as it drives people to purchase Korean made merchandise, makes people want to visit the country and learn the language.

I've experienced the impact of 한류 first hand when I took a Korean language course at my university which was mostly made up of Japanese students. We lunched together frequently and on the last day they all HAD to go to a restaurant nearby that was featured in a Korean movie called 엽기적인 그녀(warning, the link has a spoiler) which although it literally means "My Bizarre Girl" I guess they figured "My Sassy Girl" would generate more interest in the English-speaking market.

I saw the movie and thought it was okay, but the Japanese and others in Asia loved it. That's probably because the cultures are similar in many ways. While I thought the female lead character was annoying, needed counseling and a stint at the Betty Ford Clinic, she was endearing to Korean and Asian audiences who aren't used to feisty female characters. Anyway, that's just to point out that Korean artists are making significant inroads to other cultures.

Which leads me to the linked video. It seems that Youtube has spawned a group of neoclassical musicians who upload their performances for the purpose of learning through feedback. There is one that was uploaded eight months ago which features a guitar virtuoso performing the complex Pachabel Canon. This quote from Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last published in the New York Times sums it up fairly well.

...the video drew hordes of seekers with diverse interests and attitudes. Guitar sites, MySpace pages and a Polish video site called Smog linked to it, and viewers thundered to YouTube to watch it. If individual viewings were shipped records, “guitar” would have gone gold almost instantly. Now, with nearly 7.35 million views — and a spot in the site’s 10 most-viewed videos of all time — funtwo’s performance would be platinum many times over. From the perch it’s occupied for months on YouTube's "most discussed" list, it generates a seemingly endless stream of praise (riveting, sick, better than Hendrix), exegesis, criticism, footnotes, skepticism, anger and awe.

The most basic comment is a question: Who is this guy?

Well, here he is: Mr. Jeong-hyun Lim

What I thought was interesting about the New York Times article was this passage.
That educational imperative is a big part of the“Canon Rock” phenomenon. When guitarists upload their renditions, they often ask that viewers be blunt: What are they doing wrong? How can they improve? When I asked Mr. Lim the reason he didn't show his face on his video, he wrote, “Main purpose of my recording is to hear the other’s suggestions about my playing.” He added, “I think play is more significant than appearance. Therefore I want the others to focus on my fingering and sound. Furthermore I know I'm not that handsome.”

Online guitar performances seem to carry a modesty clause, in the same way that hip-hop comes with a boast. Many of the guitarists, like Mr. Chang and Mr. Lim, exhibit a kind of anti-showmanship that seems distinctly Asian. They often praise other musicians, denigrate their own skills and talk about how much more they have to practice. Sometimes an element of flat-out abjection even enters into this act, as though the chief reason to play guitar is to be excoriated by others. As Mr. Lim said, “I am always thinking that I'm not that good player and must improve more than now.”
What interests me about it is the contrast in attitude. I recently participated in a thread on a forum where someone asked about lessons African immigrants could teach African-Americans. I jumped into the thread with the best of intentions saying that was a great idea. I then went on to suggest that we could also stand to learn from other cultures, especially Korean immigrants as the histories are similar. I also added that maybe we ought to acknowledge that African-Americans could stand to maybe step back, be humble and learn from others.

Well, you could have sworn I stepped out and called someone a bitch. I got a reply saying that Koreans aren't humble, they believe they're this or that. I actually thought that was interesting as I've lived here for over half a decade, so unless the person replying has similar experiences I highly doubt that she knows the cultural characteristics of Koreans. I don't claim to have a handle on all the intricacies of Korean culture but I do know that boasting and arrogance isn't seen much here except in select situations. It was bullheaded bitterness on a level I just couldn't handle.

With that said, Mr. Lim awesome job, and I hope that you learned a lot from posting your performance on the web.


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  1. I saw that story and very interested in the detail, I was going to blog it, but you've saved me the rouble!

    I know what you mean about the blogging community, it gets more and more interesting the more you follow links.

    I can spend almost the whole day just following links from blogs.
    I found the
    site from a link on
    and spent ages reading their page.

    I can't remember now where I found the link to your page from,
    someone's blogroll I think.

  2. Yeah, Mr. Lim's story is pretty cool. I thought it was funny because it hit just as I was having this debate about humility and learning from others. It just brought my point home.

    The blog network is very interesting indeed.

    No matter where you came from I'm glad you found me! Thanks a lot for the comment!


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.