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[MUSIC] GUGAK - TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENT AND SONG
[Music] Gugak - Traditional Instrument and Song


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What is Gugak?

The term gugak translates into “national music” and comprises roughly of two bigger genres, folk music and court music.

While court music includes ritual and aristocratic music like aak (imported from China), dang-ak (a fusion between Chinese and Korean court music) and hyang-ak (purely Korean), the folk music has pansori (vocal), sanjo (instrumental music), jeong-ak (instrumental and vocal music), nongak (“farmers music”, drumming, dancing, and singing), shinawi (shamanistic music) and salpuri (dance, related to shaman rituals).

Today, we also have newer additions to Korean Music, Changjak-gugak or Shin-gugak, newly-composed Korean traditional music and fusion gugak, with western elements.I would like to give you a general overview of Korean Traditional Music and focus on two interesting topics, Pansori and Fusion Gugak afterwards.Hopefully, this article will give assistance to first time readers as well as gugak lovers.





Instruments

One unique aspect of Korean folk music you will come across, is the freedom a master musician possesses during the performance.Improvisation during a concert, be it as soloist or ensemble, is allowed and depend on the personal preference of the musicians.

Popular instruments in Korean Traditional music are the plucked zither gayageum, fiddle haegeum, bamboo flute daegeum, hourglass-shaped drum janggu, which is the most prominent rhythm instrument in Korean music.Inspired by the western orchestra, there are also orchestra like formations with traditional instruments in Korea, including a conductor.

Rhythm and Theory

One unique aspect of Korean folk music you will come across, is the freedom a master musician possesses during the performance.Improvisation during a concert, be it as soloist or ensemble, is allowed and depend on the personal preference of the musicians.
The basic rhythm in folk music are called jangdan (can also mean tempo, accent) and while they follow set patterns, it is expected that a skilled artist is able to improvise individually, using the patterns as foundation.

Most used patterns are: jinyang (slow), jungmori (medium), jungjungmori (medium-fast), jajinmori (fast) and hwimori (very fast).

Referring the the “modes” in Korean Traditional Music, there are many “modes” for example in pansori, since a musical piece is not characterised through keys or mode but rather the nature of the melody itself.
Two essential and basic modes youll find in Korean Traditional Music are called gyemyeonjo (sad style) and ujo (majestic), both use a five-pitch scale without semitones (anhemitonic pentatonic scale).

Places to visit

If you are in Seoul, the National Gugak Center and the National Theater of Korea are the best places to catch a live performance by a master artist.Both institutions have english websites with ticket hotlines, but usually you can get tickets on site without any problems.

Another interesting tip: the website of Gugak FM features video clips and daily radio broadcasts (some of them in English) and provides the latest news from the world of Gugak.Universities with an own Gugak department also host regular concerts of students and masters.




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