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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 piri, a Korean traditional wind instrument. I’m your host ________. Please stay tuned, I’ll be back shortly.
To most Koreans, piri is considered the most common wind instrument. It can be made out of all sorts of materials, from a blade of grass to a barley stem. In fact, ‘piri’ is the blanket term for wind instruments, ranging from Korean traditional ones such as danso단소 or tungso퉁소 to western-style recorder or flute, or any instrument that a player blows into to make sound. The oldest recorded musical instrument in Korea is piri. It was made with a bird’s leg bone some four millenniums ago during the Bronze Age. Some ancient piris discovered overseas even date back 50 or 60 thousand years. Judging from the existence of such dated piris, it seems that it was almost human instinct to poke holes in a long, hollow pipe and play music. In Korean traditional music, only three instruments are officially classified as piri – hyang piri향피리, dang piri당피리 and se piri세피리. The piri consists of a bamboo tube about 25 centimeters long and as thick as a finger and a bamboo reed. It is played by biting down on the reed and holding the instrument vertically in both hands. Today’s first music piece is entitled “In Dodri” performed by a group of piri musicians called Bbiribboo.
In Dodri/ Performed by Bbiribboo
The term ‘dodri’ means going round and round, referring to how the same melody is repeated. There are several traditional music pieces that have the word ‘dodri’ in their titles, which are mostly variations of the refrain called ‘boheo보허’ in traditional music. The “In Dodri” performed by Bbiribboo is an arrangement inspired by “Yangcheong양천 Dodri.”
Bbiribboo is composed of two piri musicians – Kwon Sol-ji권솔지 and Sohn Sae-ha손해하 – and producer Heven히븐. These young gugak artists started working together to answer the question of how to seek a purpose in their lives in this age of rapid change. But now they think of themselves as just mischievous rascals, implying that they’re making diverse lighthearted attempts to find that purpose.
Coming up next is music by YouPiri Band, the name that indicates the band members’ desire to resonate with ‘you’ through ‘piri.’ The band revolves around piri player Yoo Sung-hee유성희 accompanied by a pianist, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. The band has released already several pieces inspired by popular Korean folksongs, which includes “Look at Me” to be played shortly. The piece is a new arrangement of “Miryang Arirang,” which starts with a repetition of “look at me.” Here’s YouPiri Band performing “Look at Me.”
Look at Me/ Performed by YouPiri Band
The flute is a typical wind instrument that is played sideways while the recorder is played vertically. In Korea, the daegeum대금 is played sideways and the piri vertically. Among the three official types of piri mentioned earlier, hyang piri is the oldest. It was probably called just piri in the beginning, but when the dang piri was imported from China during the Goryeo Dynasty, the original piri was renamed ‘hyang piri’ to indicate its local origin. The se piri, meaning a thin, small piri, often substitutes for the hyang piri but makes a smaller sound.
Piri musicians often double as taepyeongso태평소 players, because the taepyeongso is also an instrument with a reed. It was introduced from Central Asia under many different names such as soenab쇄납, nallari날라리, or hojeok호적. Nallari refers to the taepyeongso’s tone while the name hojeok indicates its foreign origin. The taepyongso is louder and more majestic than the piri, making it a perfect instrument for outdoor processions. Today’s last piece will be a taepyeongso piece entitled “The Nation of Mountains and Seas” performed by Jin Yun-kyong.
The Nation of Mountains and Seas/ Taepyeongso by Jin Yun-kyong