Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection


33 items


The se-p’iri (‘slender oboe’) is a Korean double-reed aerophone used primarily to accompany classical vocal music genres of kagok, sijo, and kasa. It is also used in a limited number of pieces of chongak, which during dynastic times was instrumental music for aristocratic entertainment similar in style to hyangak, or native Korean court music. It is very similar in design to the hyang-p’iri (‘native oboe’), another Korean oboe that is utilized in a totally separate set of musical contexts. Description The se-p’iri is an end-blown cylindrical bore double reed aerophone. It is made from a straight length of thin bamboo that has no natural nodes. Seven anterior fingerholes and one posterior thumbhole are drilled into the pipe. The reed (kaltae) is quite large, approximately a quarter of the length of the instrument's bamboo tube. Much shaving, slicing, shaping, and tying (using copper wire) are necessary to produce the finished reed. Its base is beveled so that it can be inserted into the top end of the pipe. Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production The performer, usually seated on the floor, holds the pipe in front of himself with both hands at about a 45-degree angle so that his fingers can cover all the fingerholes and the thumbhole. The tip of the reed is placed inside the mouth and the lips are pressed firmly on the top and bottom of the reed just above the wire loops. Considerable airstream pressure is needed to sound the instrument, but because of its very narrow bore the se-p’iri has a relatively softer dynamic than the hyang-p’iri. At its full acoustical length (with all holes covered) the fundamental pitch produced is approximately an A-flat-3; with all holes opened a C-5 (approximately). With manipulation of reed pressure a few further pitches can be sounded to extend the range upwards about a fourth. The timbre of this instrument is considered to blend nicely with classical Korean singing. Players can produce subtle ornaments, a wide vibrato, and a wide dynamic range, features that allow it to effectively mimic Korean singing style (in the audio clip the se-p’iri is heard in combination with several other instruments and may be difficult to pick out; listen for the wind instrument with a nasal timbre heard most prominently in the left channel). Origins/History/Evolution Korean p'iri are related to the Chinese guan and the Japanese hichiriki, all of which are thought to have descended from a precursor originating in western China in the early first millennium CE. Reference is made to p'iri being part of a Korean ensemble in residence at the Chinese Sui dynasty (581-618 CE) court, and the first mention of p’iri in Korean sources is from the early 11th century CE. Some early p’iri had nine fingerholes instead of eight, but in general it would appear the present day p’iri used in South Korea differs little from its antecedents. Perhaps the greatest period of design transformation for the p’iri has been the last half of the 20th century in North Korea, where different sizes of the instrument have been introduced, as has keywork; these changes do not appear to have caught on in South Korea where a sensibility of cultural preservation is strong.