Saturday, October 12, 2013

In review--Gongs & Strings

Chung Woong Korean
Traditional Music Ensemble 
Traditional Music from Korea
Arc Music

I’m pretty sure that the last time I heard traditional Korean music was while watching a historic Korean movie at a film festival.  Since I enjoyed the soundtrack to that movie, I leaped on the chance to review Chung Woong Korean Traditional Music Ensemble’s CD, Traditional Music of Korea.  The recording was produced at the Festival Mondial des Cultures de Drummondville, Quebec and released on the Arc Music label, which specializes in the world’s music traditions.

The instruments first capture a music listener’s attention, from rousing drums, gongs, clappers, to a variety of zithers, oboes, flutes and a shawm.   Rousing at times and tranquil at other times, these musicians immerse us in Korean music and culture, including meditative, ritualistic and festival music.  For instance, the CD opens with the tranquil Ch’ŏngsŏng jajinhanip performed on a solo bamboo flute.  Then the ensemble launches into a live processional piece with clanging gongs, banging drums (such as the double-sided barrel drum), and a loud and raspy shawm.  The third song is a chamber orchestral piece inspired by Buddhist music.  But if you’re expecting something meditative, think again! Though it moves at a slower pace, the music falls on the lively side.

While this recording features mainly instrumental pieces representing different facets of traditional Korean life, Shimch’ŏng’ga features a woman vocalist accompanied by a traditional drum.  The song laments the death of a blind man’s wife and yes, it is rather mournful and beautiful at the same time.  However, the CD concludes with two drum-driven songs to lift spirits. For anyone who has never heard traditional Korean music and even for those who have, Traditional Music from Korea offers a musical glimpse into a vibrant, colorful and acoustic world.

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