Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ethnomusicology: Pansori and Sanjo

Dr. Byeon Gyewon opened my eyes to the interpretation and audience involvement of two kinds of traditional music - pansori and sanjo. Her background is rich in musical composition and musical performance, and as a token of typical pansori "involvement" by the audience, she gave two CDs and a book that she had made to reward 3 active participants when we as an audience "sang" pansori at the end of her lecture.

, a form of traditional music drama that originated in Jeolla Province, is not only a well-known genre of music but is also popular today. In fact, it is the most popular of the traditional musics which include court music (탕악/향악), shaman music, Confucian temple music (아악), military music (추이타), among others. In the 18th century the musical genre was developed by folk musicians to be performed in open spaces like market places, courtyards or sitting rooms of wealthy patrons; hence the name "pan" referring to the space where people gather and "sori" meaning sound or the singing voice.

To sing pansori, the singer must be dressed in cultural character, that is, attired in Korea's traditional clothing, the hanbok. The pansori singer can then deliver a dynamic story through 3 means: the song (sori), dialog and narration (aniri), and gesture (pullim) while using one of 2 traditional props, either a fan or a handkerchief. The pansori singer is accompanied by a drummer (kosu) on the traditional chango [pictured], but actually the drummer plays a more significant role in the performance as the drummer accompanies with more than 20 different styles of rhythmic cycles and makes the all-important supportive or emphasizing comments like 좋다 (good), 얼씨구 (fantastic) and 그렇지 (perfect/that's right) throughout, hence the old saying, "일 고수, 이 명창" or "first the drummer, second the singer."

Since pansori is the people's music, the audience is not to be passive but must actively participate in the performance. By having a reaction, the audience is actually a cause for encouragement, so like the drummer, they shout their contributing comments, and these comments can even flow over into comment-exchanges with the performers.

Traditionally for the pansori singers there were 12 stories which were part of Korea's oral musical history. However, only 5 have been passed down as the other 7 did not follow the strict principles of Confucianism with their ribald vulgarity detailing explicitly private, daily life practices with anatomical particulars and sexual contents. They therefore have been lost.

The Principal Repertoire of 12 Distinct Pansori Pieces
(1) 'The Song of Ch'unhyang' 춘향가
(2) 'The Song of Shim Cheong' 심청가
(3) 'The Song of Hungbo' 흥보가
(4) 'The Song of Underwater Palace' 수궁가
(5) 'The Song of the Red Cliff' 적벽가
(6) 'The Song of Pyeongangsoe' 변강쇠 타령
(7) 'The Song of Official Pae' 배비장 타령
(8) 'The Song of the Cock-pheasant' 장끼 타령
(9) 'The Tale of the Stubborn Man' 온고집전
(10) 'The Song of the Tomboy' 왈자 타령
(11) 'The Tale of Maehwa in Kangnung' 강릉매화전
(12) 'The Song of the Bogus Mountain God' 가짜 신선 타령

(A Pansori Storyline - "The Tale of Chunhyang"
The Tale of Chunhyang is a favorite in Korea as it epitomizes the deep Confucian values of filial duty to parents, honor, and most importantly, feminine virtue to one's husband:

On a beautiful spring day Yi Mongryong, a son of the magistrate of Namwon prefecture, meets Chunhyang at the Gwanghan Pavilion and falls in love with her. They are unofficially married by Chunhyang's mother, Wolmae, since it would have been impossible for the daughter of a female entertainer (기생) to become the wife of an aristocrat's son through the legal marriage procedures of that time. Their happiness is shattered, however, when Mongryong's father is summoned to Seoul, the capitol, and Mongryong has no choice but to follow his family, leaving Chunhyang behind in Namwon. A new magistrate, Byeon Hakdo, demands that Chunhyang be his concubine, refusing to recognize her marriage.

She steadfastly refuses and is cast into prison after brutal torture. One the day of his birthday celebration, the magistrate orders that Chunhyang be executed unless she yields to his demands. In the meantime, Mongryong has passed the highest civil examiniation in Seoul, and is appointed a royal secret inspectator whereupon he returns to Namwon in the guise of a scholar wearing worn and tattered clothes. After discovering the situation, Yi Mongryong punishes the wicked magistrate and rescues Chunhyang.

The story put into music as we sang it [this selection is taken from a segment called "Disheveled Hair"]:

Chunhyang weeps bitterly in jail, missing Mongryong.
Chunhyang's hair is disheveled like that of a ghost. In the quiet and lonely cell she can do nothing but miss Mongryong. "I want to see him, I want to see my love in Seoul. Since he left, I haven't received a single letter. Has he been busy serving his parents and studying? Or has he gotten married and already forgotten me? I hope I can shine as the fairy in the moon does. Now that there is no letter, I know nothing about my husband. Now that I can hardly sleep, how can I meet me darling in my dreams?

Sanjo is also one of the most popular genres of traditional music, and is decidedly present in national and international performance tours. Originally designed for the gayagum [pictured], a traditional 12-stringed instrument similar to the zither, its music was later extended to the somewhat larger 6-stringed geomungo, an instrument made in the late Joseon Dynasty, and now the flute and 2 other instruments can play sanjo. A single sanjo can last one hour, but it is often broken up into segments, which build in pace. The first half of the performance is typically slow, but in the second half the segments increase in vigor and passion.

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