Ancient Period to 57 BC
Music was associated with agricultural rituals from ancient time. The Chinese document San-kuo chih (The Annals of the Three States) describes music and dance resembling nongak (farmer's music) and gut (shaman ritual).
Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC-668 AD)
Murals at Anak in Hwanghae Province depict the frequent contact with China and its influence on Korean music, especially during the Goguryeo Period (37 BC-668 AD). The geomungo (six string zither) was modeled after the Chinese chin. Buddhist chant was imported via southern China in the Baekje Era (18 BC-660 AD) and there was cultural exchange with Japan. Gigaku (masked drama) was introduced to Japan in 612 by Korean artists through performances of the music of the three kingdoms for the Japanese court. Important forms during this period include Komagaku (music of the Goguryeo and Kudaragaku (music of
the Baekje). Shiragigaku (music of the Silla Kingdom), gained importance after unification.
Unified Silla Kingdom (AD 668-935)
New music types and instruments (transverse flutes) were developed, while Baekje and Goguryeo court music weakened. High Buddhist culture spread from China. Koreans classified styles as Hyangak (native music) and Dangak (T'ang music) to distinguish their origins. Buddhist priests performed both pre-T'ang Dynasty chants and new Korean styles.
Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392)
Aak (ritual court music of Chinese origin) was established, and instruments were imported from China in 1114. In 1116, Goryeo received a complete set of aak instruments for Deungga (orchestra on the terrace) and Heonga (orchestra on the ground). New music and dance styles: munmu (civil dance), mumu (military dance), gyobangak (music of women for court entertainment). Music and dance for native Korean court banquets and Sung Dynasty court banquet music existed simultaneously. Dangak was modified during late Goryeo Period
and retained until early Joseon Dynasty. Instruments were iron slabs, end-blown notched and transverse flutes, double reeds, lutes, zithers, hourglasses, barrel drums and wooden clappers.
Early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1593)
Bak Yeon, Korea's first music theorist, was appointed director of The Royal Music Department by King Sejong (r.1418-50). The aak system of instrumentation, tuning, and repertory were perfected. Hyangak (native music) flourished and music was set to Korean text. A notation system for the geomungo (6-string zither), modeled after the Chinese chin, was invented early 15th-c. The orchestral tonal system, Chinese and Korean traditional and contemporary dances, instruments for aak, dangak and hyangak, and various dances and costumes were standardized. The Book of Music was published in 1493 with Korean text.
Late Joseon Dynasty (1593-1910)
Invasions by Japan (16th-c.) and Manchuria (17th-c.) devastated Korea's cultural heritage, especially traditional court music. Dangak and hyangak were consolidated to a single orchestra called hyangdan gyoju. During Yeonsan¹s rule from 1494-1506, aak disappeared but was revived in late 18th-c. by the Bureau of Instrument Construction. Aristocratic and folk music popular in 18th-c. and Buddhist influence declined. Pansori (solo operatic song form) and sanjo (solo instrumental form performed by itinerant professional folk musicians) were developed.
During and immediately after the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, most aak performances were abolished and Confucian ritual was promoted. Habak (joint music) replaced tangak and hyangak. The Royal Music Department became the National Classical Music Institute in 1951. The same year, Seoul National University established an undergraduate curriculum in Korean Music, and a master's degree course was instituted in 1963. Western missionary hymns and military band music were introduced late 19th-c., and band music was sponsored by the Joseon Dynasty court in the late 1900s. Japanese annexation 1910-45 influenced new forms of popular music in both Korea and Japan, including enka. After 1945, the National Classical Music Institute has sponsored concerts court music and other events for tourists and the general public. Folk music and contemporary music are popular and are sponsored by government and commercial ventures, and Korean composers and performers are acclaimed internationally for their versatility and skill.
For a general discussion of Korean music see:
Korean Music in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
For detailed discussion of pansori, Korea's oral narrative sung to drum accompaniment, see Marshall R. Pihl, The Korean Singer of Tales (Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, Vol. 37). Harvard University Press, 1994.