Traditional Korean Wind Instruments l KBS WORLD


Musical instruments were highly regarded during the Unified Silla period, so much so that instruments like the geomungo?? or the manpasikjeok?? were kept in a special warehouse called Cheonjongo??. There were three iconic string instruments – the gayageum??, the geomungo and the beep비파 – and three bamboo wind instruments – the daegeum??, the junggeumand the sogeum. The gayageum, geomungo and daegeum are still widely played. People have forgotten how to play the bipa, but Korean musicians referred to Chinese beep playing techniques and apply them to Korean music. Unfortunately the junggeum has disappeared from the current selection of wind instruments.

Meanwhile, the sogeum is an interesting case, since the original sogeum disappeared in the Unified Silla period. The one being played in Korea today is a modern invention that just took the name sogeum. The modern sogeum does not have cheonggong, a component commonly found in other traditional wind instruments. A cheonggong, which means “sound hole,” is a small hole between the mouthpiece hole, where air is blown, and the finger holes, which are manipulated by the fingers to produce sound. A thin membrane covers this cheonggong, creating a vibrant sound unique to the daegeum. This is why some people prefer the clear sound of the sogeum to the daegeum‘s, sometimes irritating, resonant. Now let’s listen to a sogeum piece entitled “A Song for Ran” performed by Han Chung-eun.

Music 1: A Song for Ran / Sogeum by Han Chung-eun

The three well-known traditional wind instruments are categorized by size. The smaller the instrument, the more high notes it can play. The sogeum can produce the highest pitched sounds among all wind instruments played in Korea today. Another instrument that has a similar tone to the sogeum is the danso. The danso is small in size and easy to learn, so it is often taught to elementary school students. Contrary to sogeum, which is a transverse flute, the danso stands vertically like an oboe or a recorder. It only has five finger holes, which makes it difficult to produce a wide range of sounds, but it has no problem playing traditional Korean folk songs. Dansothe timbre of s goes well with that of saenghwang생황, a free reed organ, and the two instruments are often played together in instrumental pieces such as Suryongeum 수룡음. The second piece of music we’re going to hear today is a danso piece entitled “Spring at a Guard Post”, written in 1965 by a North Korean composer named Kong Yong-song 공영 송. It was adapted into a gayageum piece before it was popularized in South Korea, and it was again adapted into a danso and string quartet piece. Today, Lee Yong-gu plays the danso and Moon Yang-sook, the gayageum.

Music 2: Spring at a Guard Post / Danso by Lee Yong-gu, gayageum by Moon Yang-sook, etc.

The danso was created at the end of the Joseon period, while the tungso퉁소 has been played since the Goryeo era. The instrument was played so widely that it even appeared in an old Korean proverb “un tungso inside a room ”to indicate a person who has no idea outside of their own small circle. During the Joseon Dynasty, the tungso was part of the court orchestra that played Jongmyo ceremonial music. However, the instrument is played less and less. In recent years, it has become a special instrument which is only played for the Bukcheong lion dance 북청 originating from Hamgyeong-do province 함경도 in the northeast region of Korea. Fortunately, the tungso has more performance opportunities as young traditional musicians began to integrate the tungso in their creations. Let’s end this week’s Sounds of Korea with tungso virtuoso Dong Seon-bon and Koh Jang-wook performing “Lion Dance” and “Payeongok” from Bukcheong Lion Dance.

Music 3: Lion dance, Payeongok / Tungso by Dong Seon-bon & Koh Jang-wook

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