Are you interested in Korean traditional music? What does it mean to do Korean traditional music while Western music is rampant? Seo Tae-kyeong, who finished a doctoral course at CBNU, was the winner of the “Ureuk Gayageum Competition” held in Goryeong. Let’s find out how she became top in her field and how to revitalize Korean traditional music.
● How did you start playing Gayageum?
When I was a child, I played the piano at first. One day, my mother recommended playing gayageum instead of piano. Playing gayageum was more fun than playing the piano. I could easily make sounds with piano by positioning fingers and hitting its keys. However, to play the gayageum, I had to do something more than just positioning fingers. A player of gayageum should control vibrato with the left-hand fingers, and this can make music deeper and more delicate.
● Didn't you experience any slump? If you experienced it, how did you overcome it?
I experienced a slump after I entered the university. When I was young, entering university was my goal. As I thought I had already achieved my goal, I lost my will. I thought there were no more things to learn. That's why I lost interest and didn't practice hard. A professor advised me to change my major. Since changing major from “byungchang” (playing the gayageum while singing pansori at the same time) to “sanjo” (only playing gayageum), I could learn the deeper part of gayageum. Therefore, I could overcome the slump and start “byungchang” again. I tried hard, so I could receive the first prize three times and a grand prize, too. I learned that sincerity and diligence are essential to the Korean traditional musicians, from my experience.
● You participated in many crossover performances. Why are you interested in crossover music?
Korean classical musicians generally learn Korean traditional music without scores, just by ear. This can make Korean traditional musicians resist playing crossover music. However, I am used to reading Western scores because I learned piano when I was young. I naturally get interested in crossover music because of my privileged background. Therefore, I played with Western orchestras several times and released the album “GAYAGUM,” which contains Western classic music played with gayageum. I tried to make Korean traditional music more popular through crossover music.
● These days, people are more interested in Western music than Korean traditional music. What do you think of this?
I think Korean traditional music should become popular. First of all, the players should reach a mass audience. We also need governmental support such as putting Korean traditional music in the textbook from elementary school to make students get used to it naturally from when they are young. The government should keep supporting the players to let them focus on passing down Korean traditional music without worry even though Korean traditional music is not popular.
● Do you have anything to tell CBNU students majoring in Korean traditional music?
Be proud of yourself and try your best. Even if there isn’t any stage to perform on or you can't get enough money, you should try hard and train juniors to inherit and develop the Korean traditional music. Let's work hard together until Korean traditional music becomes popular and spreads all around the world.
● What is your future dream?
I want to be a professor in university to raise future Korean traditional musicians. Middle and high school students are not old enough to have a sense of duty. This is because most of them are only focused on entering university. After that, they should have a sense of duty to keep studying their major. I want to give the university students a sense of duty about Korean traditional music as a professor.
You can learn a lot from her life. Only a faithful person can achieve success. Moreover, to popularize Korean traditional music, Korean traditional musicians need to try harder, and the country should support them. However, the most important thing is our concern over Korean traditional music. Could we exist without our traditional music? How much do you know about yours?