Researching the Moranbong Band: An Abstract

Even before Kim Jong-il’s tremulously-announced death in Dec. 2011, the North Korean musical-cultural apparatus-elite-complex was in valedictory mode, producing huge orchestral canatas that expressed a perfect –and complete– vision of the Dear Leader’s full contribution to the ongoing North Korean revolution. Had Kim Jong-un chosen to take up only these modes of cultural commemoration, they were clearly within his grasp. Instead, months after his father’s death, Kim Jong-un moved quickly to organize and premiere a new medium and ideological instrument– the Moranbong Band. This paper seeks ideological transference that spans the Kimist succession process, delving into the many meanings and heavy importance of the Moranbong Band as a reward for regime elites, as a court orchestra in the Bourbon model, as a method of mass education, as a diplomatic implement, and as an instrument of militarization and “Songun culture” which seeks to limit and control even as its apparent cosmopolitanism/Weltläufigkeit would appear to suggest otherwise. It builds upon my work with Steven Denney on the Unhasu Orchestra and previous writing on DPRK music and musical diplomacy.

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