Cheerful melodies from an orgel, also known as music box, fill the room when a spring is turned to play a disc, record or cylinder. Its soothing melodies serve as a therapy treatment for depression and sleep disorders.
In 2010, Orgel Gallery Tonin CEO Hwang Youngok, an ethnic Korean residing in Japan, opened a music box gallery in Samseongdong, Seoul, simply because she wanted to help Koreans understand and appreciate how spectacular the music box is. Whereas music boxes are merely considered jewelry boxes or toys in Korea, people have a better understanding of the instruments displayed in dozens of museums in Japan.
“Music boxes have a clear sound which makes me relaxed at the end of a long day. I barely play music CDs.”
Hwang has a wide range of music boxes from an antique orgel more than a century old to a limited edition box. Before Edison invented phonographs, the music box was the only audio instrument. Though the industry declined in the 1960s, some companies rebounded through M&A deals between 1985 and 1993, one of which was led by REUGE. Founded in 1865, the music box manufacturer boasts a wide variety of world class cylinder music boxes with a price range between KRW 2 and 200 million. Its unique products make a great wedding gift for young couples.
Hwang signed an exclusive contract with REUGE and the American Porter Music Box Company and her Gallery Tonin displays and sells their products. Among others, Hwang is particularly interested in music box therapy.
According to the Japanese Music Box Therapy Association, a music box can relieve stress and treat sleep disorders, depression, and migraine. Also, its high-frequency (about 102,000Hz) and low-frequency (3.75Hz) melodies activate brain, providing good prenatal care. Indeed, Princess Nashimoto Masako is known to have played the music box during the prenatal months.
At college, Hwang studied interior design. Years after, she got married to a Japanese man and opened an European antique gallery through which she first came across antique music boxes. Mesmerized by the music box that plays melodies at low and high frequencies, Hwang and her daughter earned a therapy certificate in 2010. Currently, her daughter, having graduated from Musashino Art University, works as a curator at Tonin.
“While running my business, I had a number of chances to meet with diverse people ranging from foreign students to couples to people who had parents-children relationship problems to whom I ended up giving advice. It was around that time when I first came across the music box and thought that the instrument could heal depression.”
Over the last several months, she held orgel concerts and therapy programs at adoption agencies, facilities for single mothers, hospitals, and courts. At these events, participants could heal themselves through beautiful tunes and sound vibrations of the music box.
“I was moved by the way so many people were healed. There is no better healing tool than music. When I feel heavy with worries, I go to bed with the music box on. The sound vibrations set me free.”
She is planning to expand her business by opening a bigger gallery near Hannamdong, which will be complete by July and to help more people improve their physical, emotional, and spiritual health through orgel therapy.
“I hope that my gallery would function as an oasis for people tired of life. Though I am not a manufacturer of the instrument itself, I want to create boxes out of najeon-chilgi, traditional Korean lacquerware with mother-of-pearl inlay, and sell them overseas. Also, I am looking forward to a music box that plays Korean folk songs like Arirang.”
Diverse music boxes in Tonin