Korean Drums - Indepth Essay

Submitted By jsong33
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Jennifer Song
Music 227
Summer 2012
Essay 3: Ethnographic Concert Report

Somgo-mu: A New Traditional Korean Drum Dance

As a child my grandmother would tell me that Korean dances were influenced by the heavens. Watching this performance, it was easy to see why she told me this. This traditional style Korean performance mixes choreographed drum beats with dance steps which results in a beautiful display of culture and history. I was unsure initially if this concert would show off this style of dance and music in the proper way. In the end, however, was a pleasure to witness this unique concert which exemplifies the history of my culture. Historically traditional Korean dances were influenced by folk dances that were closely interwoven with a commoner’s daily life. It was believed that their lifestyle and thoughts were inseparable from nature. Because of this, in Korean dances there is a great amount of emphasis placed on natural movements. They try to impact and express natural phenomena. For instance, refined court dances such as 춘향전 (the Dance of the Spring Nightingale) and 동래학춤 (the Crane Dance) are all based upon depictions of nature. They were also strongly influenced by the religions of Shamanism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Originally they were performed in religious ceremonies, which explain why they naturally look ritualistic; gradually however, they have become a form of entertainment. The movements of these dances are unique and beautiful to watch. They involve smooth, flowing curvilinear movements which, unlike Western dances, concentrate on putting energy into their torsos rather than the feet. Western dancers follow the tempo of the heartbeat, while Korean dancers follow the tempo of breathing. Korean dance emphasizes movement in the upper torso and most of the dance moves happen from their shoulders, arms, and hands. This is why several of the dances require a long silk handkerchief to better highlight this movement. The dancers follow a curved path with repetitive movements and hitting their drums in rhythmical ways. The dancer's legs and feet are often entirely concealed by billowing Hanboks, which are traditional Korean dresses. The traditional colors of these dresses are various combinations of reds, yellows, blues, black, white, and sometimes shades of pinks. The most traditional colors however, are yellow and red. Most of the dances are performed by females because of the gender role. In Korean culture, the music is what upholds the dance, and the dancers are tools that express the music into a physical form. The performance that I witnessed is called Samgo-mu (삼고무 오고무), it is a modern take on a Korean traditional dance, which came around in the 1900s. It is a very energetic, high paced drum dance. Samgo-mu is a dance with colorful and various techniques. The performers are always female which stems from the historical gender roles in which the men were expected to go out and support the family and the women were expected to stay at home to be house wives. Gisangs, who were the female performers and escorts for the nobles, would use that time to create this beautiful art form. There are some different forms of dance and music that are solely performed by men, but women are not allowed to participate in those dances and likewise, men are not allowed to perform the traditional women’s dances. Though there are a few exceptions. The performances, however, are watched and enjoyed by men, women, and children alike. In general, there is a minimum of five performers who are lined up on the stage. They have three drums which are hung on a wooden frame. The drum frame is open to the audience as one drum is hung at the center, and one on either side of the performer. The drums are set up like this to reveal the graceful movements of the dancer pounding the drum in rhythmically complex phrases. When a performance starts, it starts with a powerful sound of Daego, which is the drum hung on