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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gayageum (twelve-stringed Korean zither) Sanjo – Sung Gum-yeon Style

Listen to Samples

Sanjo, literally meaning scattered melody, is a genre of traditional Korean folk music, involving an instrumental solo accompanied by drumming on the Janggu, an hourglass-shaped drum. Sanjo was established by the famous Gayageum player Kim Chang-jo at the end of the 19th century. He gained great renown and had tremendous influence on future generations. Many masters of Gayageum Sanjo followed Kim Changjo and Sanjo was also developed for other instruments such as Geomungo and Daeguem. Then all the important Korean melodic instruments have developed this genre. Sanjo became the most important genre of solo instrumental performance today.

Because Sanjo was not written down and had to be learned entirely by heart, many great players not only performed the melodies they learned from their teachers, but added new ones to those they inherited, to suit their own taste and mood, thus creating their own unique Sanjo. Although there were many Gayageum Sanjos that came about in this way, only about a dozen are extant.

Sung Gum-yeon style is outstanding of these. Its melodies are in themselves musical gems. They are at once radiant and beautiful, ad but sweet, fanciful but natural, soft but lively, sumptuous but refined melodies that embody the Korean ideal of feminine beauty. When Gayageum players hear this Sanjo, they compare it to the reflection of a splendid flower in a clear, cool mountain stream. If Sanjo is the flower of Korean music, Sung Gum-yeon Sanjo is the flower among flowers.

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