The Pansori Singer

If you don’t know what the voice of a Pansori singer sounds like, i recommend you search it on Youtube. It has an overwhelming effect on me whenever i hear it. i become frozen, my skin horripilates & i just want to weep. The force with which they sing is far more intense & emotional than the best of opera singers.
The first line refers to the right of passage that only when a singer can sing louder than a waterfall are they given the title Pansori. The songs tend to the theme of loss. They are tragic & the singer must memorize whole stories with very intricate rhythm patterns, as you will discover if you seek it out, which again, i highly recommend you do. You can kill two birds with one stone by watching the brilliant Sopyeonjae which earned Oh Jung-hae quite a few awards for what is an outstanding performance. If you are bored on this day of rest, give it a watch. You can find it on Youtube or the link is included.

The Pansori Singer

So the volume of your voice, consumed the heft
of the waterfall & now, commands the swing
of my heart. You come dim, from the far side
of the restaurant, through the radio.
It’s difficult, over tattle & chomping,
to hear your hair wove tightly in a bun,
your body’s interior pressures hermetically sealed
to stop the song from tearing you to bits.

In the hardened tremolo of your voice
i hear men of the dead, with clean bills of health,
& dry cutlass fish spines, broken between
their thumbs & forefingers, just as your voice splits
atoms, in what can only be
the dreadful aftermath of loss.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. I have several big CD anthologies of pansori! Finally! Someone else who knows what it is! There some really incredible works in the genre… and people all over the work should be seeking it out. It is a VERY special Korean contribution to the world.

    1. On first hearing it neither my heart or ears could quite brace themselves for the impact, it had an immense hold over my senses. I am yet to discover a form of traditional music, even Rajasthani music, which is exceptional, which quite affects me like Pansori. i have been fortunate to see traditional performances in S. Jeolla. If you didn’t watch Sopyeonjae, make some space for it today maybe.

      1. I have never seen it…will do so asap!

      2. Very elegant & the look of anguish with the produxtion of every syllable is very earnest.

  2. kvennarad says:

    Says a lot more than something about the singing!

    1. Pansori is a whole heap of tragedy & love. My poem selfishly reflects its effect on me. i am too affected by some music. Pop songs, yeh, i can enjoy some, but it is traditional musics that really get me. i still can’t listen to the adagietto from Mahler’s 5th & not be reduced to an emotional wreck. Robbie Basho’s ragas always make me horripilate & just astound. i can’t actually articulate how music affects me, i just produce a series of bored sounding adjectives, which just make sound desperate, when the impact is out of the range of language.

      1. kvennarad says:

        Well, in case you’re wondering…

  3. robert okaji says:

    The poem, too, sings!

    1. Appreciate it Robert, Have you listened to Pansori?

      1. robert okaji says:

        I had not listened to it before you mentioned it. Strangely, I didn’t feel greatly handicapped by my ignorance of the language. Such was the tone, emotion and mannerisms of the singers. I will watch/listen to more.

      2. The effect comes mostly from the melody & pitch. Watch the movie i linked. It’s very good.

  4. Beautiful piece, Daniel. I love the evocative imagery, and atomic fission (of course). 🤓

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