The Kayagum Advances Into Western Music
The Kayagum Advances Into Western Music
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  • 승인 2004.04.22 00:00
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Hwang Byoung-ki Leads A University Festival
Have you ever imagined the kayagum, a traditional Korean 12-string instrument, playing the symphonies of Western classical music by Beethoven and Mozart? What would the chords sound like, harmonious or incongruous?
On March 9, just such an unusual performance took place at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, titled ?ayagum Ensemble University Festival, led by Hwang Byoung-ki, a leading performer of Korean traditional music, also an honorary professor at Ewha Womans University.
?wo years ago, in the spring of 2002, I started planning the kayagum ensemble. I had two objectives. First, I wanted to make various universities take part in the event. Second, as Korean traditional music and western music were standing face to face with each other, I wished to include the characteristics of Western music in Korean traditional music through instruments like the kayagum, says Hwang. This year, Hwang finished arranging the pieces of several symphonies popular among Koreans for performance on a newly designed kayagum, one having 25 strings in total, 13 more strings than the original.
Only 7 universities, including Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University and Hanyang University, have Divisions of Korean Music, and each university performed one chapter of Hwang? piece. Ensembles that were performed included masterpieces such as Beethoven? Symphony No. 5 ?ate and No. 6 ?astoral, and Haydn? Symphony No. 101 ?lock. ?wha Womans University performed Mozart? Symphony No. 40, and it was favorably commented upon by the audience. As an honorary professor, I did feel proud of the students at Ewha, said Hwang.
Starting in the fall of 2003, students in each university who are majoring in Korean music practiced playing the symphonies on the kayagum. Despite the limited time, the students were able to perform well.
The performance was billed as a ?niversity Festival, and attracted a record of crowds to the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. Hwang commented, ? was surprised to see such a large audience; it was just unbelievable! There were people sitting on the steps of the aisle, and also, a visitor came all the way from Boston, in America, just to see us perform. The event was remarkable for the large number of traditional instruments performing various orchestral music and for featuring almost 200 players.
The two styles of music, classical western music and traditional Korean music blended harmoniously together to create a new genre. The traditional instruments were also well showcased, and gave a fresh sound to the familiar notes of the music. Kim Sung-eun (Psychology, 2) said after the performance, ?hree hours ago, I wasn? so into the world of kayagum, however, after the show, I can feel the beauty of Korean music. I bet if Mozart was alive, he would have given a big hand to the idea of mixing Korean music and classical music.
Along with Kim, Park Nam-hee (Hanyang Univ., 2) expressed, ?orean music should embrace western classical music, as we are living in a fusion society today. People are striving for new genres of music, therefore, traditional music should form orchestras and give performances more like the one today.
However, compared to neighboring Asian countries such as China and Japan, Korea is behind the times in blending traditional instruments with western music. In China, with traditional instruments, they have performed a wide repertory of modern western music. Hwang asserted, ?orean musicians should be more active and open to western music, and focus both on the modernity of the music and on tradition as well.

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