Ethnomusicologist Joshua Pilzer explores women’s music in contemporary South Korea, and its relationship to traumatic experience and survival. For fifteen years, he has studied the role of music in the lives of Korean survivors of the Japanese military “comfort women” system, as well as Korean victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Women’s music, in circumstances of traumatic experience, provides a forum where survivors can find emotional and physical control, cultivate voices, and struggle for mastery over traumatic memories. It is also a means of forging and reinforcing links between self and society, challenging the edifices of male power, and creating different kinds of ritual transformation in everyday life.
Joshua Pilzer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ethnomusicology, University of Toronto. He is a scholar of Korean and Japanese music. He is interested in the place of music in the texture of post-colonial Korean life, in music’s everyday social utility and poetics, and in music as alternative history. He is the author of Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ (Oxford, 2012) and is currently finishing another book on the musicality of everyday life among Korean victims of the atomic bombing of Japan and their children.