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Songs inspired by spring

#Sounds of Korea l 2023-03-16

Sounds of Korea

Songs inspired by spring

Welcome to “Sounds of Korea” on KBS WORLD Radio. This traditional music program invites you to deepen your understanding about Korean traditional music by taking a closer look at various music-related topics every week. Today, we’ll talk about songs inspired by spring. I’m your host ________. Please stay tuned, I’ll be back shortly.  

Joseon-era cholar Maeng Sa-seong맹사성 served as a minister under King Sejong in the early fifteenth century. He was renowned for his integrity and humility. For example, he often rode an ox like a farmer rather than on a sedan chair or a carriage. He was also an avid music lover, who played a big role in inventorying music works in the early Joseon period and was a known piri피리 aficionado. There is a sijo poem he wrote titled “Gangho Sasiga강호사시가,” which means a song about the four seasons. Today we’ll listen to “Chunsa춘사,” or song of the spring, one of the poems comprising “Gangho Sasiga.” The song goes something like the following.

Spring arrives in nature and manic joy erupts naturally in me.

Fresh fish makes a good side dish for the rice wine enjoyed by the river.

It is the king’s blessing that I am so free.

Here’s gugak국악 artist Koo Min-ji singing “Chunsa” from “Gangho Sasiga.”

Chunsa/ Sung by Koo Min-ji

Next Tuesday, March 21st, is chunbun춘분 or the spring equinox, the day when day and night are of the same duration. There is an old saying in Korea that cold lasts only until chunbun, which means spring begins in earnest on chunbun. It is also when people start working out in the field. In the old days, farmers tilled the earth to sow seeds and repaired walls cracked by the winter ice. Before this spring work began, farmers would make ddeok떡 and share it with the hired hands to encourage them to do their best work throughout the year. The ddeok was named the ‘servant ddeok’ exactly for that purpose. Spring is also a perfect time to enjoy flowers. Balmy weather allows people to go outside and pick azaleas to make flower pancakes called hwajeon화전. Coming up next is fusion gugak band named YeGyul Band performing “Nolyang” or “Let’s Play.” “Nolyang” is the first movement of “Seonsori선소리 Mountain Song.” In today’s episode we’ll listen to this song arranged into a spring picnic song. 

Let’s Play/ Sung by YeGyul Band

That was YeGyul Band performing “Let’s Play.” 

A poet from China’s Song Dynasty wrote a poem entitled “Tamchun탐춘,” which means “in search of the spring.” 

I searched for the spring all day long but haven’t seen even a trace of it,

Having only wandered deep into the layered clouds with my staff. 

Upon my return I caught the sight of a plum tree branch 

To discover that the spring had already alighted at the end of the branch. 

The poet wandered outside in search of the spring, but the vernal season had already come to the poet’s garden in the form of plum blossoms. In recent years, climate change and global warming seemed to have shortened the warm and refreshing spring to a mere couple of weeks. These days Koreans say there are only two seasons, winter and summer. So, let’s enjoy this fleeting season before it is gone and replaced by the sweltering summer. This week’s Sounds of Korea will conclude with jeongga정가 ensemble Souljigi singing “Tamchun,” a modern rendition of the Chinese poem “Tamchun.”

Tamchun/ Sung by Souljigi

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