The Korea Herald


[Eye Plus] Taepyeongso and piri: Heros of Korean traditional music ensembles

By Lim Jae-seong

Published : June 17, 2023 - 16:00

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“The taepyeongso and piri are both heroes in Korea’s traditional music ensemble. But they are tricky to play,” said Park Seong-bin, a student majoring in the Korean traditional wind instruments at Seoul National University.

The taepyeongso has a funneled metal end which produces a high-pitched sound widely loved by people during the Joseon era (1392-1910) and starred in a diverse array of events from royal ceremonies to performances by peasants. The piri, on the other hand, has a thinner bamboo body and makes a stronger, low-pitched sound.

“The taepyeongso and piri both make up part of the main melody in ensembles. When playing them, I can lead the performance alone,” Park said.

His dedication to the two traditional instruments began when he was 9 years old, when he joined a youth "gugak" orchestra run by North Jeolla Province. Gugak is a term used to denote Korean traditional music.

Even after more than 10 years of practice, Park says he still finds them "tricky" to play, because the sounds of the instrument are often fickle, and change drastically depending on how the musician plays them.

“The tune (from the instruments) varies even by the shape of the mouth and slight changes in the force of the wind blown into the pipes,” Park said.

“Finding the right way to place my lips on the pipe was very difficult. But I finally found the shape of my mouth that makes a beautiful tune without straining my mouth too much,” he added, showing great pride in his skills of smoothly shifting between different tunes.

Park hopes for more songs based on the taepyeongso and piri so that the public can become more familiar with them.

Park also plans to create more pieces with the taepyeongso and piri.

“I want to make plays and musicals that taepyeongso and piri can play a part in,” Park said.

“If the pieces are shared through social media, the world will be able to hear their beautiful sound, and more people across the world might be interested in playing such traditional instruments," he added.

Photos by Lee Sang-sub

Written by Lee Sang-sub, Lim Jae-seong