A couple months ago, I signed up for a series of group music lessons for foreigners on the haegeum, the traditional Korean fiddle and variant of the Chinese erhu. They started up a month ago, so when I manage to wake myself up at 8:30 am on Saturday mornings (not quite as often as I'd like), I get on the subway and ride for 45 minutes all the way across town to the Nambu Bus Terminal, get off, and walk another 15 mins or so to reach the Seoul Arts Center. I find the instrument fascinating to play--having played violin definitely helps, but there is no fingerboard/fretboard to stop the strings, so you have to reach the higher notes through brute force by squeezing the strings towards the neck to get the right amount of tension in the string for the desired pitch. After two hours of that, my hands are sore, my legs are cramped from the required half-lotus playing position, and I walk somewhat giddily back to the terminal (which was when I took this picture), ride home, and take a nap.
By the way, for anyone over here who's interested in dabbling in traditional Korean music, the lessons are aimed at foreigners, are given in Korean and English, and are put on by the National Center for Korean Performing Arts. Lessons are also offered in the gayageum (the 12-string zither related to the Japanese koto), janggu drumming, and samul nori. Registration is closed for the fall semester, but the spring semester starts in March. And if you're interested, it's really a no-brainer--the entire 12 week course with a final performance is only W30,000 (that's like $25!), which covers everything, including the use of the instruments at the lessons. (Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a similarly affordable way to rent a haegeum for outside practice, although apparently you can buy one at music shops in the area for about $300.) I'm really enjoying it, and I think I'm going to sign up for the drumming in the spring.
Finally, a shoutout to my haegeum buddies Zachary and Michelle, who hail from Wisconsin and have their own blog here. With the Badgers off to a 4-0 start, it's a good time to be a Sconnie! But then, it's always a good time to be a Sconnie.
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Monday, September 28, 2009 | Posted by Mark Z at 2:24 PM |