Jeongak (Court Music)
“Sujecheon (Long Life as Everlasting as the Sky)”
Welcome to the third episode of <Gugak Wednesdays: Online Korean Music Concerts>
This May 18th is the 40th anniversary of “The May 18th Democratic Uprising” that led to the realization of democracy in the Republic of Korea. The protests spanned from May 18th to the 27th in Gwangju calling for the democratization of Korea.
In December 1979, a private military group called Shingunbu or Hanahoe staged a military coup to seize the country’s power in their hands. The group was stationed in Gwangju, one of the major cities of Korea, and continued to expand the emergency martial law nationwide.
On May 18, 1980, as the group further executed their plans to take over the government, the people of Gwangju rallied and came out to the streets in protest, calling for the withdrawal of martial law, resignation of the new military group, and in support for democratization and free elections.
The military group forcefully suppressed the democratization force, with accounts depicting brutal assaults. Through the use of violence, many citizens who participated in the pro-democracy struggle were injured or even killed. “The May 18th Democratic Uprising” eventually concluded with the defeat of the new military group.
40 years have passed but the Korean people still remember the meaning of this movement and the sacrifices that were made in the name of democracy.
In May 2011, the Human Rights Documentary Heritage 1980 archives for the May 18th Democratic Uprising against the military regime in Gwangju was registered as a UNESCO Memory of the World. Various historical records including government documents, photos, declarations, journals, etc. were deemed to possess the universal values of humanity, the spirit of human rights, democracy, and peace.
In this third concert, we present a moving piece of Korean traditional music, “Sujecheon.”
“Sujecheon” is one of the most well-known and representative works of the court music repertoire. It was performed with a full orchestra on several key occasions, such as royal banquets, royal processions, and formal state ceremonies in the Joseon Dynasty.
“Sujecheon” expresses the wishes for “long life as everlasting as the sky.”
Through listening to this music, we hope for eternal life for the sublime spirits who were sacrificed in the May 18th Democratic Uprising.
While watching the concert, we encourage you to remember the spirits of those who eagerly wished to achieve democracy, freedom, justice, and to recall the immeasurable courage of the people who boldly ran out onto the streets in protest.
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Uprising, a historical event that marked a major milestone in the democratization in Korea, we present this concert to show our respect for the victims and to honor the value of the movement — with a hope for harmony and peace.
Jeongak (Proper or elegant music)
Jeongak literally means “proper/elegant music.” It usually refers to a broad genre of music played by the upper class, as well as some of the court music in the Joseon Dynasty.
There was “Joseon Jeongak Jeonseupso (Joseon Institute for Jeongak),” an educational music institution established in 1911 to transmit and to distribute jeongak. The Joseon Jeongak Jeonseupso was a private music institution and had three divisions: voice, instrumental music, and instrument-making. Surprisingly, the Institute also taught Western music and instruments as well as traditional Korean repertoire.
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