Yesterday evening we learnt the backhand. And, in retrospect, as I struggled last night to notate what we learned, we also did triplets.
We were without the interpreter yesterday, so 95% of the class was conducted in Korean. Some of the Korean students took pity on us non-Koreans (we had a new joiner, another Brit, who had chosen to go to the SamulNori gig at the Purcell Room on the Monday and who thought it rather excellent) and tried a bit of translation. So when the instructor demonstrated a massive rallentando in the coda to the Hwimori changdan, several times, and expounded at great length, I imagine, on the subtleties of this slowing down, one of the students helpfully said, “get slower”, while another, who had clearly had some Western classical music training, said “ritardando”. I felt like I was making that whisky commercial in Lost in Translation.
Anyway, as I said, we learned the backhand last night. Right hand holds the simple bamboo stick which gets used on the right hand side of the drum, and goes “thwack”. I’m not sure that you ever get to do backhand with the right hand. Left hand holds the stick with a wooden blob on the end and goes “thock”. Forehand technique involves bringing the stick down on the left hand side of the drum, using shoulder movement. Backhand technique involves your left hand stick hitting the right hand side of the drum, using wrist action. You can generally be louder on the forehand than the backhand, so using the two techniques increases the rhythmic possibilities as well as providing some more exciting visuals.
When coming to notate this last night, I found that the impromptu blob notation I had devised on the first night wasn’t up to the challenge. I’ll go back and change it later, but it’s a bit laborious. I’m assuming that my version of Sibelius, the excellent musical notation software, isn’t up to SamulNori changdan notation, so I’m using Excel, and for the purposes of uploading to this site I then past into Word as a bitmap, then paste the bitmap into a Corel Photo Album image which saves as a jpeg. It all takes time which monopolises the home PC, and seeing that I don’t get home till 10pm from these classes I don’t get to bed very early.
I can sense that the instructors are beginning to panic about whether we’ll be ready for the open-air concert on Friday. I think we are too. We started off the evening with more breathing, then straight into the combo we finished with the previous evening. Very ambitious, but we muddled through. Then we were into the Hwimori (though it looked like Higmori when written on the board, so that’s what’s on the image uploaded here – I’ll correct that later). The new technique with the Hwimori (apart from the backhand) is that instead of playing each line once and moving on to the next, then going back to the beginning, each line is played a random number of times until the leader (who’s playing the gong) gets bored and signals that you have to move on to the next line. There are five lines plus coda. To signal the change from line 1 to 2, the gong player stops playing in morse code and plays 8 regular crotchet beats (very loudly, looking at each of us in the eye to make sure we’ve got the message). From line 2 to 3, we get loud 4 crotchet beats (and more exaggerated gesticulation and eye contact). From line 3 to 4 we get 2 crotchet beats. So you’re getting the picture? Each time we have to change it gets more difficult and we get less notice of what we have to do next. And you can see what’s coming next. How the hell do we get from line 4 to 5? One crotchet beat is hardly a good signal. And moving from line 5 to the coda? Well, the instructor didn’t really explain that. He was too busy explaining the getting slower bit.
The instructor wrote down all the lines for the Hwimori on the wipeboard, but for the next changdan (which he didn’t name, but which used a couple of lines from the Hwimori) he’d kind of lost interest in writing it down, or more likely he knew in advance that there wasn’t going to be enough space. So we memorised it and jotted some things down if we felt like it. This one was a really fun one. Ta gung gung ta gung ta gung ta gung gung ta gung gung ta gung, it ends. Some great cross rhythms. I mutter it under my breath in the tube and people think the heat is getting to me. My attempt at notating the changdan is here. The instructor promised his own written version in lesson 3, so if there are errors I’ll correct it tomorrow.