Friday, January 22, 2010

On the Haegum

Haegum plays a key role in Korean traditional instruments nowadays with their ethereal netherworld wafting tones, which are sustained and mellow. The instrument was introduced from China in the 12th century during the Goryeo Dynasty, but it underwent transformation from the Chinese instrument ho gung to a more Koreanized instrument and has undergone continuous change since its introduction, one of which was to remove its nasally sound to hear more clearly the flowing mellow alto timbers. The haegum is an indispensable percussion bow-string instrument in court music and folk music. It has no fingerboard, is strung with 2 silk strands and played with a horsetail-stringed bow while resting the base of the instrument on the knee for stability, much as the violin rests lightly on the shoulder. Its stem is usually of bamboo, which I believe is the more traditional wood used in order to achieve the rich alto sounds, but a hardwood stem is a possibility too.

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