Aram Lee X Yeowoorak soloists after Sanjo
I'd like to know about Sanjo
The journey of Sanjo - laying the foundation and creating the uniqueness
Q What is Sanjo?
A Sanjo is instrumental solo music rooted in Namdo folk music, which maximizes a musical instrument’s technical capacity within a certain rhythmic flow. Sanjo was born in the second half of the 19th century when the artists adapted more of individual emotions and independent ideas into their arts. The trend in arts also influenced music. Hence, people gradually paid more attention to each musical instrument’s individuality and how expressive they can be, rather than instrumental music in an ensemble or as an accompaniment. The framework of sanjo was influenced by the famous gayageum master of the time, Kim Chang-jo, and the music mostly came from the solo parts of sinawi and deoneum (a new, revised section of a pansori song) by pansori masters of the time, then settled as a standard. Sanjo with various musical instruments followed, such as geomungo and daegeum. With the accompaniment of janggu, the basic flow of sanjo usually starts from slow jinyangjo, gradually becomes faster to jungmori and jungjungmori, and peaks with jajinmori. The melody crosses jo (mode), moves from one cheong (center tone) to the neighboring cheong, and freely manifest feelings. You will see the names like ‘Kim Jukpa ryu (style) Gayageum Sanjo’ and ‘Shin Kwaedong ryu geomungo sanjo’ on the list of sanjo today. The names indicate ‘yupa (school)’, where the master’s melodies (styles) have been passed on to the next generations and became the unique styles.
Q What kinds of Sanjo are there?
A Gayageum sanjo is the first sanjo that was born. It is also widely known and descended from many yupa. In Gayageum sanjo, you can get a glimpse of a wide range of playing techniques using strings, which inspires vividness. Moreover, splitting a beat into two or three beats within a fast rhythm like hwimory is also an important technique. Geomungo sanjo appeared next, and it broke down the conventional notion of geomungo in pungryu (appreciating elegant cultures) music. Then, it built unique methods - roughly hitting the strings with a suldae(bamboo stick) to add a percussive effect, or freely using the left hand without suldae and open strings. Daegeum sanjo varies in personalities depending on yupa of later generations. It presents the charm of wind music on a full scale, especially with the trembling sounds of using the reeds, glissando using the breath, and birds chirping sounds. Haegeum sanjo was greatly influenced by Gyeonggi music’s rhythms, as the masters in earlier years were close to Gyeonggi music. Fine techniques, including playing in high-pitched tones, skillfully fastening and loosening strings, and quickly using a plectrum, put haegeum in the position of a solo instrument instead of only being used in accompaniment. Piri sanjo was only put together in the 1960s with references from other musical instruments. The unique methods of playing piri soon became the charm of piri performance, such as controlling a seo (reed), air, and jigong (finger holes) to create compelling sounds, as well as seo-chigi (touching the seo) and mok-twigim (making a ringing sound in the throat). Ajaeng sanjo emerged after the liberation of Korea. It features low and deep tones centered with gyemyeonjo. Instruments that have not been considered mainstream melodic instruments, such as taepyeongso, cheolhyeongeum, and danso, are also spotlighted with sanjo and explore new styles.
Q Please tell me how to appreciate Sanjo.
A If you understand the flow of rhythm, it would be easier to understand Sanjo. In Jinyangjo or Jungmori’s slow rhythm, you could feel the subtle change of sound and the depth of nonghyeon (nongeum). With a faster phase with jungjungmori and jajinmori and following the rapid playing techniques, you would feel your excitement rises. The performers let the melodies loose when they change the rhythm, so the audience would know that the rhythm will be changed. Once you get familiar with Sanjo to a certain extent, it would be more exciting and enjoyable to appreciate sanjo by each yupa. They differ in styles depending on the master of yupa. Ji Yeong-hui ryu haegeum sanjo adapts Gyeonggi sinawi melodies, Lee Saeng-gang ryu daegeum sanjo has higher base cheong, and Seong Geum-yeon ryu gayageum sanjo starts with dasreum (a sort of tuning piece before the opening movement) and ends with eotmori (fast ten beat rhythm with the alternation of three and two beats). The best way to enjoy sanjo is to immerse yourself in the flow of the melody and the instrument’s sound. Then feel the experimental spirit of the time that maximized the individuality of the musical instrument, and the vitality of the player who unfolds the talent.
Written by Jeon Yoon Hye Majored in musical education and worked as a journalist for Auditorium and publisher for Suryusanbang. Won the 2015 Hwaum Critics Award
Translated by Songhee Han