Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three Thousand Year Old Bandoneón

Really? A three thousand year old bandoneón? Well, no. But it is a modern version of the three thousand year old precursor to the bandoneón: the Chinese sheng. And since today's featured video of Libertango comes from Korea, the instrument might actually be a saenghwang, the Korean version of the sheng. Regular readers of this blog may recall an earlier posting which featured the saenghwang with an ensemble of traditional Korean instruments. Today's video places the instrument in a western, classical context.

This is a performance to watch and enjoy rather than to read about in this blog since there is very little information in the video and Google Translate does not do a very good job of converting the Korean to understandable English. I believe the performer is Hyo Kim and the performance is part of an Artists Festival held at the Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Complex. You can see the announcement of the performance here and if you read Korean, you can read a little about the performer in that announcement.

Unlike the earlier saenghwang video posting, you get a good view of the instrument in today's video. That view suggests that the instrument is a current version of the keyed sheng rather than a saenghwang. Such instruments are often cited as the precursor to the harmonica, the concertina, the bandoneón and the family of accordion-like instruments. While the sheng is roughly 3,000 years old, the bandoneón was "invented" in the mid nineteenth century so the evolutionary process was slow. The resemblance between the two instruments is limited to the fact that they both use free reeds (as opposed to a single or beating reed as found on clarinets or a double reed as found on an oboe) and that the air is collected in a chamber before it gets to the reed.

The version of Libertango is a straight forward, classically oriented performance with the backing of a fine, but unnamed, string quartet. The saenghwang/sheng does not really get a chance to show its full capability in the video. If you want to view a more virtuosic performance by Hyo Kim, I suggest you watch this video or some of the others posted on the StudioZin YouTube channel.

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