Last week was ‘ipdong입동,’ the onset of winter by the 24-sectioned seasonal calendar, and next Wednesday is ‘soseol소설,’ when the year’s first snow is supposed to come. Global warming is supposedly the culprit that shortened the duration of winter, but winter is still cold, making people long for warmer temperatures. This episode’s first song is a poem-based song entitled “At the Pine Forest.”
It snows in the pine forest and white flowers bloom on the branches.
I break one off to offer it to where my beloved resides.
Once my love lays eyes on it, it matters not if the snow flowers melt.
The song describes how the snow piling up on the pine needles resembles white flowers. Seeing something beautiful often reminds a person of his or her beloved. Do you have someone whom you think of whenever you see something beautiful? Let’s listen to Yang Jeong-won winging “At the Pine Forest.”
At the Pine Forest/ Sung by Yang Jeong-won
There are certain foods that are associated with winter. In old times, traveling food vendors would sell sweet rice cakes and buckwheat jelly in late winter nights by yelling out the names of the food to draw people’s attention. Such late-night traveling vendors of sweet rice cakes and buckwheat jelly are no longer around, but street food stalls that sell savory fish cake soup, roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts, carp cakes filled with sweet red bean fillings are still commonplace. Such winter treats seem to taste better when shared with friends and family, lying on the heated floor, and wrapped in blankets. The next song we’re going to listen is titled “The Wind Blows.” This song is “Gunbam Taryeong군밤타령” or “Chestnut Song” adapted into an instrumental piece. The lyrics went, “The wind blows, the wind blows. The wind of money blows in waters off Yeonpyeong연평. How great it is.” Waters off Yeonpyeong refers to the sea around Yeonpyeongdo Island in the West Sea. Yellow corbina was the main catch for the fishermen of the West Sea. Every time a fisherman went out to the sea, he would bring home a boatful of yellow corbina, which translated to a lot of money. This is why the song sang of the phrase “the wind of money.” Wouldn’t it be great to feel the wind of money instead of the freezing winter wind? “The Wind Blows” is performed by a group of haegeum artists called Ihyeon-eui-Nong이현의 농 or Merriment of the Two Strings. The haegeum is a traditional Korean string instrument comprised of only two strings and it is played by squeezing and relaxing those two strings as if playing with the strings, which explains why the group’s name is Merriment of the Two Strings. Here’s Merriment of the Two Strings performing “The Wind Blows.”
The Wind Blows/ Performed by Merriment of the Two Strings
There is a passage in pansori “Jeokbyeokga적벽가,” a retelling of the ancient Chinese legend of the Battle of Red Cliffs. When General Cao Cao invades the land south of the Yangtze River with his vast army, the southern warlords Sun Quan and Liu Bei try to fend them off. Liu Bei’s strategist Zhuge Liang plans for a battle on the Chibi River with Cao Cao’s army on the north side of the river and Sun Quan and Liu Bei’s men on the south side. Cao Cao’s soldiers had never fought on the water, so the general had large boats bound together with chain so that his men would fee like they were fighting on land. The clever Zhuge Liang decides to launch a fire attack, but the problem is that the wind was blowing from the north, which means that fire arrows shot from the south side wouldn’t be able to reach the north side. Zhuge Liang, therefore, prays to heaven to change the direction of the wind. It sounds ridiculous from today’s scientific viewpoint, but the story sounded very convincing back then. So, Zhuge Liang prayed to the gods and the wind started to blow from the south. This passage is what we’re going to listen to as the last song of this week’s episode. Here’s Yun Jin-cheol singing this aria from pansori “Jeokbyeokga.”
Passage from pansori “Jeokbyeokga”/ Sung by Yun Jin-cheol