Gagok, lyric song cycles accompanied by an orchestra
Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Country(ies): Republic of Korea
- Gagok, lyric song cycles accompanied by an orchestra
Gagok is a genre of traditional Korean vocal music sung by men and women to the accompaniment of a small orchestra, one of several forms of singing that together constitute jeongga, or ‘right song’. Formerly a music associated with the higher classes, Gagok is today widely popular throughout the country. Gagok comprises twenty-six namchang or songs for men, and fifteen yeochang or songs for women. Namchang are characterized by strong, deep, resonant voices, while yeochang are characterized by high-pitched, thin voices. Gagok songs are composed either in a solemn, peaceful key or a melancholic one, and use 10-beat or 16-beat rhythm. The traditional instrumentation of the orchestra includes the geomungo six-string zither, daegeum bamboo transverse flute, gayageum twelve-string zither and piri (small double-reed pipe). Gagok songs are acclaimed for their lyrical patterns, balance, refined melodies and advanced musical composition. Acquiring skill as a singer takes extensive time and effort and performance requires dedication and extreme control. Gagok is preserved and transmitted by practitioners, their communities and related organizations in local heritage training centres. Gagok has played an important role in the establishment of Korean identity.
Decision 5.COM 6.37
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Gagok is a fundamental element of Korean culture, safeguarded and transmitted at local heritage centres and promoting a sense of pride and identity;
- R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List could contribute to the understanding and visibility of intangible cultural heritage and encourage greater respect for cultural diversity;
- R.3: The nomination outlines current and proposed measures, highlighting the commitment of the State and the participation of the bearers of Gagok, and focusing on practical interventions such as the creation of opportunities and spaces for its enactment and transmission;
- R.4: The nomination was elaborated with the cooperation of the community of Gagok performers, and contains evidence of their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: Gagok was designated in 1969 as Important Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Division of the Cultural Heritage Administration.
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