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Sangryeongsan is the first movement from the Court Chamber Music Collection, Yeongsanheosahang (Prayer to the Buddha on the Spiritual Mountain), the versions of which vary according to the instrumentation and the degree of transposition of the original. Yeongsanheosahang is actually a suite comprising nine pieces: Sangryeongsan, Jungryeongsan, Seryeongsan, Garakdeori, Sanghyeondodeuri, Hahyeondodeuri, Yeombuldodeuri, Taryeong, and Gunak. One, several or all nine pieces may be presented in a performance.
The first piece, sangryeongsan, is often performed as a solo by either daegeum (transverse baboo flute) or piri (Korean oboe), employing the unique melodic ornamentation, sigimsae, giving great musical expression through the contraction and expansion of the melodic phrases. This controlled “musical freedom” which differs among individual musicians and their personal artistic expression, is revealed through a slow, cyclic rhythmic tempo that evokes a mystical atmosphere. Originally, Yeongsanhoesang was Buddhist vocal music that described Buddha preaching a sermon to his followers. However, it was transformed into an instrumental piece and performed by Confucian scholars of the late Joseon Dynasty for its value for self-control and meditation.
The melodic characteristics of the piece are as same as Cheongseonggok (Please see the descriptions of the Gyemyeonjo in Korean Classical Music).
The rhythm of Sangryeongsan, perhaps the slowest from among all Korean traditional music, consists of a total of twenty beats per long melodic phrase or unit, called a gak. Each gak is divided into four parts: 18/8 (six compound beats), 12/8 (four compound beats), 12/8 (four compound beats), and 18/8 (six compound beats).