Dr. Jaehwa Lee

Dr. Jaehwa Lee is a Living Human Treasure of South Korea and the holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property No.16 (Geomungo Sanjo) of South Korea. She earned her BA and MA from the Department of Korean Traditional Music, College of Music at Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea and her Ph.D. in Musicology on the performance of Geomungo from the Graduate School at Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea. She is a professor of the Department of Korean Traditional Music, College of Music at Chukye University for the Arts, Seoul, South Korea and the President of Han Gap-Deuk style of Geomungo Sanjo Preservation Society and Yimjeon Geomungo Society. She has performed more than 33 solo recitals in major recitals and music halls around the world including La Maison des Cultures de Monde in Paris, France. Her major achievements include the restoration of North Korean Geomungo Sanjo and performance of the complete Han Gap-Deuk style of Geomungo Sanjo (88 minutes). She also premiered “Yeongsanhoesang” of Yi Sugyeong and Kim Sanggi’s lineage. She has actively participated in the broadening of Korean music by modifying traditional Geomungo. She invented a new Geomungo called Hwahyeongeum and composed six pieces for her new Geomungo, one of which is “Hyeonghakraemu.” She has published her book titled “The World of Han Gap-Deuk style Geomungo School” as well as several academic papers. Her records of music were released by EMI, INEDIT as well as Korean recording labels. She was awarded KBS Gokak Great Award, String Division Award, and Group Performance Award.


L’art du Sanjo de Geomungo (The art of the Geomungo Sanjo) by Dr. Jaehwa Lee (INEDIT, a record label owned by la Maison des Cultures du Monde, France's greatest traditional cultural performance institution) won the Musique du Monde prizes awarded by l'Académie Charles Cros in March 2013. The prizes given by this Academy are regarded as the world's most prestigious ones, along with Britain's Gramophone Awards, America's Grammy Awards and Germany's Record Critics' Award. Every year, the French Academy chooses the best album for each category among the albums that were released during the previous year.

Dr. Jaehwa Lee will perform a Geomungo musical performance of “Geomungo Sanjo’ and “Geomungo Sinawee” with a short lecture.

Geomungo Sanjo (거문고 산조) is considered a national treasure and was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property of South Korea in 1967, in accordance with the 1962 Cultural Property Protection Law. The law provides for the formal designation of Important Intangible Cultural Properties as well as the holders of such traditional culture and knowledge, known as Living National Treasures or Living Human Heritage.

Geomungo (거문고) is a Korean traditional stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments with both bridges and frets also known as Hyengeum (literally “black zither”). Its six strings are passed through its hollow body, and are plucked with a short bamboo stick, resonating a deep, masculine sound revered by the scholars and the warriors of ancient times. It was called “baek ak ji jang” (백악지장), meaning “the best in all the musical instruments”. The Geomungo was played in traditional Korean courts. It is one of the most important instruments featured in the music of the Royal Ancestral Ritual held in the Jongmyo Shrine, which was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on Humanity in 2008.

Sanjo (산조), literally meaning “scattered melody”, is representative of Korean traditional solo instrumental music. Per Dr. Jaehwa Lee, Sanjo begins with a slow rhythm and emotionally charged movement, progressing to a faster rhythm. It has an open (free) structure allowing players to improvise: Players may change the rhythm and the length and modulate freely. The Sanjo contrasts tension and relaxation repetitively. As the Sanjo requires fluent and virtuoso techniques and the impromptu sensibility runs from beginning to end, it is one of the technically best music genres. The Sanjo expresses the charm of the solo musical instrument to the utmost. Traditionally, the Sanjo is accompanied by the Janggu (Korean hourglass Drum) or Buk (Barrel Drum) - however, Dr. Jahwa Lee plays Sanjo without accompaniment for the purpose of highlighting the unique characteristics of Geomungo.