Historic Moments on Stage at the National Gugak Center

National Gugak Center

History of the Nation's Music Institute
The history of Korea's music institution traces back to its origin to Eumseongseo of the Silla dynasty which was opened in 651, the fifth year of Queen Jindeok's reign. The tradition of this musical institution as a state agency continued through Goryeo and Joseon dynasty under different names, such as Aakseo or Jangakwon. After the liberation from Japanese annexation, the National Gugak Center was established in 1951. These musical institutions have managed multi-artistic performances that combine instrumental music, songs and dance, so called "Akgamu" system. A publication written in the Joseon period (1629, the seventh year of King Injo reign) records that the number of musicians registered in Jangakwon were up to 1234 people at that time. Jangakwon was affiliated to Yejo [the ministry of rites among the six ministries governing the national tasks during the Joseon dynasty] and managed musicians as well as the music and dance used in national events, such as court rites, rituals, banquets, examination, and archery. The National Gugak Center in the present in 2015 is an affiliation of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, and it inherits the tradition of Eumseongseo, the 1400 years of history from the Silla dynasty. As one of national music institutions in the world, the long history of the National Gugak Center is an exceptional example and is also meaningful in terms of the transmission of tradition.
From the Royal Palace to People
As King Gojong declared new nation named "Daehanjeguk" Empire in 1897, Jangakwon of Joseon dynasty changed its named to Gyobangsa. Also all the national rites for kings were elevated for the emperors while at the same time the size of court events were upgraded. However, after the Japanese annexation in 1910, Japan renamed Gyobangsa to Iwangjikaakbu which combines two words meaning collapsed "Yi royal family" and referring Japanese court music "Gagaku." The number of musicians reduced and only 57 worked in Iwangjikaakbu. Originally, Iwangjikaakbu had performed only for Yi family or in the palace. However, it first presented the court music to some other people in September 1921 in a concert celebrating the 61th anniversary of director Myeong Wan-byeok since his joining the institution. Later, on November 3 1928, the music of Iwangjikaakbu was introduced to wider public via radio broadcasting of Gyeongseong Central Broadcasting Station (the predecessor of Korean Broadcasting Station). In addition, people could have an access to court music as some recording companies released albums that contain Iwangjikaakbu's music. Through new musical activities of Iwangjikaakbu, the court music that had been used only for royal court became the music for people's listening, just like the present.

○ An album released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Gugak Center's opening.
Music clip from the recording "Seryeongsan" in "Yeongsanhoesang" performed by Iwangjikaakbu orchestra)

○ Released in 1926
○ Published by Victor Record
‣ The National Gugak Center and Synnara record company released a compact disc album in 1991 by re-producing original SP album recorded in 1942.

중광지곡 중 세령산

○ Welcome reception for King Yeongchin, "Mugo" dance performed in the show "Court Dance of Joseon" ’
○ Recorded on June 29 1936.
○ Cast: musicians and dancers in Iwangjikaakbu, Production: the Japanese government general of Korea, Venue: Injeongjeon building in Changdeokgung palace

‣ A copy of the film "Joseonmuak" (Korean dance music) recorded by the Japanese government general of Korea. The film contains footage of court dance performances, such as bongnaeui, bosangmu, pogurak, and mugo presented in the King's secret garden on June 20 1931.

The Birth of National Gugak Center, the Nation's Music Institution
After the liberation, Iwangjikaakbu changed its name to Guwanggungaakbu, which literally means court music institution of the old palace. However, without any financial support, it was difficult to maintain Guwanggungaakbu, the institution of a now-defunct royal family. For the financial sponsorship, Seoul Central Broadcasting Station (the predecessor of Korean Broadcasting Station) organized the Association of Musicians for Joseon Music (Jeonsok Joseon Eumakhoe) and let the musicians working in the institution to perform for monthly regular performances in 1947. Away from the financial issues, however, the transmission of the nation's musical institution should have been managed by the government. So the musicians in the institution filed an official petition to the National Assembly asking for nationalizing the institution. This petition was granted at the plenary session and the establishment of the National Gugak Center, affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Education, was promulgated on January 19 1950. The Korean War broke out in June 1950 when the opening of the National Gugak Center was still under preparation. In the middle of the war, however, the musicians flee to Busan and opened the National Gugak Center in a two-story wooden building in Donggwangdong county where an old city library was located on April 10 1951.
Delivering Gugak to People, the Works by the Center
The National Gugak Center moved from Busan to Seoul as the war ended with a cease-fire agreement. The previous institution building, located in 98 Unnidong Jongno district was taken by the United Kingdom army. The National Gugak Center, after changing locations place to place, finally came back to its old building in September 1955 with the wholehearted help of the director of Royal Palace Wealth Management. After settling down at the building, the National Gugak Center most urgently needed musicians to begin performances. Therefore, it opened a six-year track training school, called Gugaksa yangseongso in April 1955, and first recruited thirty male students who have musical talents. The government supported all the students for the special education and provided them with full scholarship as well as monthly stipend along with free supplementary items, such as books and uniforms. Along with the school, on the other side, the National Gugak Center not only presented many concerts for listening traditional music, but also opened free music classes striving forward to provide opportunities for Korean citizen to experience traditional music and to popularize traditional music. From a national events to a local performance, the National Gugak Center actively organized various educational events and musical presentations for the people.

○ August 7 1962 11:00AM
○ Conducted by Kim Gi-su and performed by the National Gugak Center musicians and dancers. Program includes Sujecheon, Chunaengjeon, poetry singing, and lyrical songs.

‣ Music listening concert and programs

○ March 28 1953 at Ewha Womens University Hall

‣ The musical repertoire of traditional music expended from court music and folk music to newly composed music

The first overseas performance presented in Japan
In March 1964, when overseas travels were limited, the National Gugak Center had an overseas performance for the first time in its history. Yomiuri Newspaper offered the National Gugak Center to present a performance in Japan and invited the musicians. At that time, both Iwangjikaakbu and Gugaksayangseongso admitted only male students up until 1955 because the tradition and rules in the court only allowed male performers to appear on the stage. Surprisingly, however, female dancers are seen in the photos of 1964 performance in Japan. The story behind is as follow. As Seoul Central Broadcasting Station was built in Mountain Namsan area in 1957, it also organized a division that worked for gugak development. The division recruited students and trained them with traditional music and dance, titling the students as "KBS Gugak Specialists." In 1958, some selected students took a special gugak program, and upon completion they were hired as former gugak specialists. After June 1959, these specialists join the performances organized by the National Gugak Center, and they traveled to Japan together. The female dancers belonged to the KBS participated in court dance performances in Japan.
Completing One Song of Pansori, the Record in the History of Gugak Concerts
On September 30 1968, one year after the National Gugak Center moved to new building located in the National Theater in Jangchungdong, a concert shook the field of traditional music. The concert was held for a radio program celebrating the fifth Broadcasting Day hosted by the National Gugak Center and United Nations Command. Park Dong-jin, a musician at the National Gugak Center, sang one full set of pansori Heungboga, the song of Heungbo, at an open stage for five hours to complete the song. This event made a new venture in understanding and recognizing pansori music which was usually considered to be "short" sung in abbreviated version partially taken from a full song. Park's performance also set a record in the history of pansori as the longest singing in the world (Seoul Daily, May 21 1969), and stimulated the study of performance tradition and pansori music in earnest.

○ The first Park Dong-jin's Pansori recital, "Song of Heungbo" co-hosted by the United Nations Command and the National Gugak Center in celebrating the fifth Broadcasting Day. The longest live broadcasting record. Music clips from the scenes of Greedy Nolbo to Hengbo being thrown out of the house.
○ September 30 1968 at the National Gugak Center
○ Singer Park Dong-jin Drummer Han Il-seob

‣ The first a full-set pansori singing concert

제1회 박동진 판소리 연창회: 흥보가 중 놀보 심술~
Regular Concerts for the Transmission of Time-Consuming Repertoire
In April 1976, the National Gugak Center changed the title of its regular music concert from Gugak Listening to "Traditional Music Concert" at the 25th anniversary of establishing the center. The musical repertoire for the show also changed appropriate for regular concert. Heavily indebted to the success of 1975's performance featuring Gwanak Yeongsanhoesang and Pyeongjo Hoesang, the concert began to present chamber suit or a set of time-consuming musics, opening an era of preserving long traditional music pieces. In fact, a complete version of suit music had never been performed in concert halls in 1970s because the long music was considered to be difficult for both the audience members to listen to and the performers to play. However, this regular performance tradition continues until today, as court music group, folk music group as well as the dance company at the National Gugak Center choose long music repertoire for their regular concert programs at present.

○ March 28 1975, the National Gugak Center Small Hall
○ The suit music "Pyosjeongmanbangjigok," including "Sangnyeongsan, Jungnyeongsan, Seryeongsan, Garakdeori, Samhyeondodeuri, Yeombuldodeuri, Taryeong, Gunak" (39:12). Leader: Yi Seok-jae

‣ Began to present a full set and lengthy music

○ April 12-15 1976
○ Traditional music presentation and other events

○ September 19 1979, the National Gugak Center Small Hall

‣ Start the regular concert

제1회 중요무형문화재 음악·무용 상설극장 중 김죽파류 가야금산조(가야금/김죽파)
The Restoration and Reproduction of Court Rites
The National Gugak Center restores court rites and music, and recreates them into the nation's own "brand" or cultural contents. For example, the Center's brand performance Sound of the Heaven, Music of King Sejong reconstructed the banquets held in 1433 during the King Sejong period in Joseon dynasty. It re-presented Sejong's political goal he dreamed of that the nation and people live in peace in perfect balance between standard rule and artistic harmony. For another example, Music of Peace, Dream of Dynasty was a reproduction of a court banquet which happened in 1795. to celebrate the 60th birthday of Queen dowager Hong, the widow of crown prince Sado, the mother of King Jeongjo. In 2014, Sajikdaeje, the ritual for gods of land and grains, and the music used for the rites were restored by the Center. Historically, the ritual had held for long time to pray for the nation's prosperity and rich harvest at the Sajikdan alter. It was a national event conducted and managed by Jangakwon. However, the Japanese government which annexed Korea banned it in 1908. The restoration of this ritual is very meaningful that the National Gugak Center transmits the tradition of Jangakwon, along with the continuation of Jongmyojeryeak, one of the UNESCO world Heritage.

○ December 12 2014, the National Gugak Center Yeakdang hall

‣ Based on a 18th century's protocol Sajikseouigwe, the National Gugak Center restored the setting, costume, and the rites of Sajikdaje ritual, and played the music as same as the SP album recorded in 1928년. By restoring this ritual the National Gugak Center appealed the image of the nation's musical inheritor succeeding the legacy of the nation's musical institution.

The Creation of Today, for the Tradition of Tomorrow
The National Gugak Center tried to make traditional music for the future. For an instance, composer Kim Gi-su (1973-1977), who served the third director general of the Center, came out with many new compositions, such as Gohyangso. The music was selected for the celebration of the establishment of the Center in 1951. The Center continued to promote creating new traditional music, and it not only started to host "New Gugak Compositions Contest" in 1962, but also published scores of new musics. New compositions collected though the contest were presented at "New Gugak Composition Recital," and the title was changed into "Korean Music Composition Recital" in 1974. These efforts in making traditional music for the contemporary society as well as in transmitting creative spirits of old Korean culture came to a fruition that the contemporary gugak orchestra, so called creative music troupe, was organized at the Center in 2004. New traditional music composed after 1962 was mostly new gugak that borrowed the Western musical forms. Blended with Western music it requested new structure or system out of the existing tone ranges. Along with the development and dissemination of new music, issues on developing new instruments, that is the revision or improvement of instruments rose. Association for the Improvement of Gugak Instrument formed in 1964 organized many events like exhibitions of revised instruments. On the basis of this association, the Instrument Research Center opened in 2006 at the National Gugak Center, and up until today it carries out various works and research for the development of Korean instruments, from the structure or fundamentals of sounds to efficient sonic spaces.

○ The commemorative concert of the 10th anniversary of organizing Creative music orchestra
○ March 27-28 2014, the National Gugak Center Yeakdang Hall
○ Photographed by Na Seung-yeol

‣ This concert, prepared to celebrate the 10th year of organizing a new music group for newly composed traditional music, presented musical milestones in the history of composing and creating gugak.

○ November 6-7 2012, the National Gugak Center Yeakdang Hall

‣ Modern interpretation for traditional court dance By choreographing court dances in a new context, the performance showed old and new, the past and the present on the stage at the same time.

National Gugak Center
Credits: Story

Writing: Kim Kyung Hee(Senior researcher),
Curator+Publisher: Gugak Archive

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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