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#Sounds of Korea l 2019-06-12

Sounds of Korea

Korean music is largely divided into two categories - jeongak정악, enjoyed by the ruling class, and folk music for ordinary people. Jeongak is usually slow in tempo and does not feature much variation. Its objective was not to excite listeners, but to make them quiet and somber. The music probably reflects the belief from back then that politicians and scholars should not be swayed by emotion but be logical and reflective. Folk music, on the other hand, was quite emotional. Ordinary people expressed their joy, sorrow and other emotions through these music pieces, the main purpose of which was to amplify those emotions. It was one way for ordinary people exhausted by work to make the most of the short time allowed for entertainment. Meanwhile, jeongak can be again divided into two sub-categories – one for national rituals and royal family events and the other for music enjoyed by Confucians scholars in private for their personal enjoyment. Such cultural entertainment is called “pungryu풍류,” which encompasses drinking tea while admiring scenic landscapes, writing poems, or painting. The music played during such activities was called pungryu music. Yeongsanhoesang is the dominant trend of pungryu music, which has been preserved to this day. This repertoire originated from a Buddhist song that repeated only seven words “yeongsan hoesang bulbosal영산회상불보살.” The first piece for today is “Sangnyeongsan,” the most basic episode of Yeongsanhoesang. In today’s piece, Park Young-seung plays the geomungo and Lee Seung-hun the piri. 

Music 1: Sangnyeongsan/ Geomungo by Park Young-seung, piri by Lee Seung-hun

Yeongsanhoesang comes in three versions – a play for string instruments we just heard, another for wind instruments, and lastly for the combination of string and wind instruments. A Yeongsanhoesang play is comprised of nine episodes, starting with “Sangnyeongsan” and ending with “Gunak군악.” “Sangnyeongsan” starts very slowly, taking about 15 minutes to complete this episode, but picks up speed as the episodes progresses. In fact, the latter part of “Yeombuldodeuri,” the seventh episode, sounds very cheerful. To play this music in a larger scale, a new musical adaptation has been made, which is titled “Yuchosinjigok유초신지곡.” It is centered around hyangpiri향피리, which is played with a large group of musicians and ends up producing a magnificent sound. The wind instrument version of Yeongsanhoesang sounds freer than other versions, because musicians tend to change the beat or the melody on a whim. “Yuchosinjigok” or the wind version of Yeongsanhoesang was mostly performed at the royal court, while the string version was played as pungryu music. The wind version, in particular, was usually played to accompany court dances. The upcoming pieces are “Samhyeondodeuri” and “Yeombuldodeuri,” the fifth and seventh episodes of Yeongsanhoesang, performed by the Court Music Orchestra of the National Gugak Center.  

Music 2: Samhyeondodeuri & Yeombuldodeuri/ Court Music Orchestra of the National Gugak Center

The music played for the personal entertainment of Confucian scholars was called “julpungryu줄풍류.” Even folk musicians supposedly enjoyed playing julpungryu, so their music was called “Mingan민간 Pungryu” or folk pungryu. What sets it apart from julpungryu is that more variation is given to the melodies. The last piece we’re going to enjoy in this episode of Sounds of Korea is the latter parts of the folk pungryu passed down by gayageum virtuoso Kim Juk-pa and his students. Moon Jae-suk plays the gayageum, Hong Jong-jin the daegeum, and Kim Jeong-soo the janggu.

Music 3: Latter parts of folk pungryu/ Gayageum by Moon Jae-suk, daegeum by Hong Jong-jin, janggu by Kim Jeong-soo

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