Over 100-year old Korean Traditional music recordings discovered

The newly discovered "gugak" recording / Yonhap

The newly discovered “gugak” recording / Yonhap

Eleven rare albums of gugak, or traditional Korean music, dating back to the Korean Empire (1897-1910) have been uncovered by the Korea Traditional Music Association, the group announced Monday.

The discovery of the eleven albums, released under the early American recording company Victor Talking Machine Company in the early 1900s, was confirmed by Archive and Research Center for Korean Recordings director Bae Yeon-hyung and Yonsei University graduate student Suk Ji-hoon, at Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, on Nov. 21, bringing the total number of gugak recordings from Victor to 22.

The recordings were made in December 1906 when American recording engineer Fred W. Gaisberg visited Korea to record music played by nine court musicians at the royal palace. He is known to have released 96 traditional Korean music recordings during the Korean Empire period.

The newly discovered albums include tunes for the royal carriage march, spotlighting ancient genres such as “daechwita” (military band music), traditional instrumental “samhyeon-yukgak” music and “pansori,” a style of narrative folk music.

Founded in 1901, Victor was the world’s largest manufacturer of phonographs before being purchased by RCA Records in 1929.

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