Bird Song (새타령)

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Transcription (.pdf)

Among the folk songs of the southwestern region, Jeolla Province, Sae Taryeong (Bird Song), along with Jindo Arirang, is considered to be a most representative one. The song describes a scene in which various birds sing on a sunny spring day. It uses onomatopoetic sounds as well as elegant gestures to represent birds including the Chinese phoenix, cuckoo, peacock, parrot, pheasant, among others. The origin of this piece is unknown, but it became popular after it was transformed and included in the pansori repertory in Jeokbyeokga (The Song of the Red Cliff), by the great Master Singer Yi Dong-baek of the late Joseon Dynasty.

The melodic characteristics of the song are based on the modal practice of the southwestern region, yukjabaegitori, consisting of the four main pitches with specific pitch gestures or sikimsae, such as the vibrating note (tteoneunum—with wide and slow vibrato), a note without vibrato (cheong or melodic center), a bending note or appoggiatura (kkeokneunum), and upward vibrating note (eotcheong-a perfect fourth above the cheong). (Please refer to the description of the mode presented for Jindo Arirang). The most intriguing part of the song is found in the melodic gesture of the two-note figure G and D occurring in the upper octave, usually sung in falsetto voice, that describes a bird crying, especially a cuckoo.


The rhythm is jungjungmori, written either in 12/8, 6/8, or a 6/4 meter, with the accent on the first and ninth beats. The song is usually sung at a tempo of♩= 80-96.



새가 날아든다 왼갖 잡새가 날아든다
Birds are flying, all sorts of birds are flying
새 중에는 봉황새 만수 문전에 풍년새
The phoenix, king of birds; Poong-nyun bird, bearer of good harvests
산고곡심 무인처 춘림비조 뭇새들이
In a deep valley with high mountains, many birds fly in the forest in this sunny spring day
농춘화답에 짝을 지어 쌍거래 날아든다
Birds fly in pairs, singing as though chatting about the pleasant spring weather
말 잘허는 앵무새, 춤 잘 추는 학 두루미,
Parrots, good at chatting; cranes, famous for elegant dancing
솟댕쑥국, 앵매기 뚜리루, 대처의 비우 소로기
Sot-daeng birds sing “sook-gook”; ang-mae-gi sing “dduriru”; eagles sing “bi-woo”