검색
Contact us | KOREAN

NEWSLETTER

00707012
2011.8
background left image
background right image
background handphone image
background pen image
KOREAN

Harmony of Strings from the East and the West  ‘Different but the Same’: Summer Concert for Foreign Residents



The stage was bare except for some floor cushions and a traditional hourglass-shaped drum. As the audience fell into silence, the gray-haired Hwang Byung-ki came onto the stage, dressed in a white robe with flowing sleeves. The master musician sat down on the floor and began his performance with the seemingly effortless movements of a graceful crane. As the pure, elegant melodies from his fingertips spread throughout the hall, the audience was immediately immersed in the charming sound of the gayageum. They were captivated by the lyrical melodies that came in subtle but powerful bursts through Hwang’s adroit hands. As the opening piece, “Chimhyang-moo” (Dancing among Incense), came to an end, a hearty outburst of applause erupted from the audience.

The Korea Foundation’s annual summer concert for foreign residents was given on July 17, at the Seoul Namsan Traditional Theater. This year’s performers included master gayageum player Hwang Byung-ki, violinist Lee Suk-jung, traditional janggu drummer Kim Jung-su, and a Western string and woodwind septet. As its theme, “Different but the Same,” suggested, the concert highlighted the harmony and contrast of string music from the East and the West.

Master Hwang Byung-ki
As a renowned master of the gayageum, a 12-string Korean zither, Hwang Byung-ki has an extensive musical career as a concert performer and composer. He has given concerts in many countries around the world over the past decades. His repertoire often included his own compositions integrating traditional and modern experimental elements. All five works performed at the KF concert were his compositions. Following his opening work, Hwang thanked the audience and gave a brief explanation about the gayageum and the janggu, the two traditional musical instruments featured in the concert.


As Hwang explained, the gayageum is known to have been made for the first time in the ancient state of Gaya about 1,500 years ago. The long zither is placed on the lap of the musician sitting cross-legged on the floor; the strings are plucked or stroked with the bare fingers without using any equipment. This is distinctively different from the similar Chinese or Japanese string instruments that are either placed on a wooden table to be played, or plucked with thimble-like picks. The soundboard and strings of the Korean zither are made from paulownia wood and silk, respectively. The paulownia wood should be from home-grown trees to produce proper sounds.
As Hwang spoke, the tense atmosphere among the audience became remarkably relaxed. When the interpreter had difficulty translating technical

terminology, Hwang helped out by speaking in English himself, using humorous expressions now and then.

Lyrical String Melodies

Hwang Byung-ki (gayageum), Kim Jung-su (janggu), and a Western string and woodwind septet perform “New Spring.”The concert continued with another gayageum solo piece, “The Clock Tower,” by Ji Ae-ri, a student of Hwang; “Hamadan,” a duet by Ki Sook-hee and An Na-re; and “Darha Nopigom,” a duet of gayageum and violin based on an ancient Korean. The concert culminated with the closing piece, “New Spring,” a septet featuring gayageum and Western string and woodwind instruments. Rather than attempting at a fusion combination, it spotlighted the distinctive identities of individual instruments in a mutually complementary manner, offering a glimpse of new forms of world music.

Ji Ae-ri (gayageum) and Lee Suk-jung (violin) perform “Darha Nopigom.”Since 2003, the KF summer concert series for foreign residents has presented music from an array of genres, including traditional Korean music, Western classical music, jazz, fusion, and world music. The latest concert proved to be another significant endeavor to increase cultural understanding among people from different countries through harmony of diverse musical traditions.


Hwang Byung-ki
A leading traditional musician, Hwang Byung-ki learned to play the gayageum, while he was a secondary school student, at the National Gugak Center (then the National Traditional Music Institute). He continued his musical studies while majoring in law at Seoul National University, and when SNU opened its Korean music department, he began teaching as an instructor and has since been committed to the education of traditional music students. As an outstanding performer and innovative composer, he has made significant contributions to the nation’s musical scene. He has received various prestigious awards, including the National Academy of Arts Award (2006) and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize (2010). He has given numerous concerts at home and abroad over the past decades.

Gayageum (12-string traditional Korean zither)
One of Korea’s representative traditional string instruments, the gayageum consists
of a soundboard, made with paulownia wood, and silk strings supported
by movable bridges called “anjok” (literally “foot of a wild goose”).
It is played by plucking, stroking or vibrating the strings.

Janggu (traditional Korean hourglass-shaped drum)
Also called seyogo (“slim waist drum”) and janggo
(“striking drum”), the janggu consists of an hourglass-shaped
body with two heads, each producing a different sound.
It is featured in almost every genre of traditional Korean music, including folk songs and farmers’ band music.

Choe Kyung-sook Freelance Writer

copyright 2011 한국국제교류재단 ALL Rights Reserved | 137-072 서울특별시 서초구 남부순환로 2558 외교센터빌딩 10층 | 02-2046-8500 | newsletter@kf.or.kr