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Reviewed by:
  • Korean Kayagŭm Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre
  • Sun Hee Koo (bio)
Korean Kayagŭm Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre, by Keith HowardChaesuk LeeNicholas Casswell. SOAS Musicology Series. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2008. xii, 160 pp., black and white photographs, figures, musical examples, bibliography, discography, index, compact discs. $54.95 cloth.

Korean Kayagŭm Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre is the first English-language monograph on Korean kayagŭm sanjo. Today, sanjo is one of the most representative Korean traditional musical genres. It comprises a body of related works performed on a solo melodic instrument with rhythmic accompaniment on the changgo, an hourglass-shaped drum. Sanjo was first conceived for the kayagŭm, a twelve-stringed zither, and then was gradually adapted to a variety of Korean instruments. Some [End Page 207] contemporary musicians in South Korea even liberally interpret sanjo as referring to a virtuoso instrumental piece and compose new music, modeled on and named after sanjo (p. 6, n. 4). Since Kim Ch’angjo first introduced the kayagŭm sanjo in the late nineteenth century, numerous kayagŭm schools have been formed by Kim’s disciples and their students. Unlike the practice in ryū—the counterpart system of training in Japan—Korean musicians master sanjo by crossing over between different schools of kayagŭm sanjo. The musicians interpret and reinterpret the sanjo as their musicality matures and are also allowed to introduce their own artistic creations. Korean Kayagŭm Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre spotlights a particular sanjo school of well-known female kayagŭm master Kim Chukp’a, who is also a granddaughter of the sanjo founder, Kim Ch’angjo. While it may not have been the authors’ intention to provide a survey of Korean music nor an overview of the particular musical genre (p. 3), the book does offer comprehensive information on the origin, formation, and current state of Korea’s ubiquitous art, kayagŭm sanjo, while calling attention to various issues and changes that Korean traditional music and musicians have encountered over the last century.

The first chapter introduces sanjo as a national, yet region-specific, genre which contains much of the musical characteristics of Korea’s southwestern Chŏlla provinces. Several musical genres preceded sanjo before it was recognized as an artistic invention of nineteenth-century kayagŭm master Kim Ch’angjo. Although most Korean musicologists and musicians have presumed that Kim is the inventor of the Korean sanjo form, the authors point out that Kim’s predecessors and his contemporaries also performed sanjo-like music and that they might have contributed to the formation of the genre (p. 8). While concentrating on the past and current state of kayagŭm sanjo in South Korea, this book also provides glimpses of kayagŭm sanjo in the Chinese Korean community and in North Korea (p. 11). The second chapter focuses its discussion on the kayagŭm and illuminates the origins of the instrument, its manufacturing process and physical shape, and its performance techniques and recent modifications. Despite a wealth of information presented in the first two chapters, one questions the lack of citations of original sources, which might help guide further reading.

Chapter 3 is an autobiographical sketch of Chaesuk Lee, a contemporary kayagŭm performer and disciple of sanjo master Kim Chukp’a. Lee has been recognized as the first female scholar of Korean musicology and the first female Korean music professor at Seoul National University. She devoted herself to extensive study and notation of various schools of kayagŭm sanjo. As this publication series is unique in that it offers native [End Page 208] musicians and dancers the opportunity to present detailed discussions of their training, context, and repertoire (p. 3), this chapter merits special notice for providing a musical autobiography of Lee’s life and presenting her insights as a living musician and scholar of Korean traditional music. Lee also discusses some of the important issues that musicians of the Korean traditional arts have encountered over the last fifty years. Her contemplation of South Korea’s Intangible Cultural Property system suggests that its significance extends beyond protecting traditional arts with financial support. The system has become more meaningful symbolically to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 207-209
Launched on MUSE
2009-02-13
Open Access
No
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