Korea's traditional music is based on the voice. That voice is always a distinctively Korean voice, a voice that arises from the temperament and disposition of the Korean people. It is related to Korea's climate and natural environment and also to religion and ideology.
Korean traditional music can be broadly divided into jeongak, (court music), which has an intellectual emphasis, and minsogak, (folk music), which is full of emotional expression. The former is closely related to the culture of the royal family and the upperclass, the latter belonging more to the common people.
The first general characteristic of Korean music to note is its leisurely tempo. Most court music moves at a slow pace, sometimes so slow that a single beat can take up to three seconds. As a result, the mood of this music is static, meditative, and reposeful. The reason for this stately tempo is related to the Korean people's concept of the importance of the breath. Whereas Western music, based on the heartbeat, can be as lively, energetic, and dynamic as the pounding of the heart, Korean court music, founded on the rhythm of breathing, takes on the attributes of a long breath: tranquility, balance, and contemplation.
The tone quality of Korean music is generally soft and solemn, especially in court music. Because of this soft tone quality, even when one note or line clashes with another, one does not hear a discord. The tone results from the fact that most instruments are made of nonmetallic materials. String instruments have strings of silk thread rather than wire, and almost all wind instruments are made of bamboo.
Korean wind instruments include the cylindrical oboe (piri), the metal-bell woodwind (taepyeongso), the transverse flute (daegeum), the endblown flute (danso), the mouth organ (saenghwang), and the ocarina (hun). String instruments include the twelve-stringed zither (gayageum), the six-stringed zither (geomungo), the seven-stringed bowed zither (ajaeng), and the two-stringed fiddle (haegeum). Percussion instruments include the handheld gong (kkwaenggwari), the hanging gong (jing), the barrel drum (buk), the hourglass drum (janggu), the clapper (bak), teh bell chimes (pyeonjong), the stone chimes (pyeongyeong), teh tiger-shaped scraper (eo), and the wooden box (chuk).
Korean music is rich in improvisation. This spontaneity is more evident in the passionate folk music than it is in the emotionally restrained court music. The instrumental solo music sanjo is a good example, as is the unique vocal art pansori. Another characteristic of Korean music is that it tends to be performed continuously, without a break between movements. Here again, the most appropriate example is pansori. In the Song of Chunhyang the singer performs alone for over eight hours without a break, taking on the roles of all the characters in turn. This would certainly never be seen anywhere else in the world.
The tradition of Korean music is maintained today by samul nori percussion quartets and by such institutions as the National Traditional Music Orchestra and the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts.
Since the age of the tribal states, Koreans have offered songs and dances to heaven and the spirits in communal ceremonies connected with agriculture.According to Goguryeo murals and the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk Sagi, 1146), the dancers of the Goguryeo period wore colorful costumes and performed dances to the accompaniment of music. In the early 7th century a man from Baekje named Mimaji performed masked dances at various temples in Japan. The masks are still preserved today in the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Unified Silla inherited the dance traditions of the Three Kingdoms.
The crosscultural exchanges with Tang China spun off diverse dances. Dances with specific choreography began to appear in court pieces such as Muaemu, Cheoyongmu, and Sangyeommu. In the Goryeo were period other dances were imported from Song China and performed at various national ceremonies including banquets in honor of distinguished guests, the Buddhist Festival of Eight Vows (Palgwanhoe), and the Lantern Festival (Yeondeunghoe). As a result, a distinction began to be made between native dances, known as hyangak jeongjae, and those imported from China, dangak jeongjae.
Traditional Dance b>
Korean traditional dance can be broadly divided into court dance and folk dance. Court dance includes jeongjaemu, dances performed at banquets, and ilmu, the line dances performed in Confucian rituals. Banquet Dances are subdivided into native hyangak jeongjae and Tang-derived dangak jeongjae. Hyangak jeongjae and dangak jeongjae can be distinguished by the manner in which the dancers enter and exit, the calls that mark the beginning and end of a dance, the presence or absence of a spoken greeting, and the lyrics. In the Goryeo period these distinctions were rigidly maintained. Ilmu can be further categorized into civil dance, munmu, and military dance, mumu.
Folk dances can be divided into religious dances led by monks and secular dances performed by the people. Religious dances include the shaman's ritual dance. The Buddhist dance by monks is performed at temples in major memorial services. Secular dances of the common people include both solo and group dances. In practice the group dances and the entertaining dances are so alike and so closely related that it is difficult to make a strict distinction between them.
Ilmu is performed in lines to the accompaniment of Confucian ritual music (aak). It is categorized according to the number of lines: eight, six, four, or two. The ilmu introduced from Song China in the 11th year (1116) of King Yejong's reign of the Goryeo Dynasty was a six-line dance performed by 36 dancers, which later evolved into diverse line dances.
In the Goryeo period, baekhui gamu court entertainments hundreds of kinds of including dance and acrobatic performances, were performed mainly at national ceremonies in the court. They included the Buddhist Festival of Eight Vows, or Palgwanhoe, the Lantern Festival, or Yeondeunghoe, and the New Year's Eve Festival, or Narye. These dances became further diversified in the Joseon period. The Goryeo-inherited dances in Joseon-native court productions, China-derived dances, line dances, and court acrobatic entertainments were all enriched to a higher level. For the accompaniment of native court dances, Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop court music productions were newly composed. They were chosen for the royal ancestral service at the Jongmyo Shrine in the 10th year (1464) of King Sejo's reign, and serve in this role to this day.
Types of baekhui gamu included sandae japgeuk, or stage variety shows by clowns, and goak japhui, or drumming variety shows. Performed at welcoming banquets for foreign emissaries, they included tumbling (geundu), boys dancing on men's shoulders (mudong), climbing a bamboo pole (jukgwangdae), tight-rope walking (jultagi), lion dances (sajamu), crane dances (hangmu), and puppet plays (kkokdugaksi noreum). Many other traditional dances have also come down to us. Various dances connected with shamanism survive throughout the country, as do folk dances infused with folk games, such as ganggang sullae, or female roundelay, and notdari balkki, or walking across human bridge.
In the 1930s and 1940s this transmitted tradition of dance influenced the original choreography of the internationally renowned Korean dancer Choe Seung-hui, and even today it is reflected in contemporary productions.
Major Korean Festivals
The Korean lunar calendar incorporates seasonal divisions of 24 jeolgi or turning points, each one lasting about 15 days. The seasonal cycle became a timetable in an agrarian society like korea's. The seasonal festivals and folk games naturally developed on the cycle of the 24 jeolgi customs and festivals are vanishing in the modern Korean lifestyle.
Today's biggist festivals of the lunar calendar include. New Year's Day , the first full moon day, the spring festival and harvest festival.On New Year's day, the biggsest holiday of the year. Koreans offer an ancestral service before a ritual table set with offerings librations of food and drink and they pray for the well-being of their family. After the service , younger family members offer bows of respect to their elders and exchange New-Year greetings with them.
On the 15th day of the first full moon, people prepared hard-shell nuts (walnuts, peanuts, chestnuts, and pine nuts). It was believed that cracking and eating nuts would repel the evil spirits that caused boils and other skin troubles. Diverse folk games were held to wish for communal peace, health, and abundance. For example, a tug-of-war game (juldarigi), by east and west teams promoted communal cooperation. A bridge-crossing game (dari balkki), involved crossing a bridge a number of times equal to one's age under the first full moon, in the belief that this would ward off leg pain and promote health until the year end.
On spring festival Dano, the 5th lunar day of the 5th month, men celebrated with wrestling, or ssireum. Women washed their hair with iris extract and would swing. The annual Dano festival in Gangneung features diverse traditional events including a ritual service dedicated to the mountain deity and the Gwanno Gamyeongeuk, the masked-dance drama of civil officials and servants.
The harvest festival, Chuseok, held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is another family-get-together occasion, almost as big a national holiday as New Year's Day. An ancestral ritual service is offered with fresh harvest crops and fruits. Indispensable to the festival menu is songpyeon, a rice cake stuffed with chestnuts, sesame, or beans and steamed with pine needles to add fragrance. On Chuseok day various games are enjoyed. Today these traditional games are held in palaces to invite participation by visitors.