Posted by: rbbadger | February 15, 2009

四物 노리

Korea’s traditional music and arts are favourite things of mine.  I am a frequent attender of the concerts of the National Center for the Korean Traditional Performing Arts.  Indeed, some of the staff now recognise me by face.  Some of my students are quite puzzled when they find out that I really do like the old music of Korea, given that they don’t really like it themselves.  I do find it fascinating.  But at first, it sounded to me like notes at random.  As with anything worthwhile, appreciating traditional Korean music takes a bit of work from you the listener. 

Probably the best way to start is with samul nori, an adaptation of the rhythms of Korean farmer’s music for percussion ensemble.  Back in old Korea, farmers used to put these performances involving dances, acrobatics, and shamanistic rituals to invoke the blessings of the spirits a good harvest.  Often at these events, drummers would dance to some pretty complicated rhythms all while twirling a long ribbon attached to the tops of their hats. 

Back in 1978, a group known as SamulNori came into being.  Rather than doing the dances, they remained seated.  This permitted them to play even faster.  They adapted a lot of the rhythms from farmer’s music throughout the country, ranging from those of Gyeonggi Province and the Chungcheong Provinces to the shamanistic music of the Jeolla Provinces.

The name samul (四物) refers to the “four things” used in this music.  The instruments featured that you will hear are the kkwaenggwari (꽹과리) which is a small handheld gong, the jing (징) which is a larger gong, the janggul (장구) which is an hourglass-shaped drum, and the buk (북) which is a barrell shaped drum.  Nori (노리) means “play”. 

This video, which comes from the Sacheon International Percussion Festival, shows a samulnori group.  As with many traditions of Korean music, such as sanjo, a instrumental solo genre, it starts out slow and gradually gets quicker and quicker.  For those in the family and elsewhere who’ve enjoyed Stomp, I rather think that this is something which is right up your alley. 

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