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Rare Korean musical instruments exhibited

Rare musical instruments used in ancient Korea will be exhibited with traditional music scores and related paintings at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, the organizers said.

The museum and the National Gugak Center are jointly holding “Korea Traditional Instruments and Music” at the museum’s special exhibition room through June 26, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the National Gugak Center this year.
Pottery used as percussion instruments during the Goryeo Dynastry. (National Museum of Korea)
Pottery used as percussion instruments during the Goryeo Dynastry. (National Museum of Korea)
A part of Korea’s “first” string instrument, believed to be from the first century B.C. (National Museum of Korea)
A part of Korea’s “first” string instrument, believed to be from the first century B.C. (National Museum of Korea)

“To the Korean people, musical instruments have been an important medium that complete the atmosphere of events. The major force, making our hearts beat, can be traced back to our music,” said Kim Young-na, director-general of the National Museum of Korea.

“It will be a rare opportunity to see valuable geomungo (six-stringed Korean zither), the most ancient score in Korea and jangakwon (board of music in Joseon era) and its artists,” she said.

The special exhibition showcases more than 200 items, on loan from 30 museums and many families.

The exhibition consists of three parts ― “From sound to music,” covering musical instruments used from the prehistoric age to Goryeo Dynasty; “Formation of the Korean music and its prosperity,” mostly showcasing musical instruments and music scores used in the royal court during the Joseon era; and “Music of the common people,” showing how musical instruments spread among the commoners. 
A mock-up of Korea’s “first” string instrument. (National Museum of Korea)
A mock-up of Korea’s “first” string instrument. (National Museum of Korea)

Noticeable items at the exhibition include Korea’s “first” string instrument, believed to be from the Three Kingdoms era in the first century B.C., and “Geumhapjabo” which is the first score for geomungo, said Park Il-hoon, director-general of the National Gugak Center.

“Koreans believed that sounds from a stringed musical instrument like geomungo made human minds upright. That’s why scholars of the Joseon Dynasty hardly put down geomungo from their knees,” Park said.

“Takyeonggeum,” or geomungo used by scholar Kim Il-son in 1490 and stored at the National Museum of Daegu, will be shown to the public for the first time, he said.

During the exhibition period, members of the National Gugak Center will hold small concerts with traditional musical instruments every Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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