- Piri Study -

- Piri Study -

Hyo-shin Na – Korea Times SF - 9/7/2012

Soon after I began grade school I heard someone playing a piano and, as the sound of the instrument fascinated me, I began piano lessons. In the years since then I’ve taken lessons on quite a few instruments, including kayageum (Korean zither), sogeum (a small Korean bamboo flute), haegeum (a bowed Korean string instrument), changgo (Korean drum), komungo (another type of Korean string instrument played by striking the strings with a bamboo stick), ajaeng (bowed Korean string instrument), koto (Japanese zither), shamisen (Japanese lute), guqin (Chinese string instrument), violin, cello and guitar. I devoted years to some of these, others I studied for just a short interval of time when I made trips back to Korea. Of course, as a composer, I continue to learn about other instruments without actually playing them (harp, double bass, trombone, percussion) by reading, listening and talking with and watching the players.

These days I’m learning to play the Korean bamboo oboe called piri. My teacher was born around the time I graduated from Ewha University, but she doesn’t see this age difference as a reason to go easy on me. Musicians can be just as tough as a real boss! Years ago in Seoul I asked a friend who is a fine kayageum player to help me with a string I’d broken while practicing kayageum. She was very kind and patient in helping me to repair the string so I was shocked to watch as she took a fingernail clipper out of her purse and cut the string she’d just repaired! “Now you know how, so let’s see you do it…” My piri teacher is also quite strict. All of my Korean instrument teachers so far have allowed me to read from western notation after they quickly introduced me to that instrument’s traditional notation. But, just last week at our lesson, my teacher took away my western notation and said:” You know the traditional notation, don’t you?” Cold sweat…

As I’ll never again be illiterate after having learned to read, I won’t easily lose the feeling for the instruments I’ve studied and practiced. What I’ve learned is, of course, only the beginning of the fundamentals and certainly none of this guarantees my being able to write a fine piece of music. However, in return for her generosity in teaching me, I will write a piece for my piri teacher, hoping that it will be worthy of her time and efforts in practicing and performing it.