On Friday, October 6, 2011, my birthday, I attended Founder School Demo Day on the University of California at Berkeley campus. As I was heading back to the Bay Area Rapid Transit train station, I heard a loud and surprisingly good percussion performance. I followed my ears and discovered the student group named ‘EGO: UC Berkeley Traditional Korean Drumming (P’ungmul).’ Here’s some information on Korean musical instruments.
I had my good camera with me since I took photographs and video at the Founder School Demo Day. I was so impressed with the drumming that I switched lenses to my Nikon 50mm F1.4 lens that I’ve had since college.
I waited for a break and then started capturing video in the extremely low light conditions, since it was about 9pm and the open gathering spot wasn’t illuminated except by sunlight bouncing off the moon and a street light in the distance.
I introduced myself to the students at the conclusion of the piece I recorded. Dan Kong explained that EGO is student group that practices and performs traditional Korean percussion works. I gave him my gOffice business card as I was out of my new blogger cards, having given them all out at the Demo Day.
I explained to the students I am a blogger and that I liked what I heard and saw so much that I planned to write about it and post the video. I made sure they were all OK with that, as I didn’t know for certain if they might be doing something the university might object to, like make a LOT of noise on campus. The students assured me it was fine to post, and they were excited they were about to get some ‘press’, I gathered.
Sadly, I know little about percussion groups or compositions. But I liked what I heard very much. Kong and the other students asked me to mention that they were just practicing, so there were likely to be some errors in their playing. I didn’t detect any errors.
Kong emailed me later that night and provided me with the address to the Facebook page of their group. Here’s a bit of what he had to say to me in his email:
“Sorry about our brief conversation; like I was saying we were practicing for our performance tomorrow and I felt like our conversation may have somewhat been curtailed. I just wanted to provide you with a little bit of info on the piece we were playing, called 사물놀이 (Samulnori which literally translates into “entertainment of four instruments”), and as you may have noticed, there ware four different types of instruments, each representing a weather conditions of: thunder, rain, wind and cloud.”
I captured the video in full HD, but I uploaded it at less than full HD size since I’m running out of space on my main iMac, so I didn’t have room to process the full size file, which was nearly 3 gigabytes.
The video doesn’t capture the impact of this group. I was mesmerized watching them, as they displayed genuine enthusiasm, excitement, and from what I could tell, skill. I hope to see them perform a finished and fully rehearsed piece one day.