Today¡¯s Korean Traditional Music
Korean Court Music
Artist: Jeongnong Akhoe
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This CD leads to the wonderful world of Jeong-ak, a traditional Korean classical music. From folk songs to music of the royal court, Korea has a rich variety of unique traditional music that deserves to claim a prominent place in world music. Korean court music preserved to date can be traced to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392. However, researches into the culture of the ancient Korean Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C.-668 A.D., the period when the three ancient Korean kingdoms, Koguryo, Baekje and Silla, rivaled each other) indicate that many styles of court and folk music had already evolved to something like their present day form. Two pieces of music, included in this CD, have survived from this period: "Sujecheon" and "Dongdong."

Traditionally, Korean court music was instrumental and usually played for banquets using a wide variety of string, wind and percussion instruments. Sujecheon, a magnificent orchestral piece, is the most famous one of banquet music.

Korean classical music including court music, which was the music for the noble and upper class, has two distinct features. First, a leisurely tempo is a general feature of Korean classical music. In particular, most of the music that makes up the genre known as Jeong-ak has a slow tempo. The Korean musical sound can last as long as three seconds. Such a slow tempo gives music a distinctly calm, meditative character. The leisurely pace of some Korean music is due to the importance placed on breathing, with each beat being matched to the player's inhalation and exhalation. In this respect, Korean classical music differs markedly from Western music in which the beats occur at a tempo similar to the beating of the heart. In other words, Western music, based on a heart-beat tempo, tends (like the heart) to be active and progressive, whereas Korea's Jeong-ak genre of music, based on breathing, is sedate and contemplative.

Second, the tone color of Korean classical music in general is warm and soft. In fact, the timbre is so gentle that the fusion of tones and melodies does not result in discord. The gentle timbre of the music can be attributed to the fact that Korean instruments are made of nonmetallic substances. In the West, wind instruments such as the flute or clarinet are made of metal. In Korea, on the other hand, the wind instruments tend to be made of wood; even the stringed instruments have silk strings instead of wire. To this extent, Koreans like the warm and gentle feeling of natural materials.