OK, so it's expensive. But it comes highly recommended. Don't take our word for it, this is written by Korean music enthusiast Joshua Cheek.
An Essential Document of an Artistic Legacy
Around 2006, an industry colleague gave me a copy of her groundbreaking album, Eight Scenes - Contemporary Music for Gayageum. When I first put it on, my mind was completely BLOWN! Despite having some previous familiarity with Korean traditional music, this was the FIRST time I had heard contemporary music for Korean instruments! (I would not discover Ji-young's teacher, Hwang Byungki for almost a year)!
In addition to being one of the greatest living exponents of all things Gayageum, with a mastery of the entire repertoire from the very ancient to the very modern, Ms. Yi has concertized around the world, a much-sought collaborator, respected educator, beloved teacher, she is a Candidate for Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 23, Gayageum Sanjo and Byeongchang. Her monograph, 'Contemporary Gayageum Notations for Composers and Performers,' received awards for best academic publication and is perhaps the most detailed text ever written about the musical and performative possibilities of the gayageum! (NOTE BENE: I have a copy and it is essential for any composer aspiring to write for the instrument)!
OK. Time for a quick tutorial on Gayageum and Gugak. The Gayageum is a zither similar to the Chinese zheng, and Japanese Koto. The ancient chronicles place its origins as far back as the 6th century, and it's fair to say that it has become Korea's national instrument. One significant difference between the gayageum and its Asian cousins is how it's played: unlike zhengs and kotos in which the performed wear plectra attached to their fingers, the gayageum is played entirely with the hands and nails, giving the instrument a softer, more harp-like attack.
As Yi Ji-Young writes in her program notes, "Silk Butterfly" has been a work in progress for a number of years. Less a career retrospective or a "Greatest Hits" collection than an overview of an artist's mastery at the pinnacle of her development, "Yi Ji-Young's Gayageum Compilation Silk Butterfly" is a sumptuous 6 CD box set, each disc thoughtfully focusing on a single genre or repertoire. All the tracks are previously unreleased material primarily recorded after 2010 (with one notable exception: Disc 2, which features Yi Ji-Young's doctoral recital of the Mannyeonjanghwanjigok repertoire with daegeum (bamboo flute) player Kim Eung-seo, which was recorded in 1997).
Our journey from "chrysalis" to butterfly begins with a disc featuring the complete Yeongsanhoesang and Dodeuri, examples of the classic pungnyu repertoire, the preferred chamber music of the literati. Despite being primarily monophonic pieces in VERY slow tempos, JI-Young creates an extraordinary sense of tension and release, essential elements of Korean traditional music.
Disc Two is the aforementioned live performance of Mannyeonjanghwanjigok, the rather fulsome Confucian name for the Gagok (Artistocratic Art Song) repertoire. Only the instrumental parts are performed. The effect of the music is timeless... like being suspended in mid-air.
Disc Three Kim Byeong-Ho Sanjo - a representative of one of the five major schools of Gayageum Sanjo.
Disc Four is a full performance of the Seo Gong-Cheol Sanjo.
Disc Five Heoteun Garak (Scattered Melodies) is in its entirety a standout in what is already an amazing collection. As Ji-young explains in her notes 'Sanjo is a Sino-Korean term, known in the Korean vernacular as heoteun garak meaning 'scattered melody,' and the current program features transcriptions, arrangements and original compositions, starting with Gayageum Heoteun Garak, a composition drawn from Yi Ji-young's transcriptions of the Gueum (vocable singing) of Munjeong Yi Mal-ryang, her first teacher. Of special interest is Ji-young's own Heotun Garak - her first sanjo. In her detailed notes, she provides a fascinating description of the creative process involved in creating Sanjo.
The set reaches a thrilling conclusion with a disc devoted to Contemporary Masterworks, featuring the compositions of Donald Womack, Lim June-hee, Chou Wen-chung, Thomas Osborne and Chung Il-Ryun. Every track is a standout and a revelation, Il-Ryun Chung's MU for Sanjo Gayageum and Janggu made a particularly strong impression on me. I WILL be seeking out more of his music in the future!
Included is a generous 75-page booklet, with detailed essays by Ms. Yi for each of the discs in Korean and (very well translated English), providing valuable insights into both music and musician.
Even if this box set were not as beautifull - and it is a quality production ALL THE WAY - this is an ESSENTIAL purchase for anyone even remotely interested in the Gayageum, Korean traditional music (Gugak) and world music as a whole!
1-1 Sangryeongsan 1-2. Jungryeongsan 1-3. Seryeongsan 1-4. Garakdeori 1-5. Sanghyeondodeuri 1-6. Hahyeondodeuri 1-7. Yeombuldodeuri 1-8. Taryeong 1-9.Gunak 1-10. Dodeuri
2-1. Ujo Daseureum 2-2. Male Gagok 'Chosudaeyeop' 2-3. Female Gagok'Isudaeyeop' 2-4. Male Gagok 'Eollak' 2-5. Gyemyeonjo Daseureum 2-6. Male Gagok 'Chosudaeyeop' 2-7. Female Gagok 'Pyeongrong' 2-8. Male Gagok 'Pyeollak' 2-9. Female Gagok 'Pyeonsudaeyeop' 2-10. Male/Female Gagok 'Taepyeongga'
3-1. Jjalbeun Sanjo (short version of sanjo) 3-2. Jinyangjo 3-3. Jungmori 3-4. Jungjungmori 3-5. Eotmori 3-6. Jajinmori 3-7. Hwimori 3-8. Danmori
4-1. Jjalbeun Sanjo (short version of sanjo) 4-2. Daseureum (Introduction) 4-3. Jinyangjo 4-4. Jungmori 4-5. Jungjungmori 4-6. Hwijungjungmori 4-7. Eotmori 4-8. Jajinmori 4-9. Hwimori
5-1. Gayageum Heoteun Garak (scattered melodies) based on the Gueum of Munjeong Yi Mal-ryang 5-2. Unujijeong 5-3. Namdo Samhyeon from Jindo Ssitgimgut 5-4. Lovely Gutgeori 5-5. Heoteun Garak in the Style of Yi Ji-young 5-6. Gayageum Gyeonggi Daepungn yu 5-7. Gayageum Daechwita 5-8. Gayageum Gilgunak 5-9. Gayageum Giltaryeong 5-10. Gayageum Byeolujotaryeong
6-1. (2009) Highwire Act 6-2. (2009) Pieces of the Sky - Some blind girls ask questions of the moon 6-3. Your illusion, sun, is to make garden turn technicolor 6-4. Beneath the tender protest of the stars 6-5. Singing, the Seven maidens 6-6. (2008) Dancing Sanjo for Gayageum, Violin & Piano 6-7. (2009) MU for Sanjo Gayageum and Janggu·Jing 6-8. (2010) Maehwa Sanjo 6-9. (2010) Eternal Pine for Gayageum and Janggu Obligato