Daegeum

Name: Daegeum.
Type: Transverse Flutes > Aerophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: South Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The daegeum [in Hangul 대금 in Hanja 大笒] is is a large transverse flute having a membrane that resonates when played. Smaller flutes in the same family include the junggeum (hangul: 중금; hanja: 中笒) and sogeum (hangul: 소금; hanja: 小笒), neither of which today have a buzzing membrane. The three together are known as samjuk [in hangul: 삼죽; hanja: 三竹; literally “three bamboo”] or as the three primary flutes of the Silla period. The solo performance called daegeum sanjo was pronounced an Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Korea by the Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea in 1971.

History: According to Korean folklore, the daegeum is said to have been invented when King Sinmun of Silla was informed by Park Suk Jung, his caretaker of the ocean [海官] in 618 that a small island was floating toward a Buddhist temple in the East Sea. The king ordered his caretaker of the sun to test whether this was good luck. The caretaker replied that a dead king who turned into a sea dragon, and two great warriors are giving a gift to protect Silla, and if the king would visit the sea, he would receive a priceless gift. The king soon sent a person to look for the gift.

Legend of origin: The person replied that a bamboo tree on the top of the island becomes two in the morning and one in the night. On the next day, the world shook and it rained and wind blew, and the world was thrown into darkness for a week. When the king went to the island himself, a dragon appeared and told him that if the bamboo on the top of the island was cut down, made into a flute, and blown, the country would be peaceful. The king cut down the tree, and the flute made from the bamboo was called Man Pa Sik Juk [萬波息笛].

Use: As a solo instrument it is loved for Chongsong Chajun Hanip and also plays Suyonjang Chigok and Chungyongsan from Yongsan Hoesang. It is also central to many shaman ensembles and has its own Daegeum Sanjo style. In court ensembles it featured in Yongsan Hoesang, Yomillak and Nagyangchun. As an accompaniment instrument it is essential for Kagok and Shijo. Today, Daegeum is considered to produce comparatively fixed pitches. Tuned in Bb [B flat] a tone produced when the top five finger holes are covered. the daegeum is used as the main tuning instrument for ensembles.

Construction: The daegeum are normally made from a length of yellow bamboo with prominent nodes. Typically, ducts rung along either side of the tube between nodes. The upper end of the instrument is sealed with wax at the first node and the lower end is open. Court instruments are about 80 cm in length and have a large blowing hole and six finger holes. Instruments used by rural musicians in shamanistic ceremonies and for Sanjo tend to be some 10cm to 20cm shorter and have an even larger blowing hole that enables greater vibrato and pitch shading to be produced. Folk musicians rarely use the lowest finger hole and may even avoid the bottom two holes.

The former applies in Kin Yombul; the latter in accompaniments to some mask dramas. Between two and five additional small holes near the base serve as decoration and define the sounding length of the tube. Akhak Kwebom [1493] indicates that the correct number of such holes is five. Traditionally bands of whale tendons, but now bands of nylon or silk thread, are wrapped around the body to add strength and more decoration. The characteristic sound of Daegeum owes much to the presence of a thin tissue-like membrane taken from the inside of a piece of bamboo or made from a reed. This membrane is fixed with oxhide glue over a further oval hole above the finger holes and a metal plate laced to the instrument with leather thongs protects it. As the plate is slid away from the membrane so sympathetic vibration increases.

Citations: Bibliography ; Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary of Music ; Websites: Korean Culture & Arts Foundation [Daegeum article] ;