Traditional Chinese Music
Chinese music is as old as Chinese civilization.
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Instruments excavated from sites of the Shang Dynasty (circa 1766-1027 BC) include stone chimes, bronze bells, panpipes, and the sheng. When European Music was just experiencing its first breath of life, a complete musical theory and sophisticated musical instruments were already appearing in China. The orthodox ritual Music was advocated by Confucius, who conceived of Music in the highest sense as a means of calming the passions and of dispelling unrest and lust. By the Han Dynasty, the imperial court set up a Music Bureau, which was in charge of collecting and editing ancient melodies and folk songs. Because of commercial contacts with Central Asia, foreign Music was introduced in China and incorporated change and improvement in Chinese music. By the time of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, the court organized the Pear Garden Academy song and dance troupe which cultivated a large number of musicians and laid a firm foundation for Chinese music.
Melody and tone quality are prominent expressive features of Chinese music, and great emphasis is given to the proper articulation and inflection of each musical tone. Most Chinese music is based on the five-tone, or pentatonic, scale, but the seven-tone, or heptatonic scale, is also used, often as an expansion of a basically pentatonic core. The pentatonic scale was much used in older music. The heptatonic scale is often encountered in northern Chinese folk music.
The variations of rhythm, beat, tone quality, and embellishments in traditional Chinese music are highly distinctive and unlike their Western counterparts. This is mainly due to the unique sounds and playing styles of traditional Chinese musical instruments. Chinese musical instruments can be divided into four basic categories based on the method by which they are played. The first category includes the bowed-strings, or Hu Qin, which are made of wood with a piece of snakeskin stretched over the sound box. They have two strings, and the bow is permanently caught in between the two strings. The second category includes the plucked-strings, of which there are three types: dulcimers, lutes, and harps. The harp is made of either wood or bamboo with steel strings. In the past, the strings were made of silk. The third category encompasses the woodwind section. There are flutes, pipes, and Chinese trumpets which use double reeds like the oboe but sound like a trumpet. The final category encompasses the percussion section. The main instruments include drums, timpani, gongs, and cymbals. For some songs, bells, xylophones, tuned gongs, and the triangle are used. The percussion section is called the wu-ch'ang, or martial scene, in traditional Chinese opera.
In traditional Chinese orchestras, the combination of all the different instruments served to create a harmonious and beautiful auditory atmosphere. Unbelievingly beautiful Music was made and is still made. Many Chinese instruments can produce purely unique and amazing sounds. Some famous traditional pieces have been amassed below for your listening pleasure.
More about Chinese Music
- Chaoshan Music
Chaoshan Music or 'Cold Ducks Padding in the Water' This ancient form of folk music is popular in the plains area of Chaoshan in Guangdong Province and part of Fujian Province.
- Ensemble Music
Form & Compositions of Ensemble Music Traditional Chinese ensemble instrumental music has diverse origins, and forms of arrangement, performance and transmission.
- Field Songs
Field Songs These songs are also called field-planting or weeding drum songs.
- Folk Songs
Multiple-Voice Folksongs These are songs sung by two or more singers, who render two or more parts.
- Guangdong Music
Guangdong Music (Rain on the Plantain Leaves) This music, composed in the Guangzhou dialect area, enjoys a high reputation.
- Han Music
Han Music This type of music also originated among the people of the Central Plains, and was brought south by the migrating Hakka people.
Haozi In about the sixth century BC, there appeared the first collection of poems and songs in Chinese history 'The Book of Songs'.
- Mountain Songs
Mountain Songs This type of folksong is also spread widely all over China, and contains a rich variety of ingredients.
- New Ensemble Works
Newly Created Ensemble Works (Spring Moonlight on the Flowers) Apart from the traditional ensemble pieces, 20th century composers have made re-arrangements of older works.
- String and Wind Music
String & Wind Music from South of the Yangtze (Black Bamboo) This ensemble music originates in southern Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and has a special flavor of Shanghai style about it.
- Wind Music
Types of Percussion & Wind Music (One Hundred Birds Serenade the Phoenix) These are the most pervasive of Chinese musical forms.
Xiaodiao Also known as "xiaoqu", "liqu" etc., these folksongs flourished in urban areas and markets.
- Solo Music and Instruments
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 ...