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Minsogak


Unlike Chong-ak, with its sense of emotional composure and control, Minsogak is characterized by a rapid tempo and unrestrained, exuberant emotional expression.

Minsogak vocal music includes the unique form known as p'ansori as well as minyo and miscellaneous other types. In p'ansori, a single vocalist tells a long story in which she or he assumes a number of different roles. At present, there are five complete, traditional p'ansori compositions in existence. The songs tend to be very long, with compositions such as Ch'unhyangjon (Tale of Ch'unhyang) requiring more than eight hours to perform and Sugungga (Song of the Underwater Palace) requiring more than four hours. Combining a number of diverse formal elements, p'ansori alternates between a slow and fast tempo, the quiet and dramatic, and melodic passages and passages rendered in everyday speech. The music elicits numerous emotions, ranging from sidesplitting laughter to profuse tears. Performed with the sole accompaniment of a drummer, p'ansori, like most genres of folk music, is performed with numerous ad-libs and improvisation.

Minyo are broadly classified into three types according to region, namely, Kyonggi, Namdo and Sodo minyo. Kyonggi minyo were traditionally popular in the central area around Seoul, while Namdo minyo were popular in the southern area around Cholla-do province and Sodo minyo were popular in the northwestern area (present-day North Korea) situated around P'yong-an-do province. Kyonggi minyo are generally characterized by a frantic tempo and cheerful mood. As the music progresses, one feels happy and uplifted. Namdo minyo have a relatively slow tempo and a crude, dark timbre. It's sharply alternating melody gives one the sense of deep, inward pathos. Sodo minyo, with its clear nasal tones and fine vibrato, reminds one of fine ripples spreading outward on a lake. In contrast with Kyonggi minyo, it has a slow tempo and pure, tranquil feeling reminiscent of a cool autumn sky.


In addition to the above, there are a number of unique singing styles, generally classified as chapka (miscellaneous songs), found in different regions throughout Korea.

In terms of melody and structure, these songs tend to be technically weak. Most are based on an old text or story, and they are sometimes recited as if from a book.

Among Minsogak instrumental music, the most famous compositions are Sanjo, Shinawi and the primarily percussion style known as Samul Nori. Sanjo basically consists of three movements known as chinyangjo, chungmori and chajinmori. It is widely performed as the basic repertoire of traditional solo instrumentalists. Examples include the Kayagum (Kaya zither), Komun-go (half-tube zither), P'iri (bamboo flute), Haegum (large transverse bamboo flute) and Ajaeng (seven-stringed zither) sanjo.

Although sanjo performers follow the basic three movements, they tend to freely give the music their own unique interpretation. However, with the introduction of Western-style notation, the music has recently become more rigidly fixed. Sanjo music is popular as a style which allows the performer to demonstrate his or her technical expertise while giving free rein to his or her creative expression.

Shinawi, on the other hand, is normally performed by a traditional instrument ensemble. Within the form's loose structure, musicians freely display their individual skill while harmonizing with the other members of the group. Like stars in the night sky which shine individually yet are ultimately part of the cosmic order, this musical form allows the maximum freedom for each musician's unique expression within the context of group harmony. As a musical form embodying Korean sentiment and timbre, this music, along with sanjo, is easy to appreciate.

Samul Nori is one of a traditional instrumental music that has won international acclaim. The term Samul means "four" while Nori means to "play" or "perform;" hence the name Samul Nori signifies a performance using four instruments, namely, small and large gongs made of bronze and leather and double-headed hourglass and barrel drums. These four instruments were used in Nong-ak, a traditional, outdoor musical performance which goes back into Korea's remote past. In Samul Nori, Nong-ak has been adapted for indoor performances. Beginning in the late 1970s, Samul Nori rapidly gained enthusiastic support from the general population, and there are presently a number of active Samul Nori bands. The genre's subtle charm comes from its free employment of the numerous rhythms found in Korea's traditional music. The four percussion instruments used in this style of music have their own unique function and tone colors. The instruments are distinctly different in terms of musical range, timbre and resonance; yet their sounds are brought together to form a harmonious whole.

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