Saenghwang Musician Pushes Envelope by Exploring New Genres

      March 10, 2014 08:42

      Kim Hyo–young

      After falling in love with the mystical sound of the saenghwang as a young girl, professional musician Kim Hyo-young is testing the boundaries by taking it into the unchartered territory of classical, tango, ballet and film music.

      The saenghwang is a traditional Korean instrument made using 17 bamboo pipes. Metal reeds are attached to the pipes to create distinctive sounds as the player breathes into them.

      "I was strongly drawn to this instrument when I first saw it, and its mysterious tones captivated me," said Kim. "It makes sounds by using your breath, so the way in which you breathe is very important."

      She says the saenghwang is as multi-faceted and versatile as the harp and bandoneon, a kind of concertina, which is why it can be used to play various genres such as classical, jazz and tango.

      Kim has spent the last 11 years widening her repertoire. She has played western music such as "Nella Fantasia" by Ennio Morricone, tango by Astor Piazzolla, and "Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi. She also made the bold decision to enlarge her saenghwang from 17 to 37 pipes in order to expand its range.

      Kim says the instrument is a good fit with contemporary and world music, adding that this is something she always tries to keep in mind as an artist.

      "I will stay in Paris for three months as an artist in residence this year. I want to be more active in promoting the saenghwang to European audiences," she said.

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