Pansori “Sugungga수궁가” is a story about how a rabbit, deceived by a turtle to follow him to the underwater palace of the sea god, uses his wits to escape his captor and return to his home on land. The turtle travels to land for the first time in his life so that he could catch a rabbit whose liver can cure the sea god’s illness. Once he lands on the beach, the sea creature sees many different land animals gathered faraway. The turtle cautiously approaches the animals and tries to talk the rabbit into following him to the sea. To do so, the turtle must make a good first impression, so he uses the honorific name of “Mister Rabbit.” But the exhausted turtle mistakenly calls out “Mister Tiger,” inadvertently catching the attention of a big tiger nearby. Seeing the huge tiger running over excitedly is the main story of the aria “The Tiger is Coming” in “Sugungga.” It may sound a little off the beat, but that is because the aria is in an eotmori엇모리 rhythm. Let’s listen first to “The Tiger is Coming” sung by Kim Jun-su with Kim Hyeong-seok at the drum.
The Tiger is Coming/ Sung by Kim Jun-su, drum by Kim Hyeong-seok
Have you tried clapping with the beat? Each meter of eotmori jangdan is comprised of ten beats, which is again divided into two five beats and then composed with three-beats and two-beats rotation. Since the beats are not equal in length, music in eotmori jangdan sounds rather awkward. It can be likened to a person limping because the beats are not equal in length. Even the word “eot엇” in eotmori jangdan means varying, awry, or somewhat similar.
Coming up next is the eotmori part of “Saegarak Byeolgok새가락 별곡” written and performed by gayageum virtuoso Seong Geum-yeon. Why don’t you count the three-two beats while listening to it?
Eotmori part from “Saegarak Byeolgok”/ Gayageum by Seong Geum-yeon
Now that you’ve heard an eotmori-paced piece, do you think you’ve become a little bit more familiar with this peculiar rhythm?
It becomes quite boring and mundane to repeat the same routine everyday. But when you run into a long-lost friend or plan a surprise event for someone you love, your entire day becomes joyful and worthwhile. In music, eotmori jangdan serves the same function as those happy, unexpected occurrences, which is why there aren’t that many music pieces that employ eotmori jangdan. In pansori, it is often used when a pivotal character who turns the story around appears. Some of the pansori passages that use eotmori jangdan are the parts from “Sungungga” where the tiger shows up or a Taoist master prescribes a rabbit’s liver as a cure for the sea god’s illness, those from “Heungboga” where Heungbo and his wife meet a Buddhist monk who tells them where to build their house that will bring them great wealth, and the part from “Simcheongga” where a Buddhist monk appears to save Cheong’s blind father from drowning.
Today’s Sounds of Korea will conclude with the passage from “Heungboga” where Heungbo and his wife meets an old, wise Buddhist monk. Here’s Kim Yul-hee singing “Buddhist Monk Song” to The Soul Sauce’s musical accompaniment.
Buddhist Monk Song/ Sung by Kim Yul-hee, performed by The Soul Sauce