Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rare Joseon court music forms harmonies at dawn

It is 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and Changgyeonggung, one of the five grand palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, is enveloped in haze and dewy air.

In spite of the early hour, the gallery behind Myeongjeongjeon hall of the palace is completely packed with people. Some skipped breakfast, and some left their homes in the countryside at 4 a.m. just to be here.

A one-of-a-kind traditional music experience is about to reward those who managed to wake up early. Organized by National Gugak Center, the concert, named “Day Break at Changgyeong Palace” is bringing traditional court music of the Joseon Dynasty (1932-1987) back to the very place the piece was performed and enjoyed in the old days.

The piece, “Yeongsanhoesang,” is believed to have been written as a Buddhist piece during Korea’s Goryeo period (918-1392), or even before, according to Song. “The term ‘Yeongsan’ in the title refers to the mountain in India where Buddha used to stay and hold meetings with his followers,” Song tells The Korea Herald.

“The music depicted the spiritual interactions between Buddha and those who followed him at the special mountain.”

“Yeongsanhoesang” was initially written as a vocal piece with spiritual lyrics, but instrumental variations were developed by Joseon musicians.

“Unlike Goryeo, Joseon embraced Confucianism while rejecting Buddhism,” Song says. “They wanted to keep playing the piece, as it was a superb one, but wanted to get rid of its religious qualities. So they removed the lyrics and created many sets of variations. One of them is chamber ensemble for court music. And many different traditional instruments, both string and wind, can be played either alone or as a duet for this piece.”....

Continue reading from the Korea Herald here.

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