Imformation of Traditional Korean Music
Traditional Korean Music
traditional music can be roughly divided into two major categories, chong-ak and sog-ak: music for
the ruling class and for the common people, respectively. Within these two
major types are various subcategories that make up the whole of Korean music.
Thus, in chong-ak there are two different, but
somewhat related meanings. In this broader sense the term refers to the
elegant musical style that was considered "right" for the Korean
ruling class in terms of Confucian philosophy, and within this broader
meaning it also refers to ensemble music for men of high social status
outside of the court. In this category, three important terms are a-ak, tang-ak, and hyang-ak. Chong-ak and A-ak can be used
interchangeably, in their broader sense, referring to music for the ruling
class, which includes tang-ak, hyang-ak,
and Confucian ritual music. In its narrower sense A-ak
refers to ritual temple music, of which at the present time only one example
remains, Munmyoak. Munmyoak
is music performed at Munmyo, the shrine where
Confucius and his disciples are honored. Tang-ak
refers to secular music of both the Chinese T'ang
and Sung dynasties, which was altered to become court music after its
Music for the upper class consists of a type of ensemble music, p'ungnyu, the most sophisticated Korean lyric song genre; kagok, and the indigenous Korean popular song, sijo. P'ungnyu is an archaic word that formerly meant music in general. Its present literal meaning denotes the state of being in which a man at leisure physically and mentally removes himself from the everyday world into a harmonious mood suitable for the appreciation of poetry, music, and female companionship. When the term is used in the context of Korean classical music, however, it refers to a type of ensemble music for the nobility. One variety of this music, called chul-p'ungnyu, consists mainly of stringed instruments. A second variety, taep'ungnyu, consists mainly of wind instruments, and a third is a combination of the first two. Kagok uses a rhythmic pattern of either a 16 - beat changdan (which literally means "long-short") or its varied form, a 10 beat changdan. Any kagok selection is based on the ujo or kyemyonjo mode, or sometimes on both. Instruments used for accompaniment are the komungo, kayagum, yang-gum, haegum, p'iri and changgo.
Sog-ak, music for the commoner includes shaman music, Buddhist music, folk songs, farmers' music called nong-ak, a form of dramatic song called p'ansori, and an instrumental solo music called sanjo. In shaman music, the role of an inspired female shaman priest called a mudang is very important. The mudang plays the part of a medium between the visible world and the supernatural. Singing, dancing, and instrument playing are always involved. One of the most important types of Buddhist music is called pomp'ae, a song of praise to Buddha, and today preserved by only a few priests. To promote this music, the government has designated pomp'ae as an intangible cultural asset and is taking steps to encourage new devotees of the art.
Traditional Musical Instruments of
Following is a brief introduction to the most frequently used of the 14 chordophones, 17 aerophones, 13 idiophones, and 16 membranophones.
The komungo is representative of zithers with six strings of twisted silk. The second, third, and fourth strings are stretched over 16 fixed frets and tuned by round pegs, while the other strings are stretched over movable bridges and tuned by moving the bridges to the left or right. The strings are plucked with a bamboo rod (sultae) which is held between the index and middle fingers of the right hand, while the left hand presses on the strings to produce microtones.
The kayagum, which is related to the Chinese cheng and the Japanese koto, is another type of Korean zither. It has 12 silk strings supported by 12 movable bridges. The thumb, index and middle fingers of the right hand pluck the strings, while the index and middle fingers of the left hand touch the strings on the left side of the movable bridges. The tone quality is clear and delicate. The sanjo Kayagum is a small, narrow type of kayagum patterned after the original kayagum called popgum. It is used for the fast fingering of folk music and sanjo music.
The ajaeng is a bowed seven-stringed zither. Played with a resined bow made of forsythia wood, the tone of the ajaeng is majestic and full. The instrument is used primarily in court orchestras to reinforce the bass instruments.
This two-stringed fiddle without a fingerboard is held on the left knee and played vertically with a bow. The tone quality is nasal and the sound is penetrating. The instrument is always found in Korean court and folk music ensembles.
The taegum is the
largest and most representative transverse flute of
The tangjok is the smallest transverse flute, similar to the piccolo of the west. The tone quality is pure and clear, particularly in the upper register. It is only played with the taegum.
The p'iri, a cylindrical oboe, has a long, wide double reed and eight finger holes, including the back thumb hole. It is the leading instrument and always takes the main melody in Korean court music or folk ensembles. Its sound is loud and has a distinctive tone quality and timbre.
The t'aep'yongso, literally "great peace flute," is a conical wooden oboe with eight finger holes, a metal mouthpiece, and a cup-shaped metal bell. It produces a loud and piercing sound and is used for farmers' band music, traditional military band music and some folk music.
This conch shell trumpet, producing only one deep note, is used exclusively as a drone in a military processional band in alternation with the nabal, a long trumpet.
The nabal is the only Korean metal trumpet. Without finger holes, it is used to produce only one sustained tone. It is now played exclusively in military processional bands to sound a one-note drone in alternation with the conch shell trumpet.
The tanso is a small, notched, vertical bamboo flute with five fingerholes, one on the back. The tone quality is exceedingly pure and delicate, making it a favorite solo instrument.
The pak is a clapper shaped like a folded fan. It consists of six pieces of wood loosely held together at the upper end by a cord made of deer skin. The pieces of wood are thicker at the loose ends. The pak is clapped once to start a piece of music and three times rapidly to mark the end of a piece. It is used by court and ritual orchestras.
The p'yonjong is a set of 16 chromatically tuned bronze bell chimes hung in an elaborately decorated frame. The bells are the same size and shape but the thickness of their walls are different, giving each a different pitch. The player sits behind the instrument on the ground and uses a mallet to strike the bells.
The p'yon-gyong is a set of 16 L-shaped slabs of jade stone. The counterpart of the bell chimes, it has played an essential role in court ceremonies since the 12th century. The stone slabs are the same size and shape but vary in thickness so that each has a different pitch. The thickest produces the highest pitch while the thinnest one, the lowest.
The kkwaenggwari, the smallest gong, is struck with a wooden mallet to produce a sharp, attention-commanding sound. It is used for farmers' band music (nong-ak) and shaman music. In farmers' band music, it is played by the leader to signal rhythmic patterns for the other musicians.
The changgo, or hourglass drum, is the most frequently used accompaniment in almost all forms of Korean music. The thick skin of the left side is struck with the palm and produces a soft, low sound, and the thin skin of the right side is struck with a bamboo stick to produce a hard, crisp sound. The pitch of the right side can be made higher or lower by tightening or loosening the tension of the drum head. This is done by moving the central belts encircling the V-shaped laces to the right or to the left.
The chwago is a medium-size barrel drum hung from a frame. Its sound reinforces the hourglass drum. It is used mainly in court music to accompany wind ensembles or full orchestras.
Classical Western Music in Contemporary
the many theories about the introduction of Western music to
While traditional Korean folk songs formed the musical mainstream from the 1920s to the 1945 liberation, Western-style songs like "Pongsonhwa," composed by Hong Nan-p'a in 1919, enjoyed increasing popularity. Some of the most popular composers during that time were Ch'ae Tong-son, Hyon Che-myong, Yi Hung-yol, Kim Se-hyong, Kim Tong-jin, Cho Tu-nam, and Kim Song-t'ae. Many of their songs remain popular.
In 1948 Chong Hoe-gap presented a composition of his own entitled String Quartet No. 1 at a concert commemorating the graduation of the first class of the Music College of Seoul National University. Two years later an opera composed by Hyon Che-myong called Ch'unhyangjon, based on a traditional love story by the same name, opened and was enthusiastically received. These two events gave rise to expectations of active production of new works in composition; however, the Korean War (1950 - 53) brought a brutal halt to any new development.
and more composers turned to chamber music during the 1970s, increasingly
employing the techniques of their Western contemporaries. Leading musicians
at this time included Chong Hoe-gap, Yi Song-jae, Kang Sok-heui, Paek Pyong-dong, Kim Yong-jin, Pak Chae-yol, Na In-yong and Yi Yong-ja. A group of
young composers centered around Kang Sok-hui won prizes in competitions sponsored by the World
Association of Modern Music, demonstrating the level to which composition in
The quality of music performed in concerts, however, has been weak, given the large number of orchestras, ensembles and other groups. This is due in part to the interruption of musicians' instrumental training caused by the Korean War. In addition, only since the mid-1960s have there been quality performances by musicians who have returned home following musical training abroad. The first opera performed here was Verdi's La Traviata in January 1948. Since that time, many opera groups have emerged and disappeared in the past 40 years. The National Opera Group, the Kim Cha-kyong Opera Group and the Seoul Opera Group led by Kim Pong-im are the most active. The National Opera Group opened in 1965 with a performance of Puccini's La Boheme. The Kim Cha-kyong Opera Group opened in 1968 with La Traviata.
Several Korean operas have been performed, including Ch'unhyangjon by Hyon Che-myong, Prince Hodong by Chang Il-nam, Shimch'ongjon by Kim Tong-jin, Non-gae by Hong Yon-t'aek and Ch'obun by Pak Chae-yol, as well as many foreign operas including La Traviata, Tosca, Madam butterfly, Aida, Manon and Le Nozze di Figaro. Church choirs have long led chorus activities. The first professional chorus came into being in 1973 with the formation of the National Chorus, followed by the Seoul City Chorus in 1978 and the Daewoo Chorus, a privately operated chorus, in 1983. Na Yong-su, one of the nation's foremost chorus conductors, contributed greatly to raising the level of choral music.
An increasing number of Korean musicians
are performing in concerts and other fields abroad. Many have won highest
acclaim from foreign critics and audiences. A number have taken top awards in
international competitions, and some have assumed prestigious posts as
conductors or in other functions. Among them are Chong
Kyong-hwa (Chung Kyung-hwa),
one of the world's foremost violinists; violinist Kang Tong-sok, a prize winner at the Elizabeth Concours;
and violinist Kim Yong-uk, who is based in