Korean Heritage Night Aug. 14

photoThe Korean-American Association of Northern Virginia is presenting an evening of Korean culture at Ossian Hall Park on Sunday, August 14, 2011. Performances will feature traditional and folk music, dance, and a Korean movie will begin at dark. The presentation starts at 7 p.m.

Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy dancers in brilliantly colored robes, rhythmic drumming, and exotic string instruments. The entertainment takes place in the newly renovated Winnie Shapiro Performing Arts Plaza, and outdoor amphitheater located in the heart of the park.

Ossian Hall Park is located at 7900 Heritage Drive in Annandale.

Traditional Korean dance and music evolved from the religious ceremonies of primitive tribes some 3,000 years ago. Dance and music were often linked to the agricultural cycle and were indispensable elements in festivals and ceremonies in traditional society The Korean people’s predilection for dance and music is evident in a number of ancient historical records from China and Korea as well as in murals found on the walls of Muryongsh’ong, the Tomb of the Dancers, dating back to the Koguryo period.


Korea’s traditional music can be classified into two major categories: chong’ak, “proper or upright” music, and folk music. As its name implies, chong’ak refers to the music of the ruling class and literati of the Choson period. Chong’ak is characterized by subdued melodies and a very formal tempo as befits the Confucian mind-set. The genre is largely comprised of ceremonial music for court banquets, military music, ritual music, royal shrine music and non-court music for the listening enjoyment of the literati. Vocal music includes kagok (long lyric songs), kasa (narrative songs) and sip (short lyric songs).

Traditional ritual music is still performed in its original form at the royal ancestral shrine or during the biennial memorial services honoring Confucius held at the Munmyo shrine on the campus of Songgyun’gwan University. Banquet music was, of course, mainly performed at courtly banquets, the most famous composition being the Suyech’on, a court piece played on wind instruments.

The music of the ruling class and literati consists of p’ungnyu or ensemble music, kagok and sip. Pungnyu is an archaic term that originally referred to music in general but later came to denote a state of mental and physical leisure in which man removes himself from everyday life through the appreciation of poetry music and female companionship. When referring to classical music, however, the term means upper-class ensemble music. Chulp’ungnyu is performed on stringed instruments, taep’ungnyu is performed on wind instruments, and a third genre is a combination of the two.

Songs are accompanied by an instrumental ensemble consisting of a komun-go (six-string zither), kaya-gum (12-string zither), yanggum (Korean-style dulcimer), haegum (two-string fiddle without a fingerboard), p’iri (cylindrical oboe) and changgo (hourglass drum.) Unlike chontak, folk music is fast tempo, dynamic and exuberant. Nong’ak, or farmer’s music, is generally performed by a six member team of musician-dancers led by the gong-playing sangsoe. The sangsoe beats the gong to signal changes in the music and dance, creating fascinating rhythmic patterns.

The changgo (hourglass drum) player usually follows the sangsoe. The changgo is slung over the player’s shoulders and played with a light bamboo stick in one hand, giving a sharp tone, and a wooden-tipped mallet in the other, producing a deeper tone. The changgo player dances to the highly syncopated rhythms he creates with his drum.

An important part of the nong’ak performance is its unique dance elements. The sangmo, a hat with a long paper streamer attached to a swivel on its crown, is worn by a dancer who spins around and around, pivoting on one foot and throwing himself through the air.



About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.