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History of Music in China

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Despite what language you speak, or what country you are from there is one language that every single person can comprehend. This language is known as music. Music has developed into multiple different forms and tells a wide range of differing stories. The development of music itself is a story that is interwoven with the history of a region. Culture and society can be explained through the analysis and development of their music. good thesis music and myth seem to be the universal constants

Music has played a more prominent role in the development of certain societies. In Chinese society there has always been an emphasis on the importance of music. Evidence indicates that a well-developed musical culture existed in China as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1075-221 B.C.). It seems that “every feudal state, dynasty and republic throughout Chinese history had established an official musical organization or bureau of music” (Liang 87).

There are numerous instruments that are prominent in classical Chinese music. Many of which can be dated back to the earliest dynasties of China. Many of these instruments have evolved over time and still exist in a modern form. In a classical Chinese Orchestra there are four sections. These sections are: the bowed strings, the plucked strings, the winds and the percussion. Each dynasty contributed different forms of instruments to the growing collection of instruments in use. During the Sui dynasty there was a distinction made over which instruments are better for outdoor performance and instruments better for indoor performances. Excellent and useful description

During the Qin (221 B.C- 207 B.C) and Han (206 B.C- 220 A.D.) dynasties a multitude of instruments were created and introduced to the royal court. Zithers, panpipes, vessel flutes and bells were all new instruments introduced during this period of time. Zithers are rectangular, plucked instruments that create a sound similar to a violin. Panpipes and vessel flutes are both members of the winds family and bells are a percussion instrument that are stuck with metal mallets to produce a note. During this time period foreign instruments were also introduced to China. The most important of these instruments were the end-blown di flute, the double-reed oboe and the plucked pipa lute. This period provided a plethora of instruments that could be mastered and further developed to create new instruments. Referen ce

From the end of the Han Dynasty to 589 A.D “China was no longer a unified empire and in its place reigned a number of contending kingdoms and states, the majority of which hardly ruled for more than fifty years before being overthrown by another faction” (History of China). China was re-united under the Sui dynasty in 581. The Sui had a short lived rule and were followed by the Tang dynasty. During the Tang dynasty China experienced a long period of economic, political and cultural growth. Foreign musicians were enticed by the brilliant capital center and growing sophistication of Tang China. Under the Tang the first music academy, Liyuan, “was instituted for performance and training of professional young musicians” (Liang 90). During the Tang dynasty, Yanyue began to overshadow the tradition banquet music that had been in use since the Zhou dynasty. And do you see a cultural meaning here?

Yanyue is elegant and refined music; it was the music of the aristocracy. Yanyue was “a court musical performance for the nobles and gentries during a state function and during days of festivity” (Development of Chines Music). I tried correcting the spelling on Chinese in prior () but to no avail – Yanyue was only one of ten musical divisions that had developed during the Tang dynasty. These divisions where call the shibu ji. The division was made created by the different regional and international styles that were part of Chinese music. However, into the early 8th century, music would no longer be divided by these characteristics. Rather music was divided into two key style; sitting music and standing music. references?

The standing music was “performed mostly outdoors, had a standard of repertory, and included from sixty to one-hundred and eight musicians and dancers” (Zhuang) . Instruments that were used for standing music were often larger than those used for sitting music. Instruments such as the harp, gong and double-reed oboe were commonly heard during standing music performances. Sitting music was more of an ensemble created for quality rather than volume. Sitting music required much less musicians and often had from three to twelve musicians and dancers. Newly composed music of the time period had overshadowed imported musical genres from Samarkand, Bukhara, South Asia, India and Korea. Great but references?

A growth in industry and commerce forced changes in art. Good With growth in industry came a “growing bourgeoisie population and a society that was more mobile” (Xia). From the late 900’s to the later years of the Yuan, China was rapidly and drastically changing. Music was always created to illustrate a story and emit emotions. Now, lyrics and poetry were being put to music. There were four major vocal genres; the poetic ci song, the art song, narrative music and zaju variety musical drama.

The ci was usually two stanzas in length and was a new type of poetry created and perfected during the Song dynasty. The ci was in irregular meter, unlike the popular shi poetry of the Tang dynasty which had a uniform amount of words per line. A ci was constructed by fitting words into an existing tune. The “filling in” practice of a tradition ci was replaced by ci poets who chose to use newly composed melodies for their poetry. The content of a ci was similar to what you would find in a modern day ballad, or love song.

The art song had two key types. The first type of art song, the xiaoling, was similar to a ci in structure and content. Xiaoling was popular during the 12th and 13th centuries. Xiaoling, similar to ci and shi, is placed to pre-existing tunes. The key difference between xiaoling art songs and ci is that xiaoling follows the form of qu poetry. Qu poetry “is popular poetry written by educated poets. The qu poem usual has rhymed line endings and is largely based on Taoistic themes” (Liang). Xiaoling was usually performed by a single solo artist and accompanied by a wooden clapper. The second type of art son is the changzhuan, or drum song. This form was developed during the Northern Song period. Changshuan was distinguished by its formal structure and instrumental accompaniment. The formal structures followed a pattern of “introduction, A, A, B, B, C, C and finale; and “introduction, A, B, A, B” (Liang). The musical instruments used in changzhuan included a single-framed stick drum, wooden clapper and transverse flute. References here and above?

These instruments were also found in the Narrative Song genre. During the Song dynasty the zhugongdiao was the most significant form of narrative songs. This form of narrative song was introduced to the Northern Song capital of Kaifeng sometime between 1068 and 1094. “A lengthy historical or romantic tale was told through the alternation of narration and song, which was accompanied by instrumentation similar to that of the drum song” (Zhuang). The final genre during this time was the Zaju, or variety musical drama. “From the 11th to 13th centuries, we begin to see a culminating fusion between folk songs, drama, narrative music, juggling and acrobatics to form a stage dramatic art” (Liang). The zaju was a combination of all these artistic elements. This combination of arts opened the doors for the development of other staged musical productions. In large cities, such as the Northern Song capital Bainliang, there were as many as fifty theatres that put on daily performances.

The script of a zaju, along with all musical forms of the time, allowed an opportunity for social commentary and characterized the philosophical and social attitudes of China during the 13th and 14th centuries. “14th century China under Mongol rule offered limited and miserable opportunities for the educated Han Chinese as a whole” (History of China). This period of time turned many intellectuals toward artistic and dramatic endeavors. Writing and composing music became a way to escape the political and social upheaval of China.

The Ming and Qing dynasties were a period of highly productive musical development. Peking opera arose in the 18th century and was fully developed in the mid-19th century. Peking opera was extremely popular during the Qing dynasty and is regarded as one of the most valuable aspects of Chinese culture. Performers of Peking opera wear elaborate and colorful costumes so that they are the only focal point on stage. The music of Peking opera is divided into two categories; Xipi and Erhuang. In Xipi, the jinghu is tuned to keys of A and D. In Erhuang the jinghu is tuned to the keys of C and G.

The melodies are fixed-tune and include many percussion patterns. The lead melodic instrument in a Peking opera ensemble in the jinghu. The jinghu is “small, high-pitched, two-string spikes fiddle” (Development of Chines Music). Percussion instruments in the ensemble include the daluo, xiaoluo and naobo. Whoever plays the gu and ban, a small high pitched drum and clapper, is the conductor of the entire ensemble.

By the 19th century “the creativity that had emerged during the 18th century seemed to be replaced by cliché, imitation and conservatism” (Zeng). Musical developments of this period occurred in urban centers, such as Peking, and were usually folk driven. Music was taken from farms and villages, but polished for city consumption. In Peking the important forms of urban music were tanci, lianhualao and bajiaogu. These were typically performed outdoors for the enjoyment of the public. Indoor performances were catered to an audience comprised of wealthy merchants and officials. Kun and Peking operas became particular in these venues during the late 19th century and 20th century. This is interesting – what do you think that said about the culture? The Qing in general? Fit it into the broader context

Up until the Communist takeover of China, these genres and performances remained widely popular. During the Cultural Revolution musical composition and performance were greatly restricted. A genre of music known as guoyue was the most government-promoted genre. Guoyue is performed in public in order to encourage national pride. Guoyue was “a form of soft, harmonic, generic, pan-Chinese music” (Zeng). At the height of the Mao era, guoyue accelerated at the political level into revolutionary music. It was not until after the Cultural Revolution that musical institution were reinstated and musical composition and performance were revived.

Since China opened up to the Western World, Chinese music has been heavily influence by western music. “This close interaction between the western world and China has ushered in a new era of development and prosperity for Chinese music” (Development of Chines Music). A rise of new music and the growth of pop music have been two of the most important aspects in development in Chinese music.

Pop music is also a genre popular in the culture of the United States. Other popular genres in the United states include hip-hop, rap, rock and punk rock. Due to the recent influence of the Western world on China, all of these genres have become to bud in modern Chinese music. Cantonese rap is diverse in cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The forefather of Chinese rock is Cui Jian. Cui Jian is responsible for producing the rock song “Nothing to My Name” in the 1980s.Punk rock became popular in china around 1994-1996 with the first Chinese punk artist He Yong. A surprisingly popular genre that is developing in China, particularly in the mainland is Black metal. Did you listen to any?

As a musician, I can appreciate the more classical side of Chinese music history. There are many instruments and notable compositions credited to Chinese composers and early musicians. Music in China has developed from an ensemble of basic instruments to a complex production, as seen in Peking operas. From this music form to the modern genres of China today is a long and drastic trail. My research has led me to create an aspiration of one day attending a Chinese music festival, such as “Spring in Shanghai” or “The Beijing Chorus Festival”.

Works Cited

“Development of Chines Music.” March 2011. China Culture. 21 March 2012 <http://arts.culture-china.com/en/93Arts9834.html>. History of China. n.d. 21 March 2012 <http://www-chaos.umd.edu/history/time_line.html>. Liang, M.Y. Music of the Billion: An introduction to Chines Musical Culture. 1996. Qiu, Huai Sheng. “Chinese Traditional Music in Greater Vancouver.” Canadian Folk Music 2005: 1-5. Xia, D. “A New Theory of Modern History of China.” Shanghai: The Press of East China Normal University (2010). Zeng, S. “China’s Mass Music.” Beijing: the Press of Communication University of
China (2003). Zhuang, Y. One hundred history of China’s Music. 2010. 21 March 2012 <http://www.sh-symphony.om/aboutus.asp>.

This is an outstanding overview – I would have liked a few more footnotes but that is minor. What is more important is the need to tie this to the culture as a whole. So for example I was hoping you would see the trite forms that emerge in the Qing as tied to their refusal to iniate change in any cultural form and thus, being a highly repetitive society without originality, a society that was doomed. The music as you lead me to believe without ver going there, is another example A-

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