Gayageum

Name: Gayageum.
Type: Chordophones > Simple > Zithers > Tube > Half.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#:
Era: Deegaya Kingdom.
Country: Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The gayageum or kayagum [in Hangul: 가야금 gayageum; in Hanja: 伽倻琴] is a long half tube zither that belongs in the same group of zithers as the Zheng, Koto, Dan Tranh and Sundanese Kacapi etc. It has 12 strings, some variants of the gayageum have 18 to 25 strings. It is probably the best known traditional Korean musical instrument.

The gayageum is normally associated with accompaniment for court music, chamber music, and lyric songs. This type of gayageum has a wider spacing between the strings and plays slower-tempo music such as Yeongsan hoesang and Mit-doduri.

Etymology: Literally “zither of Gaya,” referring to the legendary origin of the instrument in the kingdom of Daegaya. Sino-Korean word from 伽倻琴, from 가야 [in Hanja: 伽倻, gaya, “Gaya confederacy”] + 금 [琴, geum, “zither”]. The ancient gayageum of King Gasil was called by several names, including beopgeum [law-zither, 법금], pungnyu [elegance, 풍류] or jeong-ak [right music, 정악] gayageum.

History: According to the Samguksagi [1145] a history of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, the gayageum was developed around the sixth century in the Gaya confederacy by King Gasil [also known as Haji of Daegaya] after he observed an old Chinese instrument. He ordered a musician named Wu Ruk to compose music that could be played on the instrument. The original name was gayago [or gayatgo] and later gayageum. The gayageum was then further improved by Wu Ruk during the reign of Jinheung in the Shilla dynasty.

The ancient gayageum of King Gasil was called by several names, including beopgeum [law-zither, 법금], pungnyu [elegance, 풍류], or jeong-ak [right music, 정악] gayageum. It is normally associated with accompaniment for court music, chamber music, and lyric songs. This type of gayageum has a wider spacing between the strings and plays slower-tempo music such as Yeongsan hoesang and Mit-doduri.

Sanjo Gayageum: The sanjo gayageum is believed to have evolved in the 19th century, with the emergence of sanjo music. Which literally means “scattered melodies”, a musical form that involves fast tempos and some improvisation. The sanjo gayageum version of the instrument has closer string spacing and a shorter length to let musicians play the faster passages required for sanjo. The sanjo gayageum is now the most widespread form of gayageum. All traditional gayageum use silk strings. Though since the late 20th century, some musicians use nylon.

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