Katherine In–Young Lee
Associate Professor (On leave 2022-2023), 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 recognized with the 2019 Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicology from the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards. 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. An article on a 1963 recording with Burl Ives and the Choir appears in the recent issue of Korean Studies.

Professor Lee has curated innovative projects for her undergraduate students such as an oral history project with Asian and Asian American musicians. She has also designed new graduate seminars, including one called Ethnomusicology and Social Engagement; 8 graduate students worked closely with 3 musicians (Tamir Hargana, SK Kakraba, and Louie Reyes) to assist with grantwriting, the development of pedagogical materials, and website creation. She continues to seek ways to integrate her teaching and research with connections to local artists and communities. In 2019, she organized Global Musics and Musical Communities at UCLA—a 2-day conference that involved a symposium with invited speakers, a conference, workshops, and the U.S. premiere of Red Sun/SamulNori: featuring master South Korean percussionist Kim Duk Soo, saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

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.


Mohsen Mohammadi
Director of Indo-Persian Music
I Nyoman Wenten
Adjunct Assoc. Professor
Steven Loza
Chair of Global Jazz Studies; Professor
Melissa Bilal
Associate Director of Armenian Music Program and Lecturer
Armen Adamian
Instructor of Armenian Music Ensemble
Chi Li
Adjunct Professor
Lorry Black
Academic Administrator
Roger Savage
Chair of Ethnomusicology; Professor
Mark Kligman
Professor of Musicology, Ethnomusicology, and Humanities Mickey Katz Chair of Jewish Music Director of Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience

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