自一九六○年代後，音樂學者們以「絲竹」這個詞作為一個普遍對室內器樂演奏的稱謂。最具代表性的是江南絲竹（蘇南地區），潮州弦詩（廣東省沿海地區），客家絲弦（廣東省中部地區），閩南南管（福建南部及台灣），廣東音樂（ 嶺南地區及香港）。這些地區性的小樂隊都是由使用絲弦的拉彈樂器及竹類吹管樂器所組成，傳統的南方樂隊主要是受清代中葉（公元一八○○）以來的北方弦索樂所影響演變而成。這些傳統的地區性音樂多年來部份地已經發展為帶有跨文化互動性質，特別是潮州音樂與客家音樂（他們許多曲調和樂器也是類似的）；客家音樂及廣東音樂（客家音樂的旋律亦被廣東作曲家應用）；以及廣東音樂和江南絲竹（自二十世紀初以來香港和上海兩個高度都市化地區的音樂家都有共同的音樂理念）。絲竹式音樂是普遍存在於家庭和樂社中，作為娛樂和個人修習，雖然，閩南音樂家有時也在佛教寺廟演奏，而江南音樂家也會在當地茶樓中獻技。各地區的曲目大抵都是一些稱為「曲牌」的舊曲調（命名曲調），旋律來自傳統戲曲及民間曲調。最普遍的就是「八板」，它是由六十八拍來組成八個樂句的器樂曲牌。 「八板」在華南已經非常有影響力，許多著名作品也以其為基調，如昭君怨、寒鴉戲水、出水蓮和餓馬搖鈴等。
Traditional Chinese Instrumental Music
Traditional Chinese instrumental music exists in several quite different types, notably: the solo genres, the gin zither and pipa lute repertoires being good examples; the regional indoor ‘silkbamboo’ chamber music traditions; and the numerous outdoor “‘blowing-hitting’ genres. The solo genres are reasonably well known to Chinese and Western audiences because these repertoires have become ‘nationalized’ and are also well recorded on LP and CD; but the regional ensemble types are not so well known outside of their districts, though in China this is beginning to change.
Music scholars from the 1960s onward have used the term ‘silk-bamboo’ (sizhu) as a general category in identification of the chamber music types. Most representative are Jiangnan sizhu (southern Jiangsu), Chaozhou xianshi (‘string poem’ music, coastal Guangdong province), Hakka sixian (‘silk string’, interior Guangdong province), Minnan nanguan (‘southern pipe’ music, southern Fujian province, Taiwan), and Cantonese yinyue (‘music’, southern Guangdong province, Hong Kong). These ensembles are dominated by relatively soft instruments with ‘silk’ strings (Lutes, fiddles and zithers) and flutes of ‘bamboo.’ Most southern traditions are related to the historic ‘string’ genre of North China (xiansuo), a chamber music type well documented by the mid-Qing dynasty (c1800) but in performance before this. Among these traditions there has been a good amount of cross-cultural interaction over the years, notably between Chaozhou and Hakka peoples (many of their tunes and instruments are similar), between Hakka and Cantonese peoples (Hakka melodies have been adapted by Cantonese composers), and between Cantonese and Jiangnan peoples (the two highly urbanized regions of Hong Kong and Shanghai having shared musical ideas since the early 20th century). Sizhu-type music is generally played in homes and in music clubs for entertainment and self-cultivation, though Minnan musicians also sometimes perform at Buddhist temples and Jiangnan musicians play in the local teahouses. The regional repertories are based upon a group of old tunes called gupai (‘named tunes’), melodies derived from traditional opera and other song-types. Most widespread is Baban (“Eight Beat”), an instrumental gupai of 68 beats, organized in eight phrases. The Baban form has been extremely influential in South China, serving as a foundation for such famous pieces as Zhaojun Yuan (“Lament of Zhao Jun”), Hanya Xishui (“Winter ravens playing in the water”), Chushui Lian (“Emerging lotus blossoms”) and Ema Yaoling (“Hungry horse shaking its bells’).
Broadly speaking, the southern sizhu music may be contrasted with chuida (“blowing-hitting’) music, which is dominated by louder wind instruments and percussion. This type of music is found throughout China, each region possessing its own variants and names, such as Sunan chuida (southern Jiangsu province), Shandong guchui (‘drumming-blowing’), Xi’an guyue (‘drum music’, Shaanxi province), Chaozhou daluogu (‘great gong-drum’) and Taiwanese beiguan (‘northern pipe’). These types are usually employed to perform for outdoor celebrations and processions, such as funerals, calendrical rites and religious ceremonies. In most traditions, wind instruments dominate, typically with the guanzi reed-pipe and dizi flute, supported by the sheng mouth-organ, or in other ensembles with the suona shawm (with or without the sheng). Percussion instruments include cymbals, gongs and drums, and in North China sets of ‘cloud gongs’ (yunluo). The music itself tends to be ‘lively’ (qingkuat) in its movement and bright in tone colour.
In my own research on the ‘silk-bamboo’ traditions of South China, I have found several characteristics to be of particular interest. First, the widespread local belief among the Chaozhou, Hakka and Minnan that their music preserves styles and practices dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907). In fact, some terminology and points of instrument design can be traced back to Tang sources, but there is no evidence of these exact musical traditions appearing before the early Ming period (1368-1662). Another belief among these cultures 1s that their music reflects the virtues of Confucian and other ancient ideologies. This I have found especially interesting because of the many different ways musicians have tried to explain this relationship: that five-piece ensembles, pentatonic modes and sometimes even certain phrase lengths are associated with (even determined by) auspicious Chinese numbers such as five and eight; that good embellishment style requires moderation and control (hanxu); that melodic variations should be realized in a spontaneous manner (ziran, a Daoist ideal); and, perhaps most important, that these traditional styles of music encourage virtuous behaviour (a specific Confucian goal). Chaozhou, Hakka and Minnan musicians indeed say that their refined music IS Confucian music (ruyue). The survival of these ancient ideologies in the musical traditions of coastal southeast China is the focus of my new book, Sizhu Instrumental Music of South China (E.J. Brill, 2008).
Alan R. Thrasher
University of British Columbia