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Korean Music Essay

Traditional Korean music includes both the folk, vocal, religious and ritual music styles of the Korean people. Korean music, along with arts, painting, and sculpture has been practiced since prehistoric times. Two distinct musical cultures exist in Korea today: traditional music (Gugak) and Western music (yangak). Korean Folk music

Korean folk music is varied and complex, but all forms maintain a set of rhythms (called Jangdan) and a loosely defined set of melodic modes. Because the folk songs of various areas are categorized under Dongbu folk songs, their vocal styles and modes are limited. Therefore, currently scholars are attempting to categorize the Dongbu folk songs further based on different musical features. These songs are mostly simple and bright. Namdo folk songs are those of Jeolla Province and a part of Chungcheong Province.

While the folk songs of other regions are mostly musically simple, the folk songs of the Namdo region, where the famous musical genres pansori and sanjo were created, are rich and dramatic. Some Namdo folk songs are used in pansori or developed by professional singers and are included as part of their repertories. Jeju folk songs are sung on the Jeju Island. They are more abundant in number than any other regional folk songs, and approximately 1600 songs are transmitted today. Jeju folk songs are characterized by their simple and unique melodic lines and rich texts. Pansori

Pansori: is a long vocal and percussive music played by one singer and one drummer. In this traditional art form, sometimes rather misleadingly called ‘Korean Opera’, a narrator may play the parts of all the characters in a story, accompanied by a drummer. The lyric tell one of five different stories, but is individualized by each performer, often with updated jokes and audience participation. One of the most famous pansori singers is Park Dongjin (hangul). Many Koreans still enjoy this music. The National Theatre of Korea provides monthly opportunities to experience traditional Korean narrative songs or pansori. Where: National Theatre of Korea, Seoul City Hall, South Korea Pungmul

Pungmul: is a Korean folk music tradition that is a form of percussion music that includes drumming, dancing, and singing. Most performances are outside, with dozens of players, all in constant motion. Samul Nori, originally the name of a group founded in 1978, has become popular as a genre, even overseas. It is based on Pungmul musical rhythmic patterns and uses the same instruments, but is faster and usually played while sitting down.

Sanjo is played without a pause in faster tempos. It is entirely instrumental music, and includes changes in rhythmic and melodic modes during an individual work. The tempos increases in each movement. The general style of the sanjo is marked by slides in slow movements and rhythmic complexity in faster movements. Instruments include the changgo drum set against a melodic instrument, such as the gayageum or ajaeng.

Chŏngak means literally “right (or correct) music”, and its tradition includes both instrumental and vocal music, which were cultivated mainly by the upper-class literati of the Joseon society. The Yongsan hoesang is the main repertoire of instrumental chongak tradition and the most representative chamber ensemble of Korea. The title is derived from a Korean Buddhist chang with the short text ‘Yongsan hoesang pulbosal,’ which literally means “Buddha and Bodhisattvas meet at the Spirit Vulture Peak.” The Korean Buddhist music with the texts notated in the fifteenth-century manuscript Taeak Hubo was a vocal work accompanied by an orchestra.

Nongak means “farmers’ music” and represents an important musical genre which has been developed mainly by peasants in the agricultural society of Korea. The farmers’ music is performed typically in an open area of the village. The organization of nongak varies according to locality and performing groups, and today there are a great n umber of regional styles.

Shinawi means in broadest sense, the shamanistic music of Korea which is performed during a Korean shaman’s ritual dance performance to console and to entertain deities. In this sense of word, the term is almost identical with anoth er term, shinbanggok (lit. ‘spirit chamber music’), which indicated general shamanistic music performed at a folk religious ceremony known as kut.

Salp’uri is a dance for soul cleansing and literally means : “to wash away bad ghosts”. Salpuri’s modern movements represent the shown human hopes and aspirations.

Court/Ritual music Korean court music preserved to date can be traced to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392. It is now rare, except for government-sponsored organizations like The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. There are three types of court music.

One is called Aak, and is an imported form of Chinese ritual music, and another is a pure Korean form called Hyang-ak; the last is a combination of Korean and Chinese influences, and is called Dang-ak. Aak

Aak was brought to Korea in 1116 and was very popular for a time before dying out. It was revived in 1430, based on a reconstruction of older melodies. The music is now highly specialized and uses just two different surviving melodies. Aak is played only at certain very rare concerts, such as the Sacrifice to Confucius in Seoul. Dang-ak

Modern dangak, like aak, is rarely practiced. Only two short pieces are known; they are Springtime in Luoyang and Pacing the Void. Hyang-ak By far the most extant form of Korean court music today, hyangak includes a sort of oboe, called a piri and various kinds of stringed instruments.


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