In a mesmerizing display of cultural harmony and melodic beauty, a haegeum player in traditional Korean hanbok and an erhu player in a purple gown graced the stage together side by side.
Performing the double concerto for erhu and haegeum titled “Two Strings,” the two string musicians from Taiwan and Korea exchanged eye contact and melodies, creating a harmonious fusion.
The joint performance was held at the National Gugak Center in Seoul, featuring the Contemporary Gugak Orchestra affiliated with the NGC, and the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan, associated with the National Center for Traditional Arts in Taiwan.
Aptly titled "Hwa Ee Boo Dong -- Harmonization of Korean-Taiwanese Traditional Arts," the concert encapsulated the essence of an ancient saying: “In harmony without forsaking one's identity.”
A sneak peek into the collaboration was provided during an open rehearsal Friday afternoon, with the joint performance taking place Friday evening and a solo concert by the NCO on Saturday.
"Korean and Taiwanese music may differ, but when combined, they produce a harmonious hue," said director Liu Li-chen of the NCO, speaking to reporters after the rehearsal. “We hope to foster a mutual understanding of each other's culture and appreciate the artistic expressions that arise from this cultural exchange.”
Friday's repertoire featured compositions that compared traditional instruments of Korea and Taiwan, including the double concerto for guan and piri, “Gangwon-do,” composed by Lin Hsin-pin from Taiwan, which drew inspiration from folk songs from Gangwon Province.
Musicians also engaged in discussions about the differences in the sounds of their traditional music.
“Haegeum and erhu look similar, but their materials and playing techniques are different,” said Korean haegeum player Kim Jin. “While the erhu has a soft sound and is equipped for fast-paced movements, the haegeum has a deep resonance.”
Guan player Tsui Chou-shun from the NCO added, "Piri and guan come from the same roots. Over time, the names, materials and styles of playing have evolved differently. The piri has a comfortable, singing-like feeling, whereas the guan is more suitable for powerful performances."
Both orchestras expressed a shared commitment to preserving tradition while exploring innovative ways to pave the road for traditional music for contemporary audiences.
"I felt that there are no boundaries in music. Both Korea and Taiwan fall under the category of East Asian music. It’s up to the conductors to have different styles,” said Korean conductor Kwon Sung-tak, reflecting on the rehearsal process.
While the two-day concert was led by the NCO's music director Paul Ching-Po Chiang, Kwon is set to perform the same repertoire in Taiwan in December, further extending the collaborative musical exchange.
"The National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan and the National Gugak Center share the common goal of preserving tradition while exploring ways to create new music. Through this performance, we hope to generate synergy between the two countries and present new creations,” said Chiang.
Director Kim Young-woon from the NGC echoed the sentiment.
"We all have a common goal of preserving traditional music while also adapting and developing it for the contemporary audience.”