Orchestra of the National Music Institute

Korean Court Music

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Part of Lyrichord's never-ending mission to showcase every music culture possible, this collection of Korean Court Music was released, presumably in 1991. All of the music here is of the Confucian style, A-ak (as opposed to the Tang style, Tan-ak, or the Native Korean Yan-ak), as only the Confucian style of court music is still practiced. The music is occasionally well put together, with lyrical phrasing and instrumental ornamentation working together, but is often solely ritualistic. Confucian-style court music, in both China (where it is rarely practiced at this time) and Korea, involves the use of eight classes of instruments, symbolizing cardinal directions, seasons, and is made of the eight materials present on earth (winter = skin, spring = bamboo, summer = silk, fall = metal, also stone, gourd, earth, wood), and all instruments must be played in a given order in order to call spirits, make offerings to Confucius, among other things, regardless of the musical quality. Secondarily, the instruments are all slightly out of tune, so the music can only be "presumably" pentatonic, though it was probably written heptatonic, not the prettiest sound on earth to hear ritualistic music from Korea, but out of tune makes it worse. While the ritualistic purposes and the grandeur provoked by the music are undeniable, Korean ritual music is aesthetically an acquired taste, at best. This album is an important one for ethnographic reasons, but probably not much of anything for pure musical enjoyment.

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