|Ewha Korean Music Orchestra held its opening concert on Dec 8, 2015 delivering their passion for Korean traditional music. The full seats of the concert showed the enthusiastic interest for Korean music and the orchestra. Photo provided by Ewha Korean Music Orchestra.
A group of 40 Ewha students added a dose of modernity to traditional Korean music. Hoping to create a connection between Korean music and the world, the Ewha Korean Music Orchestra aims to take an initiative role in spreading the tradition of Korean music. First introduced on Dec. 7, 2015, the Ewha Korean Music Orchestra became the nation’s first of its kind.
“The fact that the orchestra is entirely made up of female musicians is distinctive since the common image of Korean traditional music such as pungmul does not have femininity in it,” said Won Young-seok, the conductor of the Ewha Korean Music Orchestra.
Associated with Ewha Korean Music Department, the orchestra aims to follow the ideals of trust, goodness, and beauty put forth by Mary Scranton and help people forget their worries through traditional music. Also, another significant goal is to further extend the boundary of Korean music.
“With our traditional melody, we inspire not only Koreans, but also the international community through music exchange programs,” Won said.
Amongst many other reasons why the Ewha Korean Music Orchestra is unique, a significant reason is its “crossover” with the West. Although Korean music does not traditionally include a conductor, the Ewha Korean Music Orchestra is one of the few that is led by a conductor.
“Today, Korean music is performed on stage unlike in the old days,” Won said. “In the past, it was mostly performed outdoors to celebrate important ceremonies held for royals and the nobles. As this genre changed to require a more systematic cooperation of an orchestra, conductors became necessary.”
Played with gracefulness, the orchestra consists of four percussionists, three daegeum and pipe players, two haegeum, ajaeng, gayageum, geomungo, and a conductor. Holding performances of various music genres, such as classical music ensemble and pansori, it spreads the beauty of Korean traditional music.
“Korean music can largely be divided into two: traditional and creative music,” Won said. “Unfortunately, the former is rarely performed for the public, but I want to inform the audience of the behind story to this traditional music and thereby arouse the interest of the public. As for the latter, which is also widely known as ‘fusion music,’ we hope not to merely imitate the West, but also to add Korean charm and bring more depth to the music.”
Despite the orchestra’s short history, it has already participated in various exchange programs with foreign universities. Last December, the orchestra performed at Yanbian in China and at the India Christ University Research Center during the international seminar of the Association for Korean Shamanistic Studies.
“During our performances in Asia, we were able to convey our music to the Asian audience,” Won said. “The music also deeply touched the heart of Koreans living overseas. Whenever we played ‘Arirang,’ Koreans often shed tears as the song makes them nostalgic of Korea.”
The orchestra has further plans to collaborate with Japan this November. Won predicted a bright future where Korean music is more widely known in the world.
“Someday, I would like to perform Korean music in Africa or South America where we can share each other’s unique traditional folk music,” Won said. “The connection between such distinctive cultural music would create interesting synergy. I hope that Korean traditional music may someday be acknowledged internationally.”