Katherine In–Young Lee
Associate Professor, Ethnomusicology

Music and politics; Music of Korea

Katherine In-Young Lee is intrigued by how analyses of sound and music can offer reappraisals of past events and contemporary cultural phenomena. In this vein, she has developed research projects that engage various types of “sonic evidence”—from the politicized drumming of dissent to the audible dimensions of a nation branding campaign. Her book Dynamic Korea and Rhythmic Form (Wesleyan University Press 2018), explores how a percussion genre from South Korea (samul nori) became a global music genre. More broadly, she contends that rhythm-based forms serve as a critical site for cross-cultural musical encounters.  Dynamic Korea and Rhythmic Form was recently recognized with the 2019 Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology from the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards.

Lee’s research on the role of music at scenes of protest during South Korea’s democratization movement was awarded the Charles Seeger Prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Martin Hatch Award by the Society for Asian Music. She has published in Ethnomusicology, the Journal of Korean Studies, and the Journal of Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Additionally, she has previously worked in arts administration in Seoul, South Korea, and she helped to host numerous musicians and scholars when she was an assistant professor at UC Davis (2012-17). Her current research project on the World Vision Korean Orphan Choir lies at the nexus of many disciplines—ethnomusicology; voice and sound studies; critical adoption studies; Cold War history, and post-WWII studies of Evangelical Christianity. With U.S.-Korea relations and the Cold War as a backdrop, her work considers the sonic legacies of American Evangelicalism through a Korean children’s choir that was linked with World Vision International—a humanitarian aid organization founded by Reverend Bob Pierce in 1950.

East Asia, Korean music, music and politics, sound studies, historiography, ethnography, transnational adoption, Cold War politics, global circulations of form.

Ph.D. Ethnomusicology, Harvard University; M.A. Ethnomusicology, University of Washington; B.M. Piano Performance; B.M. Musicology, University of Michigan.

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