Landscape and Soundscape: Geomantic Spatial Mapping in Korean Traditional Music

Author: Hesselink, Nathan and Petty, Jonathan

Publication details: Journal of Musicological Research 23.3/4:265-88 (2004)


It is known that music perception maps musical parameters against a cognitive template derived from physical spatial perception such that music is experienced in terms of space. Recent research suggests that the spatial dimension of music is gen- eral, but varies according to the way different societies construct different shared cultural spaces. The culturally specific East Asian spatial template of geomancy (feng shui in Chinese, p’ungsu in Korean) can be related to the structures of several genres of Korean music, with geomantic influences exerted on the constructions of Korean performance spaces, rhythmic patterns, and pitch sets. Knowing how such practices penetrated and spatialized aspects of Buddhist, Confucian, Shaman, and even secular musical activity alike provides a powerful new interpretive tool for understanding Korea’s multifaceted soundscape.