Introduction to solo music and musical instruments
The ancient Chinese divided musical instruments into eight categories according to the materials used in their construction known as bayin or "eight tones."
Random photo: Impressions of China
They are metal (jin), stone (shi), silk (si), bamboo (zhu), gourd (pao), clay (tu), membrane (ge), and wood (mu). While big ensembles consisting of all the "eight tones" exist only in ritual contexts (such as Confucian ritual music), ensembles combining three to six different types of musical instruments are more common in modern Music practice. Instruments such as the bianquing (stone-chime, "stone"), bianzhong (bell-chime, "metal"), and zhu (wooden box, "wood") are rarely heard today since they were used with imperial court Music and ritual. However, instruments associated with folk Music such as the erhu (a two-stringed fiddle), dizi (a transverse bamboo flute), pipa (a pear-shaped plucked lute) and zheng (a 16-or 21-string plucked zither), have gained increasing popularity in modern times.
These instruments fall into either the "silk" or "bamboo" category (e.g., the dizi is a bamboo aerophone, whereas the pipa, erhu, and zheng are silk-stringed chordophones). Combining These two has yielded one of the most popular Chinese music genres ¨C sizhu or silk and bamboo music. Sizhu is comparable to Western chamber Music and is commonly heard in teahouses, guild houses, or cultural centers where casual and informal atmospheres are the norm. Comprising mainly but not exclusively stringed instruments and bamboo flutes, the sizhu uses various two-string fiddles of the huqin family, a variety of plucked lutes, bamboo flutes, sheng (a mouth organ), yangqin (a hammered dulcimer), and a number of percussion instruments. 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; and 4) Chaozhou sixian ("Chaozhou silk and string") from the Chaozhou and Shantou regions of Guangdong Province. While each sizhu Tradition is characterized by its instrumentation and timbral coloring peculiar to its local origin, they are all heterophonic in their simultaneous use of elaborately modified versions of the same melody by two or more performers. Improvisation and ability to alter linear rendition are highly valued among traditional sizhu performers as it is These subtle changes that provide much of the vitality of the music.
Another major traditional ensemble Music genre is called chuida or "wind and percussion". Unlike sizhu, most chuida Music is played outdoors and is sometimes processional. About five major geographically divided chuida musical traditions can be found in Mainland China: three in the south (Zhedong luogu, Sunan chuida, and Chaozhou daluo) and two in the north (Hebei chuige and Jinbei guyue). They tend to use loud instruments including various gongs, cymbals, drums, suona and guanzi (multiple reed oboes), and bamboo flutes. In some areas string instruments are also added; these include the huqin, erxian (both 2-strubged fiddles), pipa and sanxian (plucked lutes). Rooted in rural areas, chuida is closely tied to people¡¯s day-to-day life, and performed on important occasions, such as marriage, funeral, religious rites, and folk festivals.
Beginning in this century, the solo aspect of Chinese instrumental Music has rapidly developed in Han musical culture due largely to Western music influence, instrument refinement and the rise of professional orchestras and ensembles. Once considered the domain of folk music, instruments like the pipa, erhu, zheng, and dizi are now systematically taught in conservatories and have become favorite solo instruments for new compositions. Inventing new playing techniques and pursuing virtuosity became a trend among professional musicians who encouraged composers to write grander, more difficult pieces for solo instruments. Western influence has also played a big role in shaping modern Chinese solo musical styles. Idioms, such as the symphony and concerto, and concepts, such as harmony and chromaticism, have not only been adapted into Music composition and concert performance but also influenced instrument making. A large scale "instrument reform" campaign undertaken from the 1950s to ¡®70s has yielded a large crop of reformed or newly designed instruments that have increased the dynamic and octave range by adding extra frets or strings to traditional instruments. Steps were taken in chromatic or equal temperament tuning with some conventionally pentatonically tuned instruments such as the yangqin (hammered dulcimer), zheng (board zither), and sheng (mouth organ). These modified instruments are more suitable for the 20th-century concert hall music (guoyue) characterized by large ensembles incorporating Western harmony and orchestration but grounded in traditional Chinese pentatonic structure.
Today a handful of Chinese musical instruments remain almost intact and one such example is the qin, a seven-string plucked zither. The qin is one of the oldest Chinese music instruments and has long been associated with literati and Confucianists. The ancient ideology of qin, highlighting the educational and meditative functions of music, closely parallels those of ancient Greek Music and the Indian Brahmanic tradition. Music performance is ideally not to be considered a profession, but rather an avocation; one practices Music for its qualities of illumination or self-cultivation, not for remuneration. Since musical knowledge is considered a scholarly activity in qin Music context, the qin player usually spends considerable time studying Music theory and exchanging his thoughts with others in a qin ¡®club¡¯. This will eventually benefit the performers ability to dapu (literally "striking notation"), unique process of revealing ancient qin Music through the performers creative interpretation based on ancient qin tablature. Nowadays the qin is not as popular as the erhu, dizi, or zheng, it nonetheless remains a musical symbol of Chinese literati culture.
More about Chinese Music
Banhu Similar to the erhu in shape, this instrument gets its name from the fact that the covering of the sound box is a wooden shingle.
Dizi (Scenic Suzhou) This transverse bamboo flute has a blowing hole, a stop hole and six finger holes.
Dongbula This is a plucked stringed instrument of the Kazak ethnic group.
Erhu (Two Springs Reflect the Moon) This instrument, also called the huqin, was known as the xiqin during the Song Dynasty.
- Horse-headed Qin
Horse-headed Qin The top of the neck of this stringed instrument is carved in the shape of a horse's head, hence the name.
Pipa (Surrounded on All sides) The earliest form of this instrument known appeared in the Qin Dynasty.
Qin (The Wild Goose Lands on the Smooth Sand) This instrument is also called guqin or the seven-stringed qin.
Zheng (Mountain Torrent) The zheng has a five-note scale, with its musical range reaching four octaves.