Around the World with Music
- Instruments of Asia and the World -
The ASEAN-Korea Centre Blog Reporter, Sanghun Lee
1. String Instruments
(1) Plucking Instruments
A Chinese guqin
The guqin(古琴) also known as qixiqin(七絃琴) is the oldest instrument in China and possibly Asia, as legend says that it was invented by the Yellow Emperor of 5,000 years ago. The present form of guqin was fixed 2,000 years before – the living fossil of the musical history of Asia.
The guzheng(古箏), younger than the guqin but still super old, is the relative of guqin. This instrument is notable in that it gave birth to a myriad of other Asian instruments that include the gayageum of Korea, koto of Japan, yatga and zhetigen of Mongolia, and dan tranh of Vietnam.
A gayageum, yatga, and dan tran clockwise
Some instruments of Asia show a striking similarity to European instruments. One example is the instruments of the lyre (or lute) family. The lyre, an ancient Greek instrument first recorded in text in 1400 BC, seems to be a twin of the Chinese pipa.
A lyre and pipa
The funny thing is that the gittern that emerged in 13th century Europe seems to be the descendent of one of the two instruments. This gittern is commonly believed to be the ancestor of mandolin and guitar.
Furthermore, out of the lute family was a mutant called the vihuela, or viola da gamba, which emerged in the 15th century and began to use a bow. And believe it or not, the vihuela later gave birth to the violin and its sisters.
A similar analogy of instruments also emerges in bowing instruments. Actually, there is a much more simpler analogy here, because all the spike fiddles of East and Southeast Asia seem to have branched off the xiqin(奚琴) of China, developed by the xi(奚) tribe.
A Korean haegeum, the exact identical of the xiqin
The tro, morin khuur, and saw respectively, from left to right
2. Pipe Instruments
Pipe instruments have developed even more interesting relationships than string instruments have done.
(1) Double-reed Instruments
The zurna, suona, guan, and taepyeongso respectively, from left to right
And from the Turkish and Persian zurna emerged the suona(嗩吶) and guan(管) of China, taepyeongso of Korea, and hichikiri of Japan – a surprising span of movement.
The sheng is a Chinese instrument made of bundled bamboo flutes – the only East Asian instrument capable of voicing chords.
This amazing instrument did more than inspire the Europeans to invent the harmonica. This was the starting point of the hulusheng, which is played in various methods in most Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, and Borneo.
3. Percussion Instruments
The gong is a very special instrument, with tingling sounds and a wide gamut of tone. The gong was first developed in Southeast Asia and spread to China and Korea. As the gong is considered as the pride of the music of Southeast Asia, it is notable how far the gong spread. Especially as the gong is always used as the predominant tool for Buddhist music, the gong shows a surprisingly wide use.
A balinese gong chime, a Korean jing, and a Korean ggoengwari respectively, from left to right
Ethno-musicologists today speculate that instruments generally developed in one region and traveled in vast distances in the improved transportation of late Rome and the Renaissance period. There is much controversy as to where one instrument actually comes from, however. The apparent truth is that some instruments evolve over time and some die out, and, in the process, all instruments have settled in different regions to contribute their beautiful voices to various cultures.
Now do you believe who lute’s father is?
ㅇ Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
ㅇ Doosan Encyclopedia
ㅇ Seo In-Hwa, Current Aspects and Characterisics of Musical Exchange between Korea and Vietnam Viewed from the Cultural Exchange between the Countries(한국과 베트남 문화 교류의 흐름에서 본 양국의 전통 음악 교류의 현황과 특성)
ㅇ Lee Mi-Hyang, Lee Mi-Hyang’s Buddhist Music Trip(이미향의 불교 음악 기행)
All image courtesy: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
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