The Geomungo is a six-string zither and one of Korea's most ancient musical treasures, with recent archeological evidence dating its origins as far back as the 4th century. The first, fifth and six strings of the Geomungo are supported by movable bridges called Anjok, while the second, third and fourth strings rest upon 16 convex frets called kwae. The wound-silk strings are plucked, strummed or struck with the suldae, (a short bamboo dowel about the size of a pencil), giving the instrument a vigorous, percussive sound. The Geomungo was the preferred instrument of literati and scholars, so much so that young seonbi ("virtuous scholars") preparing for the national civil service examinations were required to master its performance as part of their prerequisites.
A musician from Jeollanam-do province by the name of SeonDal Baek is credited with first conceiving the Geomungo Sanzo, teaching his son NakJun Baek by singing, using different pansori techniques. NakJun Baek would later perfect his father’s work, developing it into a entirely instrumental idiom, adapting the vocal stylings he learned from his father to the unique timber of the Geomungo. The Han GapDeuk ryu Sanzo is one of the masterworks of the Geomungo repertoire, demanding tremendous virtuosity and stamina as well as genius for spontaneous composition.
In this interpretation of the Han GapDeuk ryu Sanzo, JoonYoung Kim vividly creates an inexorable sense of building drama. Percussion master SukBok Hong (on the Changgu drum) joins with Kim, flawlessly supporting each modulation and change of tempo, giving renewed energy to every Jangdan (rhythmic cycles) in an amazing display of virtuosity and concentration. Kim's performance was recorded live at the Hamyang Hanok in Gyeongsangnam-do province as part of AkdangEban’s “Music from Hanok” series.