Music of China MUSI 3721Y University of Lethbridge, Calgary Campus John Anderson
Importance of Written Language and History • A non-alphabetic ideographic script meant that Chinese could be used by neighbors with totally different languages • Classics written centuries earlier could be understood by contemporary readers
Importance of Written Language and History • This led to a great regard for history, high status for scholar-officials, and an imperial state system based on bureaucracy • Each dynasty had its own historical records, much of which provided musical documentation
Highly Specific Musical Systems with Codification at Many Levels • This includes stock character types in theatrical genres, particular musical styles used in specific contexts, instruments used in standardized ensembles, solo instrumental traditions, each with its own special notation, repertoire, and idiomatic technique
Music and Politics • Music and politics have long been interconnected • Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) believed that proper music was capable of promoting proper behavior • “Extravagant music” (i.e., loud, fast music) could stimulate excessive, licentious behavior • Mao Zedong also believed in music as an important educational tool for the propagation of state ideology, rather than the expression of virtue
Heterophony • The Jiangnan sizhu ensemble, like Middle Eastern groups, comprises a small number of different musical instruments • The music is heterophonic, for there is no harmony, just different renditions of the same tune, each distinguished by its own sound texture and by ornamentation specific to the instrument • Try to pick out the tune by humming it, if possible • Can we create heterophony?
Liu Shui (Flowing Water) • The performer is Professor Wu Wenguang of the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, the foremost qin player in China today • A rhapsodic piece of descriptive music • Portrays a waterfall cascading from a mountain top, falling through various levels of rock, and then becoming a rapids eventually running out to the sea
Liu Shui (Flowing Water) • Almost all qin compositions have programmatic titles • Typical form: • Sanqi (Intro.) • Rudiao (Expo.) • Ruman (Develop) • Weisheng (Closing) • From this story arose the phrase “zhi yin,” literally meaning “a good friend who understands my music,” and it is still popularly used today to signify profound friendship.
Excerpt from Hua San Liu(Embellished Three-Six) • Beginning and conclusion played • Heterophonic texture • Instruments include: • dizi (transverse flute) • yangqin (hammer dulcimer) • pipa (4-stringed, plucked lute) • erhu (two-stringed fiddle) • Begins slowly and increases • Improvised embellishments on the basic melody
Three Examples of Peking Opera arias • The narrative aria • Usually used to provide narration in an unemotional manner • The dramatic aria • Free rhythm • Fast tempo • Used to reveal a character’s psychological state • The lyrical aria • Slow tempo • 4/4 meter • Often melismatic
We Workers Have Strength • Words with a message • Solo-chorus interchanges • Symphonic orchestration • Western harmony laced with Chinese pentatonic themes • Typical of the 1950s • Synthesis of Western Protestant hymns, modern school songs, Chinese folk songs and Russian revolutionary songs • Short, simple • Use Western scales
Discussion Questions • How could we say that minority music affected mainstream music in our country the way it did in China? • To which Western musical instrument would you compare qin practice, and why? • What are some comparisons in the Western music repertoire to programmatic pipa music?
Discussion Questions • What could be a Western equivalent to Jiangnan sizhu? (jazz, jam sessions?) • In what ways can we compare jingju to Western opera or a Broadway musical? • What are some Western equivalents to ban in the construction of new songs and works?
Discussion Questions • How is music used for propaganda in our country? • Or, how is music used to instill values in our country? • Why did Communists censure Confucian musical practices? • Conversely, why did the Communists during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) utilize Western musical practices such as orchestration, harmony, ballet, and scenic design, in spite of being anti-Western?