About a week before he died, in March, at the age of seventy-five, Peter Kwong sat with his old friend Wing Lam in the offices of the Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, in New York’s Chinatown. The two men had known each other for nearly half a century.
I was thinking about North Korea — officially, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — as South Korean megahit “Gangnam Style” made its rounds. Culture watchers have already dissected the video, pointing out that Gangnam is the wealthiest neighborhood in Seoul, the iconic showcase of South Korea’s rise. But people haven’t said much about the literal meaning of “Gangnam.” The word means “south of the river,” more precisely the Han River that runs across Seoul like an ugly, more turgid Seine.
This ground-breaking case study examines record production as ethnographic work. Since its founding in 2003, Seattle-based record label Sublime Frequencies has produced world music recordings that have been received as radical, sometimes problematic critiques of the practices of sound ethnography.