National Stringed Instrument—Haegum

 

 

National Stringed Instrument—Haegum

 

The Koreans created many fine national musical instruments in the long historical course ranging from ancient times to medieval and modern ages and developed music and dance by using them.

Among them is haegum, a stringed instrument with a unique tone and shape.

It dates back to the period of Ancient Joson (early 30th century BC-108 BC).

According to historical records, the original model of haegum consisted of a resonance box shaped like a small drum and a finger board with two strings and the sound was produced with a piece of bamboo put and moved between the strings.

The instrument which had been spread only among the folk was later used at the royal court in the period of Koryo Kingdom (918–1392) by the name of kyegum.

By the period of the feudal Joson dynasty (1392–1910), it became widely used not only in popular music but in the court music.

Though simple in structure, it had so unique sound, remarkable depictive ability and power of exquisite expression it could produce even such sounds as the human voice and cries of animals.

In the long historical course of its use in folk and professional music, outstanding players and many fine solo pieces were produced.

However, during the Japanese military rule, its development was severely impeded due to their harsh policy of obliterating national culture in colonies and the backwardness of the feudal age as well.

After Korea’s liberation it was improved into a national musical instrument fully reflecting the aesthetic and emotional demand of the times and the public thanks to the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Juche-oriented policy of art and literature.

The present type of haegum is the improved one contrived according to the Party’s policy on developing national musical instruments in conformity with the demand of modern music.

It comes in four kinds—small, medium-sized, big and bass ones—which are all in B flat.

They have clear and soft sound while preserving the original tone quality.

Besides, the volume of the instrument greatly increased, its pitch range got wider and its performance and expressive power became stronger to be used in various forms of music such as solo, ensemble and concert.

Today, the instruments in the haegum family constitute a major section of the national orchestration, playing an important part in the mixed orchestration of the Juche type.

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