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An Exploration of Sigimsae and the Technique of the Korean Instrument Piri Used in Isang Yun’s Riul for Clarinet and Piano

Taeyeong Jung, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The music of Korean-born composer Isang Yun (1917-1995) is a fascinating world of its own. Just as the composer lived half of his life in Korea and the other half in Germany, his music also embraces the influences of both Western Classical Music and Korean Traditional Music. To understand Isang Yun’s musical world, the preliminary knowledge of his life, study of serialism, Hauptton technique, Taoist philosophies, and aspects of traditional Korean music, such as Sigimsae (ornamentations/ornamentation technique) and Korean instrumental techniques is required.Many scholars have undertaken the task of analyzing Isang Yun’s music through serialism, together with Taoist philosophies. However, the sound of traditional Korean music is often overlooked in these studies. Riul for Clarinet and Piano is no exception. Even though the composer himself stated in the score that the title Riul characterizes the particular manner of playing Korean woodwind instruments, these aspects are overlooked in previous documents discussing Riul. As a result, a performer without knowledge of Korean music and its instruments cannot see or hear the sound of Korean music since Yun does not give markings or specific instructions throughout the score of Riul.This document will focus on the examination of Sigimsae and the playing techniques of the Piri, a traditional Korean woodwind instrument, utilized in the piece. Although Yun states in the score that Korean woodwind instruments are used throughout the piece (referring to the way Korean woodwind instruments use ornamentation), the playing techniques found in Riul are based entirely on Piri. It will also offer a clarification of Isang Yun’s compositional periods and a new perspective of the Five Elements (五行) philosophy of Taoism applied in the last section of Riul.It is my hope that this document will prove useful in understanding the hidden sound of Korean music in Riul.

Subject Area

Music|Musical composition

Recommended Citation

Jung, Taeyeong, "An Exploration of Sigimsae and the Technique of the Korean Instrument Piri Used in Isang Yun’s Riul for Clarinet and Piano" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI30487629.