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Donald Womack해태 Haetaegayageum 산조 가야금12:002018
One of the most beloved creatures in East Asian mythology is the wise and powerful guardian of justice — the haetae, as it is known in Korea. Haetae typically takes the form of a lion with a horn on its head, and is said to possess an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong, punishing the guilty as well as providing protection for the righteous. Haetae sculptures were used to help protect against disasters and to maintain justice as far back as early Joseon dynasty (ca. 15th century) architecture, and are still used today, often appearing outside of palaces and important structures. In 2008 the city of Seoul adopted Haetae as its official mascot.

Haetae 해태, for sanjo gayageum, tries to capture the strong, dynamic character of the legendary beast. The music begins with a brief but powerful passage, foreshadowing the ending. A slow passage follows, gradually coming to life, always with a sense that the power of haetae could burst forth at any time, should there be the need. A free middle section suggests a less stable character, perhaps a challenge to haetae, which, in the end, it rises to meet with a forceful decisiveness.

Haetae 해태 was commissioned by Seyeon Park, as a companion piece to the 25-string gayageum work달에 비친 아홉 꼬리 (Gumiho), which depicts the malevolent nine-tailed fox of East Asian mythology. Together, the two works represent a balance of good and evil.