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Many Silk and Bamboo musicians played in
music clubs in Shanghai during the 1940s,
which is now considered the golden era for this
genre of music. There were over 200 clubs
featuring Silk and Bamboo music in the city at
that time.
Unfortunately, it declined in Shanghai after the
1950s. One of the reasons was that almost all the
Dizi (bamboo flute)
great musicians were recruited to professional
troupes or conservatories. This resulted in a great
hinese musical instruments traditionally weakening of the folk clubs, which had been the
have been classified according to the materials mainstay of the genre.
used in their construction, namely, metal (jin),
stone (shi), silk (si), bamboo (zhu), gourd (pao),
clay (tu), skin (ge), and wood (mu). Combining
instruments of silk (pipa, erhu, and zheng have
silk strings) and bamboo (dizi or flutes)
produced the Chinese music genre, sizhu, or silk
and bamboo music. Sizhu has been compared to
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Western chamber music because it was most
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often played in small informal venues such as
teahouses, guild houses, or cultural centers
where a casual atmospheres was the norm.
"Silk and Bamboo," or sizhu, therefore,
refers to the ancient system in which
instruments were classified according to the
materials producing their sounds. "Silk"
instruments have silk strings, while "bamboo"
instruments are mostly bamboo flutes. Though
small percussion instruments, such as clappers
or bells are sometimes employed, Silk and
Bamboo music never uses loud percussion
instruments. Sizhu music has been described as
gentle, elegant, low-volume, and it is usually
played indoors.
Erhu (2-stringed bowed instrument)
For several thousand years Chinese culture was
dominated by the teachings of the philosopher
Confucius, who conceived of music in the
highest sense as a means of calming the passions
and of dispelling unrest and lust, rather than as a
form of amusement.
the Chinese believed that
music was meant to purify one's thoughts.
They also believed that sound influenced
the harmony of the universe.
A Chinese scholar-musician once said,
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"Though the qin player's body be in a
gallery or in a hall, his mind should dwell
with the forests and streams."
one of the most important
duties of the first emperor of each new
dynasty was to search out and establish that
dynasty's true standard of pitch.
Sheng (free reed mouth organ)
While each sizhu tradition is characterized by its
Yangqin (hammered zither)
instrumentation and timbral coloring peculiar to its
local origin, there is also a commonality. When
playing a piece, two or more performers will
simultaneously modify the same melody, sometimes
quite elaborately. Thus, improvisation is highly
valued among traditional sizhu performers as it is
these subtle changes that provide much of the
vitality of the music. Therefore, if a performer just
follows the score, the result may sound good but will
not be regarded as outstanding, for the key to great
sizhu music lies in the ornamentation a performer
adds according to his personal technique and taste.
Four distinct sizhu traditions can be
identified by their origins:
1) Shanghai centered Jiangnan sizhu ("silk
and bamboo of southern river")
2) Cantonese music
3) Nanqu or Nanyin which prevailed in
Fujian Province
4) Chaozhou sixian ("Chaozhou silk and
string") from the Chaozhou and Shantou
regions of Guangdong Province.
Pipa (4-stringed lute)
China Daily April 15, 2005