NGC’s Jongmyo Jeryeak at Musikfest Berlin – Seen and Heard Worldwide

GermanyGermany Musikfest Berlin [10] – Jongmyo Jeryeak: Nationwide Gugak Centre, Courtroom Music Orchestra of NGC / Sang-won Lee (director), Dance Theatre of NGC (director: Jeong-suk Yu). Philharmonie, Berlin, 12.9.2022 (CC)

Nationwide Gugak Centre’s Jongmyo Jeryeak © Fabian Schellhorn

This was an astonishing night, celebrating 50 years of Korean-German interchange: a efficiency of Jongmyo Jeryeak, a multi-genre artwork efficiency combining instrumental music, singing, dancing and costumes. In 1972, the Republic of Korea and Germany signed a cultural settlement, and there was a vibrant cultural interchange ever since.

Satisfyingly, the booklet notes seek advice from the traditional ritual Jongmyo Jeryeak as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, one which seems throughout the broader heading of ’Ok-culture’ (suppose Ok-Pop and related labelling). That is Royal, uplifting, majestic ceremonial music, music and dance from the Joseon Dynasty (1302-1910), billed as the one Royal ancestral ritual on this planet that has been preserved in its authentic type for nearly 600 years. Throughout the Joseon period, nice ancestral ceremonies have been held on the Joseon shrine. These traditions have been maintained till the start of the 20th century – after that, they have been lowered to an ancestral ceremony on the primary Sunday in Might.

Ancestral ritual has nice significance in Asian tradition. Right here we’ve an enormous canvas. For instance, the Introduction is in three components: the greeting of the ancestral spirits; the paying tribute to these Spirits; the serving of the ready meals. After the Introduction, the ritual enters its most important half, wherein the ancestors are supplied wine thrice (every part has a special title: ‘Choheonrye’, ‘Aheonrye’, Jongheonrye’). The ritual ends with the officers in cost consuming the meals blessed by the Spirits, and written prayers for the Spirits are burned. It’s a bifunctional ritual: a Royal Household ritual, but additionally a state ceremony for peace and prosperity for the land.

The ritual itself is in 27 components, initially praising the cultural achievements of the Joseon kings: then praising their navy achievements. The primary music of the primary half, known as ‘Huimun’ recurs in two different components with totally different textual content. When it comes to the musical language, pentatonicism (primarily based on five-note scales) is unsurprising for Asian music, however this ritual additionally makes use of heptatonic (seven-note) scales.

Nationwide Gugak Centre’s Jongmyo Jeryeak © Fabian Schellhorn

The efficiency concerned 88 members of the Korean Nationwide Gugak Centre in Germany. The lavish programme included useful explanations of the assorted devices used, for instance the Chuk, an ornamented inexperienced box-drum that alerts the start of a ceremony and likewise helps articulate the sections, or the ‘Eo’, a outstanding instrument within the form of a crouching tiger with serrated again which is performed in lengthy strokes with a stick. The ‘Pyeonjong’ and the ‘Peongyeong’ are associated devices (they give the impression of being related), metallophones with two rows of eight bells (delivered to Korea from China in across the twelfth century; the Pyeongyeong is pitched an octave decrease than the Pyeonjong, however operates equally);  Korean drums, the Jeolgo and the Jingo (which appear to me associated to the Japanese Taiko), plus assorted wind devices such because the Dangpiri (just like a Chinese language guanzi, the bottom of a household of devices beneath the heading ‘Piri’, and the Daegeum, a Korean bamboo flute – once more there’s a related Japanese instrument, the shakuhachi – whereas for strings there’s the Haegeum (a vertical fiddle with two strings),and the Gayageum and Geomungo, two zither-like Korean stringed devices. The entire appears dominated by the attribute sound of the shawm-like Taepyeongso.

The philosophy of the Joseon interval was primarily based on the thought of ’Ye-Ak’: ‘Ye’ stands for vertical order, whereas ‘Ak’ refers back to the horizontal harmonies, which intersect to resemble a cross. ‘Ye’ can also be the ritual of the residing who pay their respects to the lifeless, which begins at Jongmyo shrine, the place majestic silence reigns and the place Heaven, Earth and Mankind meet to create a unity. The our bodies of the residing and the spirits of the lifeless are related by an invisible vertical thread. The entire is a mixture of music, music and dance. Invented by a Korean ruler within the fifteenth century, this ritual has been carried out 5 instances a 12 months on the Imperial shrine (the Jongmyo).

From the opening part (‘Our ancestors open our future’) it was clear this was to be a really special day. As befits ritual praxis, the tempo is gradual all through, inviting in a shift of consciousness. Microtones are clearly a part of the vocabulary, too; dancing is superbly stylised and impeccably choreographed, each within the gestures themselves and the whole unanimity of their execution (carried out as a gaggle of eight dancers). Efficiency area is fastidiously thought of, with antiphonal drums creating a way of perspective and at instances dialogue stretched over an enormous canvas (the ritual lasted round an hour and 1 / 4 and was carried out straight by way of). Silences hummed with the vibrations of the sounds which preceded them; That is ritualistic storytelling, calling on the ancestral kings, every of which has a selected operate and attribute, whereas additionally relating the Korean energy in opposition to Japanese invasion. The ultimate part concludes with the assertion that ’our dance expresses our heartfelt will; Please be certain that it stays like this ceaselessly’.

An interesting, stirring event. From a western perspective, having skilled this, one can hear all of the extra clearly how ritual knowledgeable the music of Harrison Birtwistle (Cortege, Ritual Fragment, The Triumph of Time), Pierre Boulez (Rituel In Memoriam Bruno Maderna) and far of the output of Karlheinz Stockhausen.

This was the primary efficiency of a German tour, with Hamburg (September 17), Munich (September 23) and Cologne (September 26) to comply with. The Philharmonie live performance is out there on the Berliner Festspiele Music Library as Video on Demand right here till Friday 23 September.

Colin Clarke

Introduced by Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin in collaboration with the Nationwide Gugak Centre Seoul, the Korean Cultural Centre and the Cultural Division of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. The tour by the Nationwide Gugak Centre is a joint initiative by the Nationwide Gugak Centre, the Korean Cultural Centre and the Cultural Division of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Kölner Philharmonie / KölnMusik GmbH and Bayerische Rundfunk’s musica viva to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean-German Cultural Settlement.