Milyang Arirang (밀양 아리랑)

click the play button to begin the piece (length 2:15)

Transcription (.pdf)

Milyang Arirang is a representative folk song of the eastern region of Gyeongsang, Gangwon and Hamgyeong Provinces. The folksongs of all three Provinces are together classified as “dongbu minyo” (Eastern folksongs), sharing the same scale and modal practices known as “menaritori,” with great musical details, melodic characteristics and subtleties, heard in the distinctive sikimsae (melodic ornamentation and pitch gestures) patterns. The melodic pattern of menaritori, in particular to Milyang Arirang, is presented below, and consists of five pitches, E, G, A, C, and D. The song has a balanced use of the modal structural pitches, and has a melodic and musical coherence that centers on the A. The A is performed without sigimsae, the E with upward and wide vibrato, and the C uses a downward sliding gesture to the melodic center, A. There are three distinctive melodic figures, a sequence of three pitches, as marked in brackets, a, b and c, and each of the sequences is always performed with downward melodic motion. The song begins with a verse using the figure (bracket c), and a transposition of the figure (bracket a) an octave higher.


Legend holds that “Arang” was the only daughter of the governor of Milyang, a port city in that region. Word of her beauty, intelligence and kind heart spread to remote parts of the country, drawing many young admirers. One night, as she went out to watch a beautiful full moon, a young man appeared and confessed his love to her, but when she tried to flee, he killed her. Secretly, he buried her body in the forest and none knew what had happened to her. Many years later, her spirit appeared before the next governor and pleaded for justice for her unfortunate death. The next day the governor arrested the killer and had him executed. As a result, the local women started singing this song to commemorate Arang.

The rhythmic pattern, jangdan, of Milyang Arirang has three compound beats in a moderate tempo, called semachi, which provides the overall rhythmic framework.



There are several variations of Milyang Arirang lyrics, even within the Kyung-Sang-do province.

아리아리랑 쓰리쓰리랑 아라리가 났네, 아리랑 고개로 넘어간다 
Ari-ari-rang, suri-suri-rang, ara-ri-ga-nat-ne, going over the Arirang mountain pass

날좀보소 날좀보소 날좀보소
Look at me, look at me, look at me
동지섣달 꽃 본 듯이 날 좀 보소
As you look at a flower in the middle of winter, please look at me

정든 임이 오시는데 인사를 못해
Although my sweetheart has arrived I cannot say a word of welcome
행주 치마 입에 물고 입만 벙긋
Just opening my mouth without a word, stuffed my mouth with flap of my skirt

울너머 총각의 각피리 소리
Sound of flute played by a bachelor at the next door by the fence
물긷는 처녀의 한숨 소리
Sighing of a virgin at the well as she pumps water

네가 잘나 내가 잘나 그 누가 잘나
Are you better than others? Am I better than you? Who is better than whom?
구리 백통 지전이라야 일색이지
The best one is “gu-ri-bak-tong ji-jun” (one with power and money)