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For other uses, see AAK (disambiguation).
Hangul 아악
Revised Romanization Aak
McCune–Reischauer Aak

Aak Korean pronunciation: [a.ak] is a genre of Korean court music. It is an imported form of the Chinese Yayue.[1] Aak is often labeled as "elegant music" in contrast with other traditional Korean music. Aak began as the music played during the Korean "Jongmyo Shrine's Jerye Ceremony," and was later used for other occasions, and as Korean court music, often with lyrics praising the current ruler.


Ritual performance of Jongmyo Jeryeak

Aak was brought to Korea in 1116 through a large gift of 428 musical instruments as well as 572 costumes and ritual dance objects from China, a gift to Emperor Yejong of Goryeo from Emperor Huizong of Song.[1][2] It remained very popular for a time (there were originally no fewer than 456 different melodies in use) before dying out. It was revived in 1430, based on a reconstruction of older melodies.

Aak is one of three types of Korean court music; the other two are dangak and hyangak. Aak is similar to dangak in that both are rarely played and both have Chinese influences.

The article on Aak in the Encyclopaedia Britannica is its very first entry, though it consists only of a cross-reference to the article on gagaku.


The music is now highly specialized, and modern repertoire consists of just two different surviving melodies. It is played only at certain ceremonies, such as the Munmyo jeryeak (Sacrifice to Confucius) held each spring and autumn at the Munmyo shrine in the ground of Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul.[3]

Both the two surviving pieces consist of 32 notes each, and one of the two is performed in a number of transpositions. The music is played very slowly. Each note is drawn out for around four seconds, with the wind instruments rising in pitch at the end of the note, giving it a distinctive character.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Keith Howard. "Korean Music" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2005. 
  2. ^ Keith Howard (2012). Music As Intangible Cultural Heritage: Policy Ideology and Practice in the Preservation of East Asian Traditions. Ashgate. ISBN 978-1409439073. 
  3. ^ Peter Fletcher (2004). World Musics in Context: A Comprehensive Survey of the World's Major Musical Cultures. Oxford University Press. pp. 375–376. ISBN 978-0195175073. 
  4. ^ The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 2. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Routledge; 1 edition. 2008. pp. 1201–1202. ISBN 978-0415994040. 

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