Pachelbel's Canon -- sixth century Korean style

Dead for 300 years, the German composer continues to conquer new musical frontiers.


Andrew Leonard
August 2, 2008 2:25AM (UTC)

I cannot say that I fully understand the deep inroads Pachelbel's Canon in D has made into Korean pop culture, but like the other 48 million people who have watched Funtwo's rock guitar version of the classical chestnut, I know pure talent when I hear it.

But who needs an electric guitar when you have a gayageum, a stringed, zitherlike instrument whose invention dates back at least as far as the sixth century? The Marmot's Hole points us today to yet another rendition of Pachelbel's Canon, and I have to say, I think I like this version the most of all I've seen or listened to. Because while it's all well and good to have fun with a 17th century European composer via the modern pop-rock idiom -- Eddie Van Halen meets Johann Pachelbel -- I think it's even more interesting to witness one classical musical tradition interpret another. This is true fusion:

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However, once one starts clicking through YouTube's astonishing treasure chest of Pachelbel renditions, it's hard to stop. Here's another fine young Korean man at work, accompanying his solo piano playing with some scatlike beat-box stylings. It's a beautiful thing to witness:

But for a truly incomprehensible cultural artifact, I don't think you can beat this Korean bank commercial, which features six gayageums, a trio of break dancers and more beat-boxing. There's a lot of division in the world, a lot of distrust between East and West, North and South, radicals and conservatives, but when I see Korean break dancers cavorting to the music of Johann Pachelbel, accompanied by half a dozen gayageum pluckers, I know that we truly are all living in one world, with at least the potential for global unity.

And as a bonus, here's one more YouTube gem -- possibly the first pop rendition of the Canon, by the Spanish psychedelic '60s pop band Los Pop Tops. Check out the hats!

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Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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