Lecture Video: Two Differing Aesthetic Aspects of Korean Traditional Music

Lecturer: Professor Sheen Dae-Cheol (Academy of Korean Studies)

Korean Traditional Music can be broadly classified as either Jeongak or Minsogak. The first term means “right music” or classical music and it includes court and literati music. The second covers folk music. These two genres of music possess many musical characteristics and beauties in common. However, the basic musical aesthetic is quite different in each. The first category does not allow the expression of immoderate musical emotions when it is performed or sung, whereas the second expresses musical emotions very freely. Naturally, Jeongak and Minsogak can each boast of its own typical aesthetic style, calm beauty in the first, dynamic beauty in the second. Because of this aesthetic difference between Jeongak and Minsogak, all the beauties of curved lines, musical dots by percussions, vocalism or singing styles, Jangdan (rhythmic patterning) and other techniques characteristic of Korean traditional music produce very distinct flavors in the performance of each.

Korea is often called the ‘Land of Morning Calm’ yet it has also recently been publicized as ‘Dynamic Korea’. Tonight’s lecture operates using these two metaphors. Both images can be found in Korea’s traditional music, ‘calmness’ in Jeongak and ‘dynamics’ in Minsogak. In other words, drawn from Western aesthetic theory, it could be said that ‘Apollonian’ and ‘Dionysian’ characteristics can be found in Jeongak and Minsogak respectively. One of the easiest shortcuts to understanding, appreciating and enjoying Korean traditional music is to be able to recognize and feel these aesthetic differences between Jeongak and Minsogak.

Professor Sheen Dae-Cheol started his musical career as a choir boy. He graduated from the National Junior and Senior High School of Korean Traditional Music then received his BA and MA in Korean Traditional Music from Seoul National University. He holds a Ph.D. in Korean Traditional Music from the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). He has served as a researcher of the Korea Culture and Arts Foundation and as Secretary-General of the Asia Pacific Society for Ethnomusicology (APSE). After a time as Professor at Kangnung National University, he is currently a Professor of AKS Graduate School. He has been Director of the Center for Information on Korean Culture and Chair of Global Forum on Civilization & Peace for AKS and was an Executive Board Member of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM). He was one of the co-founders of the ICTM study group Music of East Asia, of which he was a board member and a program committee member. He is currently President of the Korean Musicological Society. He has published many books and articles, including the books Korean Traditional Music, Its Flavor and Tone Color, and Traditional Music of North Korea.

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