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Chinese Music

 

A Flower Moon Night on Spring River puts the listener in a happy mood as though he were looking at a graceful Oriental landscape painting; Moonful Autumn makes one feel the inner sorrow of a bleak autumn day; Ambushed From Ten Sides sets the listener on thunderous ancient battleground; All the World Rejoices stirs up a joy of celebration in whoever happens to get caught up in its festive rhythms. These are famous examples of traditional Chinese musical compositions, all of which can transport the listener into a whole new sensory world.

" Chinese music is built on a totally consistent harmonic system which controls melodic progression, orchestration and temperament use. It is perhaps the only major musical system in the world that has such all-encompassing requirements on all aspects of its music and, at the same time, allowing the largest flexibility in the acceptance of harmonic intervals into music."

The origins of Chinese music can be traced back to antiquity. Around 3,400 years ago, when European music was just experiencing its first rustlings of life, a complete musical theory and sophisticated musical instruments began appearing in Shang Dynasty China, owing largely to the orthodox ritual music advocated by Confucius. By the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), the imperial court set up a Music Bureau which was in charge of collecting and editing ancient tunes and folk songs.

Though remarkable for its stability, the music of China has not been stagnant and has all the variety and richness to be expected in the art of a vast, ancient and populous land.

The importance of Chinese music extends beyond China's national borders. The presence of Chinese musical instruments, as well as repertoire and style characteristics, is conspicuous in Korea, Japan, and throughout Southeast Asia.

At the same time, because of commercial contacts with Central Asia, foreign music entered China in the form, for example, of the pipa, or lute and the huqing, a vertically-held violin. Influenced by this foreign-originating music, composers of the time modified and improved Chinese music.

Chinese melody is ordinarily based on a 5-tone (pentatonic) scale, although additional pitches can be introduced. Expressiveness, however, is often less a function of melodic patterns than of the individual note, which carries cosmological connotations. This emphasis on the single tone raises timbre to a position of enormous importance, and Chinese musicians have employed with immense skill the range of coloristic possibilities afforded by their instruments and voices.

As with the tradition of Ba Gua (as with Eight Diagram of Daoism, traditional Chinese musical instrument would be made of mainly eight materials: skin (drum), gourd (sheng), bamboo (flute), wood (clapper), silk (Gu Zheng), earth/clay (xun), metal (gong) and stone (Qing - ch'ing).

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