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Harmonia Koreana - A Short History of 20th-century Korean Music
Price per Unit (piece): KRW 10,000
USD 7.57
Author: Kim Choon Mee
Publisher: Hollym
Pub. Date: Jul 2011
Pages: 128
Cover: Softcover
Dimensions (in inches): 8.85 x 5.90 x 0.35
ISBN: 9781565913257
Language: English
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An Introduction to

Contemporary Classical Music of Korea

Harmonia Koreana: A Short History of 20th-century Korean Music is a brief overview of how Western classical music was introduced and developed in Korea. This book tells about the distinguishing features of the Korean composer's musical work in general and goes in to more depth on several of modern music's most important compositions.

To understand 20th century Korean music, it is necessary to examine how Western classical music took root in Korea during the period between the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, as this formative period involved the incorporation of Western music sometimes in its entirety, and at other times in the form of adaptations that created a new style. Since its introduction, Western classical music enjoyed growing prosperity at the beginning. However, composers' creativity were oppressed under the Japanese colonial rule and successive Korean war followed by political and social turbulence. Through harsh environments, a closer look into specific works demonstrates that Korean composers always sought to internalize, or "Koreanize", imported techniques to reflect Korean sensibilities, including the individual artists' personal styles.

From the late 1990s, however, Korean composers began accepting and recognizing 20th century Korean music as a new musical legacy of their own, while enjoying greater freedom to choose their musical languages. Additionally, they have become more personally motivated to write music, bringing more diversity into contemporary Korean music. Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, Korea is ready to produce composers with unrestricted inspiration and mature musicality.

01 Introduction of Western Classical Music in the Early 20th Century

Christian missionaries played an important role in introducing classical music into Korea in the form of hymns and musicians like Hong Nan-pa, Park Tae-jun, Ahn Gi-yeong and Hyun Jei-myung pioneered early 20th century Western-style songs.

02 Western Classical Music in Korea after Independence

Following the division of the Korean Peninsula, however, some composers defected to North Korea and had tried to write music that reflected the Korean society of their times while composers who chose the South pursued music for music's sake, which did not concern itself with social issues.

03 The Full Bloom of Modern Music in the 1970s

In 1969, the installment of the Seoul Music Festival under the slogan "Our Music, by Our Hands" contributed to discovering talented young musicians through commissions and contests. On this rich soil, modern music enjoyed a heyday in Korea in the 1970s as a number of Korean musicians returned home from Germany.

04 The Search for Identity of Contemporary Korean Music

In 1981, a group of composers raised a question about the identity of contemporary music, which they thought represented a culture radically different from the historical reality with which they were faced at the time.

05 New Waves in Traditional Korean Music

Although less fervent than resistance to Western-style music, resistance against the status quo within the school of traditional Korean music began to gain remarkable momentum in the 1980s.

06 Creative Activities in the Mid-1990s

Scholars from the communities of both traditional music and Western-style music have more opportunities to meet with each other and narrow the gap between them by sharing common interest in their respective original works.

07 Leading Young Composers in the New Century

We will look into some remarkable composers at home and abroad who have come into the spotlight since the beginning of the 21st century in this chapter.



01. Introduction of Western Classical Music in the Early 20th Century

First Introduction: 1900-1920

Children's Songs in the 1920s

Children's Songs in the 1930s

Major Composers of the 1920s and 1930s

Instrumental Music in the 1930s and 1940s

The Foundation of Schools for Orchestral and Western-style Music

02. Western Classical Music in Korea after Independence

Division among Korean Composers

The Emergence of Modernity in Music

Associations of Composers

03. The Full Bloom of Modern Music in the 1970s

Entrance into the Mainstream

The Debate between Traditional and Contemporary Classical Music

04. The Search for Identity of Contemporary Korean Music

The Third Generation

Operas and music Dramas of the 1980s

05. New Waves in Traditional Korean Music

Historical Background

Trends in the 1960s and 1970s

1980s: Searching for a Voice to Communicate with the People

06. Creative Activities in the Mid-1990s

A Glimpse into the 1990s

The Year 1997 and Afterwards

07. Leading Young Composers in the New Century

Chin Unsuk

Sim Geun-su

Yun Hye-jin

Lee Yun-gyeong

Han Ok-mi

Choe Uzong

Lee Shinuh

Lim June-hee

Bibliographic Citation


Kim Choon Mee

• BA in Music, Seoul National University

• MA, Ph. D. in Musicology, Michigan State University, USA

• Professor of Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Korean National University of Arts

• Publisher of Korean Contemporary Composers and Compositions

• President of Soyiyeon Research Center for Musicology

Major publications:

Introduction to Korean Artiology (1997)

The Socio-Cultural Structure of Musicology in Korea (1999)

A Study on Composer Paik Byung-dong (2000)

A Hundred Years of West-oriented Korean Music (2002)

Gateway to the Study of Korean Contemporary Composers (2008)

A Case Study of the Influence of the East to the West (2010)


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