Korean Cultural Festival 2013 Cherish. Tradition. Embrace. Future.

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Korean Drum Dance (Sam Go Mu, 삼고무)
The drum used in this dance is believed to have originated from Koryo dynasty, created by an official on exile in a remote island as he carved one out of a piece of wood drifting on the seashore.Its design was then refined through the Chosun dynasty to be used in various configurations of three, five drums as well as the single drum. The dance is often choreographed to showcase the ‘swinging’ rhythm prevalent in the Korean traditional music, and like Samul-nori, leads the audience to a trance through skillfully synchronized movements and the gradual build-up toward the dazzling climax. The exciting and brilliant opening sets the joyous stage for the celebration of a Marriage that follows.
Traditional Marriage Ceremony (Abridged, 전통혼례식)
A typical marriage in the Korean tradition is as elaborate as any in other cultures. Long before the ceremony, both parties go through the painstaking steps of appraising the other, the least of which is about Goong-Hap (궁합 ‘compatibility, harmony’ according to the long held Oriental belief system) of the pair. The date of the ceremony is chosen according to Sa-joo (사주), based on the time and date of birth and also the nuanced consideration of the bride’s biological cycle. The groom pays respect to the bride’s family, by delivering a chest (called ‘Ham’ ) full of valuable gifts and symbolic textiles (‘chaedan’, 채단) as the day of ceremony looms. This evening, we show an abridged version of the three essential steps of its culmination. First, exchange of the wooden greylag which symbolizes the fertility and love of the pair. This is followed by the solemn bow between the bride and groom. Finally, they share a glass of wine (합환주). The ceremony then continues with bowing of bride to elders of the groom’s family, which may mean an arduous and long afternoon for the bride depending on the size of the family.
Empty Heart (텅빈 마음, Eunyoung Kim & Sigimsae, composer)
The piece accompanying the marriage ceremony is a contemporary work by Kim, with an ironic title given the occasion. Maybe the marriage is an arranged one forced upon the bride whose heart is elsewhere... The music, however, projects a warm and peaceful feeling, and is spiced by the middle section that features the traditional percussive instruments.
The Heart’s Way 마음길 (from OST “King’s Dream” 대왕의 )
In recent years, the most popular export of Korean culture has been the so-called Hallyu (Korean-wave) which includes the Korean music (K-Pop), films and dramas as well as the cult-like following of their performers. With a nod to this phenomenal surge of interest, Han starts with a song from a recent historical drama that was originally sung by the star of the most popular K-Pop groups, the Girls Generation (소녀시대). If the tune strikes you as somewhat oriental despite its glossy surface, it is probably because of the beginning melody which derives from the pentatonic progression, C-D-E-G-C-(B)-A-G-E.
Kayageum is justifiably considered the flower of the Korean music tradition by many, but just like its Western counterpart, violin, is also a versatile instrument in many different contexts, especially considering its modern version with 25 strings. (the original has 12 strings.) The second part of the program focuses on the Kayageum as it touches on a wide range of genres.
Autumn Diary (가을 일기, Kyung Hoon Park, composer)
In recent decades, there has been renewed interest in the Korean traditional music by the public, and the tradition is facing many different forks along the way going forward. Kyung Hoon Park is a leading composer of the young generation, adept in making traditional music feel fresh and relevant for the modern taste. This piece, adapted from his original for Hae Keum (해금, Korean violin) and Kayageum, should help transport the audience from the happy bustle of the earlier marriage ceremony to a serene, moonlit Fall evening, when the bride and groom face each other in the garden.
Rose Jang (백도라지, traditional, 황금산 편곡)
This piece is based on one of the most popular Korean traditional melodies. There are several versions sharing the same title, but the version played here is relatively new, from toward the end of the Chosun dynasty. When a young girl starts taking lessons in Korean dancing, the main melody (played rather fast) may well be among the first encountered. This arrangement is based on a version by the North Korean composer (while it is generally referred as a group-creation) Keum San Hwang. This duet arrangement emphasizes the subtlety of Kayageum and elegant sound of the cello.
Prelude from Cello Suite No 3 in C Maj (J. S. Bach)
In many respects, the authentic Kayageum music elicits in audience a range of emotion as complex as what one feels while listening to a solo string piece by Bach. Both music share intimacy, depth, and brilliance that invite very personal interpretations from virtuoso players. Many in the audience may be familiar with the solo pieces for cello by J. S. Bach. The cellist, Yumi Bae, will start off the unusual juxtaposition of revered solo traditions of the East and the West with the prelude from Suite No 3, one the most brilliant and technically challenging pieces in the whole Suites.
Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello, No 5 (J. S. Bach, composer)
Out of 36 pieces that constitute the cello suites for solo cello, the Sarabande from No 5 is generally considered the most modern-sounding, and also most deeply sad. Suite No 5 is the only piece of which Bach himself left a version for the lute, a plucking guitar-like instrument. Therefore, it is with Bach’s blessing that Kayageum player might play the piece with a cellist, who breathes these pieces day and night. It is astonishing that such a short melody (barely 20 bars) could elicit bottomless melancholy. The sense of sadness is to be contrasted with another kind of sadness that pervades many of the popular Korean traditional melodies, such as Arirang, which is played as the grand Finale of the evening.
P'ansori (고고천변 - 수궁가)
Pansori (판소리) is a vocal and percussive music played by a singer accompanied by a Jango player. The narrator may play the parts of all the characters in a story, accompanied by a drummer. The lyrics tell one of five popular folk tales. These canonic tales have both elements of comedy and tragedy, and reaches deep emotional core of most Koreans. The interpretation may be very individualistic, and is often spiced with ribald jokes and audience participation, as well as the chuimsae (occasional grunts and comments by the drummer). The precious little introduction of this form to the Western audience may be found in the Nonesuch recording “P’ansori : Korea’s Epic Vocal Art & Instrumental Music” from 1972 that features one of its masters, Sohee Kim. Many Koreans still enjoy this music. Certainly it helps if you are already familiar with what the story is about, but it is a rare form of old traditional genre that is surprisingly appealing to the modern and foreign ears familiar with Rap and hip hop. In 2003, It was designated as intangible cultural property in UNESCO's Memory of the world.
Kayageum Sanjo (가야금 산조)
For the final segment of part II, Han switches her instrument to the 12-string Kayageum, the original design believed to originate from the period of Kaya dynasty (42 - 532 AD). The piece being played, Sanjo, (scattered melodies) represents the only traditional style for Kayageum solo, usually accompanied by Jangu, the Korean drum, which also provides chuimsae (subtly timed exclamations). The piece is based on folk music handed down by rote generation after generation, and its form is believed to have been established in the 19th century. If Bach’s cello suites represent the pinnacle for the solo Cello repertoire, Sanjo (both traditional and its modern variations) may well be its equivalent for the Kayageum as an instrument. Just like Bach pieces, Sanjo has enjoyed superb and very individualistic interpretations by the masters of the instrument.
As the Wind suggests, the last segment of the program attempts to put the archetypal Korean traditional instrument Kayageum in the modern context. As an open-minded master musician would attempt to forge a new creative path, the Cambridge-based cellist Yo-yo Ma being an example, so would the master Kayageum player (and other musicians in the Korean tradition) in the modern global music world.. The same cello, under Ma’s musical curiosity, has made music not only of Bach, Dvorak and Shostakovich, but also of the Appalachian, Japanese, Mongolian, and Brazilian sources as well as Jazz, without compromising its quality. Han and other musicians participating in this section are taking such a step, and we in the audience have the pleasure of eavesdropping on their musical dialogue.
Samul Nori (사물놀이, traditional percussions)
The four instruments in this percussive music denote the Natural Elements: Jangu (a drum for "Rain/Shower"), Kkwaeng-gwari (a gong, "Lightening"), Jing (a larger gong, "Winds") and Buk (a bass drum, "Clouds"), and thus likely have originated from the pagan yearning for a successful harvest. The instrumentation also suggest symbolism that touches on the Eastern philosophical notions such as Yin/Yang as well as Heaven/Earth. Musically, a successful performance rewards the audience with a gradual build-up toward the trance-inducing climax. Thanks to charismatic leaders such as Duck Soo Kim, Samul is currently among the best-known Korean folk music for the world music audience.
Improvisations (Paintbrush Music, Yeonathan Shachar, conductor)
If the intricate rythms of Samul sound chaotic, one may sit up and prepare for what’s next. Largely based on Jazz improvisation tradition, the group of individually capable musicians in the Paintbrush orchestra improvise under the conductor, who paints the music on a blank canvass. Neither the audience, nor the musicians know where it will go and what the final painting will look like.
Lullaby of Takeda (Japanese Traditional)
This is a tune based on a simple, plaintive Japanese traditional melody, on which members of the band will improvise on. The piece is first of the brief melodies presented in this segment, (Sarabande and Arirang will also follow) that are simple yet touch a deep emotional chord.
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My Favorite Things (Rogers and Hammerstein from the Sound of Music)
One finds, on iTunes, literally hundreds of interpretation on this famous tune. For Jazz fans, there is that famous John Coltrane’s version, as well as numerous others by top singers and instrumentalists. The intriguing interpretation by Kaneko is among the most engaging, as the overly familiar melody is fused with her Japanese vocal and Jazz stylings. The jaded member of the audience, initially skeptical of yet another “My favorite...”, would be surprised to find oneself in a high place where only truly successful fusion music may go.
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Arirang (아리랑, traditional melody, Eunhye Jeong, arranger)
For most Koreans, the melody of an Arirang is like the unofficial National anthem. No Korean Cultural Festival would feel complete without presenting it in one form or another. The piece starts with the note that ended the preceding Kayageum solo on traditional folk melodies, is followed by the members of the Paintbrush orchestra, as they try to find their ways around the tune under the leadership of the sound painter Yeonathan Shachar. After this deconstruction/reconstruction process of the tune, other musicians join forces on the stage leading toward the climax of the Jam. Hopefully, who knows, even the audience may be invited to sing along.
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© 2013 The Korean Church of Boston & Korean American Cultural Foundation