Oral History: Byong Won Lee

In Department News, Ethnomusicology, Faculty News by General Entries

The Music Department congratulates Dr. Byong Won Lee, Professor of Ethnomusicology, on the release of a new book dedicated to his lifetime of scholarship. Oral History: Byong Won Lee, published by the National Gugak Center (Gungnip Gugagwon), presents a history of Dr. Lee’s life and musical activities and recognizes his contributions to Korean musicology over the past 60 years.

Dr. Lee’s first contribution to the field of Korean musicology came in the form of an unexpected commission during his doctoral studies at the University of Washington. Dr. Lee wrote the entire entry of “Korea” for the 1st edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music while writing his Ph.D. dissertation. According to Dr. Lee, the 2nd edition published in 2001, involved “several more ethnomusicologists who focused on Korean music,” and as a result, the topics were divided among the scholars.

Dr. Lee was also instrumental in bringing the 26th International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) to Korea between 1980 and 1981. As Secretary-General, he was in charge of organizing the conference and invited over 200 scholars, several of whom were faculty of the University of Hawai`i. In 1990, he was invited to the UNESCO’s Integral Study of the Silk Road Maritime Route Expeditions as a senior scholar, where he focussed on how Western culture came into Asia through maritime routes.

Dr. Lee’s contributions to Korean music continue to have an impact on the present. With the help of the Korean Foundation and the National Gugak Center (NGC), he organized the first two extensive studies of Korean music in Hawai`i, which helped western musicologists have a better understanding of Korean Music. Some of the first attendees of the workshops were retired UHM ethnomusicologist Frederick Lau and UH Vice Chancellor Anderson Sutton. These workshops continue today under the direction of the NGC and allow UH Mānoa faculty and students to have a two-week long hands-on experience working with Korean musicians and instruments.

Congratulations to Dr. Lee on this well-deserved honor.