The History and Aesthetics of Chinese Folk Music Instruments
Chinese Music Conservatory
Director of Centre of Chinese Music History Studies
Hepingli Lane, Beijing, on Mid-Autumn Festival of 2007
[I] Retrace Folk Music Instruments in the River of Music History
Folk music instruments possess very unique historical values in the river of music history in China.
The origin of Chinese music history can be traced back to about eight thousand years ago, when bone flute of Jiahu Lake was discovered in historical relics.
After eight thousand years’ development, it is the instruments and their combinations which exist as the materialized morphology of music that allow people of current era to be able to hear the tunes and melodies which have enlightened and excited every Chinese in each historical period about their nation.
Thanks to its enlightening music culture which originated from Zhou Dynasty when people then were already enjoying the beauty of bells and chime stones, people of China can publicize and show off its ancient culture and traditions in the world of different nationalities and cultures in the name of descendents of “nation of rites and music.”
Only with the instruments and their combinations unearthed in century 5BC from the tomb of Yi, King of Zeng State, can Chinese people of current era display to the world its achievements in studies on melodies, instruments, vocality and advanced metal casting technologies of ancient Qin Dynasty, which are no lower than the “Big Four Inventions” of ancient China in terms of excellence.
Among ancient cultures of the world, Chinese culture is the only one that has never been interrupted in its development. In this culture, it 1s also the folk instrumental music which is enjoyed by not only Chinese but also people of other parts of the world that is inherited and passed on from generation to generation in the international cultural communication and exchanges, and that is rich in product types, complete in forms and colorful in contents and becomes the mainstream music type.
When human beings wanted to use music to reach certain communication with extraterrestrial civilization, and when America decided to bring some music with the spacecraft to be launched on Aug. 20″, 1977 so as to get in touch with other possible cultures in the space, the only Chinese music selected was that of gugin, considered to be instrumental music that represents the “mingle of human consciousness with the space.” There are over 150 types or saying over 700 pieces of music score books passed on in the history. If different editions of the same score books are considered, the amount reaches over 3,000 pieces. Scriptures about gugin music are most abundant ones in the Chinese ancient music field. Gugin music 1s the example that can show the highest level of the music cultures in China or the earth in fields of melodies, music pieces, techniques and music philosophy thousands of years ago.
According to music antiques still existent nowadays, there were already instruments such as bone flutes, bone whistles, pottery xuns, clay drums, clay bells, stone gings (chimes), tuo drum. Such instruments were also recorded in such ancient Qin scriptures such as “Shang Shu” and “Lushi Chunqiu (A Work of Diversified Subjects Compiled by Lu Buwei, an official in Qin Dynasty)”. As for the performance types of those instruments, there were related recordings in “Guanzi— Qin Zhong Jia”. It says that the last king of Xia Dynasty (around 16″ century BC)—Jie—once organized “thirty thousand female musicians” to play “in the morning at Gate Duan”, which echoed all around the thoroughfare.” “Lushi Chunqiu—She Yue (Big-Scaled Music)” writes, “Jie of Xia Dynasty and Zhou of Yin Dynasty liked to organize big-scaled and exaggerated music, played by big drums, gings, pipes and xiaos (vertical bamboo flutes), etc. Such recording was no exceptions to some legendary exaggerations, but it is an unforgettable description of the historical happening when people of that time searched for luxury and over-enjoyment by organizing super-big bands to make instruments’ performance. When the time reached Zhou Dynasty, there emerged for the first time the classification of instruments of “Ba Yin (music sounds produced by ancient instruments of eight different materials—metal, stone, string, bamboo, gourd, clay leather and wood)” due to too many types of instruments. Though the activity of “yue” at that time was a combination of performance types as poems’ singing, instrumental music and dancing, music performance played by various instruments was still the most important among activities for offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors. Descriptions in “Collection of Poems—Odes to Zhou Dynasty—You Ye” such as “Yingtian county drums and Taoqing Zhuyu, are ready for performance, and so are xiaos and pipes” show the importance of instrumental music in such activities. In descriptions in “Rites of Zhou Dynasty—Chun Guan—Zhong Bo”, music masters responsible for instrumental performances (or dancing music performances as well) covered the largest proportion of the band. Among works in “Collection of Poems”, combinations of gins and sehs, xun s and chis, chimes and drums are popular and organized regularity.
In Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, not only instruments developed even more, but also performance types became more colorful and bands bigger in sizes. Maybe it was due to the prosperity of instrumental music in activities held by nobles of various states that Mo Z1, a great thinker of the ancient Qin period and founder of Mohism, sharply questioned such activities like this—*“super bells and drums are stricken, gins and sehs are played, yus and shengs are blown, but where can people get their clothes, food and other properties?” He even advocated “no music activity” any more. In the tomb of Yi, king of Zeng State in the early stage of Warring States, people found not only one big-scaled chime-and-qing band in the Middle Hall of consisted of 115 pieces of instruments, including 65 bel/ sets (45 pieces of yong chimes, 19 pieces of niu chimes, and one piece of King Bo of Chu), 32 chime sets, 3 drums, 7 sehs, 4 shengs, 2 pai xiaos and 2 chis, but also a 10-instrument band in the music hall of the tomb consisted of 5 sehs, 1 gin, 1 jun bell (also called jive-strings), 2 shengs and one drum. At that time, in the aesthetics on instrumental music, people preferred not only “Ya Yue (court music)” which searched for “harmony” and “happiness” of music, but also the hedonistic music which was mainly for “Guo Yu—Zhou Yu Xia”) (“Guo Yu” is the earliest work in China about histories of different states) as “astonishing when music is played.”
Another great thinker at the end of Warring States period Xun Z1 (also called Xun Kuang, known for his doctrine of man’s natural wickedness), described in his work “On Music” different artistic conception created in his minds by different instruments in “court music.” He said, “Drums sound so grand and magnificent, be//s so sonorous, yus and shengs solemn, pipes and yue exciting, xun and chi far-reaching, sehs peaceful, and gins elegant.” Xun Z1 also described the artistic conceptions that “yue—court music” created in his mind “as clear as the sky and as wide as the earth and its far-reaching influence is forever.” It is fair to say that such majestic music phenomenon and artistic conceptions were directly contributed by instrumental performances of various tones, modes and rich combinations of instruments.
The important development of instrumental music in Qin and Han dynasties was mainly in that played in military events and rituals, i.e., “drums played to the flying of army flags.” (“Han Shu (History on Han Dynasty)”). This kind of military music played on horses was classified as “Gu Chui Music (ensemble of wind and percussion music), which again included “Gu Chui” and “Heng Chui”. “If there are xiao and jia (a kind of whistle made of reed), it is called Gu Chui and normally used on the road for royal gathering.” “If there are clarion and horns, it is called Heng Chui and normally used in military events and played on horses.” (recorded in “Beidi Music” of “Yuefu Shiyji (Poem Collection of Royal Music Bureau)’). Gu Chui music was widely used in many social events, not only in the marching ceremonious of guards of honor, but also in banquets held for officials. Due to different occasions and organization of the instrumental bands, there are also classifications of Huangmen Guchui, Qi Chui (performance on horses), Duanxiao Naoge (music played by short flutes and nao) and Xiao Gu (music by xiao and drums).
In periods of Wei, Jin and South-North-Dynasty, instrumental music achieved considerable development via Qingshang Music activities. Instruments used for accompaniment in Qingshang Three Tones (Ping Tone, Qing Tone and Seh Tone) are normally different combinations of sheng, flute, jie, gin, seh, zheng, pipa and chi. In dancing and singing performances in Qingshang Three Tones which were normally in three-chapter patterns, the beginning was normally instrumental music chapter called “xian (string).” Meanwhile, in the chapter named as “ge xian (literally songs and strings)’, instrumental music continued, and exerted its important influence as comparison to the singing paragraphs. At this period of time, some solo performance type by instruments like gin, zheng, and sheng also derived from some band performances of Xianghe Daqu and Qingshang Music, and was named as “Dan Music,” and formed its own repertoire works. For example, gin work “Guangling San” (also named “Guangling Zhix1’) was one solo piece derived from them. Qin work “You Lan (Fragrant Lily)”, which is the earliest qin piece recorded by character notes so far, was passed on to Tang Dynasty by Qiu Ming (493-590) from Huiyji of Liang State in South Dynasty. It was later spread to Japan, and its score tablature was brought back to China from Japan. Chinese gin musicians re-scored it for performances so that its ancient tunes were recovered. The solo character of qin performances greatly strengthen since gin music has been considered as music for scholars. We can still know a little about the instrumental performances and bands’ organization of this period of time from some music relics excavated.
In South-North-Dynasty, Shui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty, people had more music exchanges with exotic regions, which brought up more types of instruments as well as diversified organizations of bands in various dancing and singing performances. Duan Anjie of Tang Dynasty said there were around 300 types of instruments at that time in his work of “Yuefu Zalu (Tittle-Tattle about Royal Music Bureau).” The organization of Tang’s bands diversified a lot, among which Qing Music Band, Guizi Music Band and Xiliang Music Band were most typical. Guchui Music still maintained its characters since Han and Wei dynasties, but changed somewhat in the usage and organization of instruments. For example, there were different types simply in instruments like bili, drums and clarions. Instruments used by bands of Tang Dynasty mainly included pipa, ftve-strings, tan zheng, chu zheng, sheng, xiao, flute, bili, vertical kung-hung, lying kung-hung, clapper, jie drum, maoyuan drum, dutan drum, dana drum, waist drum, jilou drum, jie drum, qi drum, dan drum, he drum, bei, brass cymbals, gin, seh, zhu, bell, ging, ruan (a kind of pipa), ve, xun, etc. In stone walls of the tomb for Li Shou (cousin of Li Yuan, first emperor of Tang Dynasty), there were inscriptions of pictures showing performances of Zuobu Ji (sitting professional female dancer or singer in ancient China) and Libu Ji (standing professional female ones), which visualized the organization of instrumental bands of Yanyue Music at that time. Besides historical recordings, we could also see the organization of various bands on music relics like frescoes and pottery-cotta figurines of Shui and Tang dynasties maintained so far.
In solo instrumental performances, ancient gin always maintained its unique beauties and artistic charms. Xue Yijian, a gin official serving in Tang court during the reign of Tianbao, wrote seven articles named as “Qin Jue (literally secrete scores of qin).” The qin piece “Li Sao (the title of a long poem authored by Qu Yuan of the state of Chu during the Epoch of Warring States in which Qu Yuan vented his grievances for being disparaged and discarded by the king)” composed by Chen Kangshi, a qin musician in late Tang Dynasty, was also passed on today. Solo performances in Tang Dynasty were of high level in many instruments based on existent scripts. In the volume “Pipa” of “Yuefu Zalu’, it described the competition of pipa between Kang Kunlun and Duan Shanben in Xi’an city. In this story, one of the musicians played solo pipa piece backward from the end to the beginning. It also thought highly of the skills of pipa performances by Cao Gang and Pei Xingnu by writing “Cao Gang has his excellent ‘right-hand performance’ and Pei Xingnu is good at ‘left-hand skills’.” In volumes of “zheng”, “kung-hung”, “flute”, “bili”, “five strings”, “fangxiang”, “ji ou”’, “qin”, “ruanxian”, “jie drum”, “drum”, and “clapper’’, the author wrote all kinds of excellent performers at that tme. Nan Zhuo of Tang also wrote the book “Jie Drum Lu (On Jie Drum)” to retell stories about the performers and their audience, and also recorded about 100 jie drum works. The long poem “Pipa Xing (Pipa Song)” written by Bai Juyi described vividly the great artistic charms of pipa performance when it reached certain level.
Slightly touching and then plucking,
Playing first “Ni Shang” and then “Liu Yao.”
Bold strings-they pattern like the dashing rain,
Lighter strings-they sound like lovers’ whispers. C
hattering and pattering, pattering and chattering,
As pearls, large and small, on a jade patter fall.
One time, they sound smooth as the chirping of golden oriole under the valley flowers;
The other time, they become chopped water fighting to run through the ice.
Like the water is stopped by ice, strings were frozen as well;
And sounds gradually pause in the middle.
Thus, depressing sentiments revolve around persons present;
No music now, but more exciting when silent.
Suddenly, a silver pot breaks, and bursts out the water;
In such a power, it is like iron cavalry charging without fear.
Here comes the end when plectrum plucks in the middle;
Four strings create one sound of cracking.
No voice from the audience on this boat and either on that boat;
Only the autumn moonlight whitely reflects itself in the middle of river!
Bai Juyi also wrote one poem “Wu Xian Tan (Five Strings)” to especially depict the beauty of solo performance of five-stringed pipa.
Listen to the five strings;
Sad, miserable, and then powerful.
One or two pieces played with plectrum;
Like pearls, large and small, on a jade patter fall.
Sounds of battlefield echo around—cooling the blood in the skin;
Miserable like when hunger in stomach and aching in bones.
Now, long after music ends;
Still nobody talks, in sadness.
In accordance to the advanced development of the instrumental music performances in Tang Dynasty, there emerged also scores used by different kinds of instruments in this dynasty, such as Jian Zi Pu (Scores in Simplified-Word)” for ancient gins, Bi Li Score, Zheng Score, Flute Score and Jie Drum Score.
In Five Dynasty Period, among various vocal and music entertainment activities held by the powerful officials and rich and influential clans, instrumental performances were important ones and were mainly played by female musicians. The painting “Han Xizai Evening Banquet” by the court painter Gu Hongzhong of South Tang State during the Five Dynasty Period provided to us the most visualized proof of such kind of performances. One of the scenes in the painting showed a “pure organ instrument” band (including 3 pieces of bili and 2 flutes) formed by five professional female musicians serving in nobles’ families were performing, while one of the noble guests was clapping beside. Another scene showed guests and the host got together and enjoyed the solo performance of pipa with great concentration. In the tomb of Wang Jian in the Early Shu State of Five Dynasty Period, people found 24 vivid pictures on three sides of his coffin showing professional dancers dancing with lively and delicately painted facial expressions and gestures, which was quite rare in the ancient relics related to music. The organization of their bands showed traces of the integration of two kinds of bands—the guizi music band imported from Turkestan regions (currently Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region) and Qing Music band—the representative of traditions passed on from Han and Wei dynasties.
Stringed instruments achieved very obvious development after Tang and Song dynasties. There were already xi gin and zha zheng in Tang dynasty, and some urheen-like instruments played with bow made of horse tails in Song Dynasty. So-na which was introduced from the North in Jin and Yuan periods greatly reformed the performance types of Guchui Music. So-na became an important instrument in military bands and various Guchui Music activities in folklore.
Among instruments of Song and Yuan dynasties, there were generally two categories: one was for those played in independence; and the other was for those played in operas. Royal court Jiaofang Music was the typical one among independent instrumental performances, and the organization of bands inherited the tradition of Tang Dynasty. However, it is noteworthy that ji gin, a new instrument in Jiaofang Music Band, was played at that time with most performers within the band, even beyond the number of pipa performers which used to be the highest in traditional band. This shows that bow-and-stringed instruments began to hold important status in bands. Among folklore music activities in Song Dynasty, there were diversified performance types, such as “Xi Music” and “Qing Music” specialized in bamboo-and-stringed instruments. In “Xi Music” performances, common instruments included xiao, pipe, zheng, ji gin and fangxiang; while in “Qing Music” performances, performers normally used flute, sheng, bili, clapper, fangxiang, ti drum and zhazi, etc. In “San Music” performances of Song Dynasty, the combinations of instruments were also very colorful. From the San Music murals excavated from Song tombs in Baisha of Yu Zhou, we could see 11 professional music lady performers using 2 pieces bili, and horizontal flute, narrow waist drum, clapper, drum, sheng, pai xiao, five strings and xiao. This organization was almost same as those instruments recorded for San Music in Volume 54 of*Liao Shi (History of Liao).”
In Ming and Qing periods, Guchui Music in courts was called Nao Ge Music, classified again into four categories: Lubu Music, Qianbu Music, Xingxing Music (Xingxing means either emperors travel outside of the courts or they stay overnight in certain concubines’ courts) and Trrumph Music. Among them, Lubu Music was played by royal guards of honors. “Kangxi Nanxun Tu (Picture on Emperor Kangxi Travels South)’ (Kangxi, an emperor (1662-1723) in Qing Dynasty) kept in the Imperial Palace Museum described what happened when Kangxi made an imperial inspection tour of the South for the second time in 1689. Volume I showed “Dayjia Lubu” (the royal guards of honors), for which the band was one important part. Instruments used in Lubu Music Band included: big drums (48pcs), zhang drums (4pcs), clapper (4pcs) dragon-head flutes (12pcs), jin (gongs) (4pcs) hua jiao (painted clarions—24pcs), jinzheng (4pcs), small brass clarions (8pcs), and big brass clarions (8pcs). When gongs and drums were stricken and clarions were blown, sounds suddenly burst out, and the grandeur and power was vividly mirrored in people’s minds. Yun Lu, one official in Qing Dynasty, asked for the royal permission to edit the “Collection with Pictures of Royal Ritual Objects” in 1758 (year 23 of the reign of Qianlong, an emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1736-1796)), which included various instruments used in royal bands. The collection was completed in 1766 after eight years’ edition and revision. It included 92 volumes, including six parts as for funeral objects, ceremonious objects, official costumes, instruments, lubu and military equipment. Volumes 53 to 60 were for instruments and two sides of each page were devoted respectively to the picture and literature explanations about the instruments. Totally, there are 184 pages.
Folk instrumental performance types in Ming and Qing dynasties wer every diversified. They could be roughly categorized as Xiansuo Music, Sizhu Music, Guchui Music, Chuda Music and LuoGu Music.
Xiansuo Music was played by bands with only stringed instruments. Famous ones included “Xiansuo Shisan Tao (Xiansuo Thirteen Ensembles)” (collected into the music collection of “Xiaosuo Beisuo” compiled by Rongzhai of Qing Dynasty) played by bands of wrheen, pipa, zheng and sanxian (three strings). The thirteen instrumental works are respectively “He Huan Ling”, o> ce 29 “Jiangjyun Ling”, “Shiliu Ban”, “Qinyin Ban’, “Qingyin Chuan’, “Pingyun Chuan’, “Yue’er Gao”, “Qinyin Yue’er Gao”, “Pu’an Zhou”, “Hai Qing”, “Yangguan Sandie”, “Songqing Yeyou” and “Wu Mingma.” “Henan Bantou Qu” was played by bands composed of sanxian, zheng and pipa, etc. “Chaozhou Xianshi” was played by bands of erxian (two strings), zheng, pipa, etc., and “Guangdong Hanjia” was by bands of touxian, zheng, etc.
Sizhu Music was played by bands with one or two stringed or bamboo-pipe instruments as the leading ones plus other instruments. “Er’rentai Paizi Qu” was by sihu, flute and cimbalom; “Jiangnan Sizhu (South Yangtze River Stringed and Bamboo Music)” mainly by urheen and flute; while “Guangdong Music” mainly by Guangdong urheen, qin qin, cimbalom and xiao.
Guchui Music was mainly played by wind instruments such as so-na and flutes accompanied by other stringed instruments. Gongs and drums also served as accompanying instruments and sometimes solo instruments in certain chapters. “Jizhong Pipe Music (Middle Hebei Pipe Music)” and “Shanxi Eight Ensembles” mainly used pipes; while “Shandong Guchu1” mainly used so-na, xi flute and flute.
Chuida Music is a kind of performance type mainly using orchestra instruments (or sometimes only wind instruments) accompanied by percussion instruments. There are often solo chapters of gongs and drums. “Xi’an Guyue (also named “Chang’an Gu Yue)” has two kinds of performances— “Zuoyue Music (Music Played When Seated)” and “Xing Yue (Music Played When Walking)”. Instruments of “Zuoyue Music” are classified into two types respectively for melody and beats. Those for melodies include flutes, sheng, pipe, shuangyun gong and fangxiazi, with flute as the leading one and sheng group or sometimes pipes to accompany flute sounds. Those for beats include drums, naobo, gongs, wooden bang, muyu (wooden knocker) and chimes in various shapes. Zuoyue Music works that are still played nowadays include “Chidiao Shuangyun Gong Music with EightBeat Drum Chapter’, “Shifan Drum”, “Shifan Gong and Drum”, “Zhedong Gong and Drum” and “Chaozhou Gong and Drum”. Li Dou of Qing Dynasty wrote “Yangzhou Huafang Lu (Recordings in the Tourist Boat of Yangzhou)” (1795) described “Shifan Drum” like this—‘Performers used ten kinds of instruments as flute, pipe, xiao, xian, tiqin, yun gong, tang gong, muyu, tan clapper and big drum. Therefore, this kind of music is called Shifan Drum.” 106 years earlier than this, in Volume X of “Kangxi Nanxun Tu” kept by the Imperial Palace which showed Kangxi took the route of Nanjing to return to Beijing after paying his tribute to Dayu Tomb in Shaoxing in his second royal inspection to the South in 1689. There was real picture about the band in the tourist boats along Qinhuai River of Nanjing where seven or eight peopled bands used sanxian, drum, sheng, flute, yun gong, clapper and urheen.
Luogu (gong and drum) Music is a kind of ensemble performance type using percussion instruments mainly. There was another name of “Qing Luogu (pure gongs and drums)” in the folk. Luogu Music can exist as a kind of performance form within certain music type,such as in “Shifan 999 Luogu” and “Jidong Guanyue’” it can also exist as an independent music type, such as in “Sichuan Naonian Luogu (Sichuan Gong and Drum Music to Celebrate Festivals)”. There are different performance forms for “Shifan Luogu’”. That played by percussion instruments as well as orchestra instruments is called “Sizhu Luogu” (more worldly name is known as “Laohun Luogu (literally means mixed luogu)’”). That simply played by percussion instruments is called “Qing Luogu” (more worldly name ias “Su Luogu (literally means pure luogu)”). Among Sizhu Luogu, there are also Dichui Luogu which uses flutes as major instrument, and also Shengchui Luogu which uses shengs as Major instrument.
[ll] Humanistic Sentiments and Aesthetic Ideography of Traditional Folk Music Instruments
The aesthetic nature of Chinese music mainly lies in the expression of humanistic sentiments. In music, such expression of humanistic sentiments can differ from different states of mind and wishes and can also have different directions.
The aesthetics of instrumental music can be more concentrated and more enlightening in activating the expressiveness and performance skills of music than other comprehensive music types such as opera, vocal music and theatrical music in terms of music representation methods. Instrumental music gets rid of the limitations that meanings need to be expressed with words in singing or by the emotional atmosphere popular in the dramatic contents of opera or music theatres. It also doesn’t require the acting plots and dialogues of the personnel to express the concrete or conceptual contents of thoughts and motions. Instead, it uses pure audio effects to depict and display subjects that are innate but hard to be expressed with generalized languages. Such subjects include such subjective constructions depicted by the audio effects as materialized images as well as mental images, from motions to consciousness. In certain cultural traditions and humanistic environment, such depiction and representation again pass a kind of humanistic motions and represents a kind of artistic spirit in terms of overall stylistic construction. No matter it is the creation, representation or aesthetics of instrumental music, people’s senses and experiences of the music keep communication and exchanges at all times with their perceptual experience or even spiritual experience. Therefore, instrumental music becomes the most free and spiritual representation method in the communication and interaction between music and people.
Chinese traditional instrumental folk music, compared with other music types, has become the type with the deepest spiritual connotations, the most colorful imaginations, the strongest power to convey cultures and the highest flexibility that Chinese people can use to express their humanistic motions.
Compared with western people who stress more on the choice or giving-up of some music types based on certain music or vocal standards, Chinese people stress more on the understanding of music timbres of certain instruments. For one piece of instrument, no matter how simple it is and no matter how “sharp” or “rough” its timbre is, so long as it has its own individuality and can display its unique style in applications and convey unique humanistic sentiments, this instrument will not be eliminated simply due to certain vocal standards.
Westerners like to express by music the strong emotions that people have in minds when struggling with the reality as well as the loyal religious sentiments that people have developed to balance their strong feelings by placing hopes on gods. Rather than that, Chinese pay more attention to the expressions of minds achieved by the integration of human, the space and the nature, and also to mimic and represent the sounds in the woods, the water and the valleys as well as the real lite by using more worldly and interesting audio effects.
In traditional Chinese instrumental music works, people have their own ways to express depressions due to parting from families, relatives and friends like the music of all other nationalities. However, due to their uniqueness and individuality in timbres, performance skills and the organization and combinations of multiple instruments, and more importantly, due to the humanistic sentiments that lie behind the music and that continuously give power to the expressions of music, traditional instrumental music possesses the most powerful and valuable cultural characters that are not to be replaced.
The aesthetics of traditional Chinese instrumental music focuses first on humanistic sentiments, i.e., the entrustment and experience of humanistic sentiments inside music. Though there are no exceptions to direct expressions of the movement due to happiness and excitement or depressions in mind, but aesthetical natures that traditional instrumental music most prefers are more on internal implications rather than external expressions. Simply speaking, Chinese instrumental music makes “emotional expressions” but stresses more on “internal implications.” “Internal implications” mark the integration of the subjects and the objects, the integration of minds and sounds expressing the minds, and the integration of human beings and the heaven.
The instrument embedded with the most humanistic sentiments among traditional Chinese instruments is gin (lyre). “All of sudden, when (1) turned my face back, I remembered many things in the past. Music of Zheng State still echoed in my mind, but now everything has become silent after years’ fluctuation. It is really touching to think that so many gin music works have been inherited from generation to generation, while generations of gin musicians have passed away.” The scholarly sentiments embedded in this poem imply “enjoying music 1s ethical”. There is saying, “Ethical people can obtain more things.”, What does gin music “obtain?” Or let’s say gin “obtains” from what. The history of gins is not that of gin art, but that of qin masters. The history of qins is not that of gin players, but that of scholars. The most valuable and more inheritable cultural spirit that qins have contributed to Chinese scholars does not lie simply in the philosophy advocated by Confucians that “to maintain is to self-control,” or not in the “free mind” advocated by Taoist. Instead, it is the integration of Confucius and Taoist philosophies that are more valuable for Chinese scholars which give tensions to and at the same time balance the spirits of “living in high profile” and “living in low profile” in the human world. The philosophy of being self-sensible and self-aware of having obtained what one is searching for which can be best explained by the saying that “A person should be concerned of other people of the world if being wise and powerful; or otherwise, he should do his best to perfect himself’ keeps good tensions as well as balance between the two ends of “being in search of all the things in the world” and “being satisfied with what has been obtained.” Confucians are concerned about advocating logics in the human world and practicing the universal fraternity, while Taoists bury themselves in shaking off dissimilation and becoming in accordance with the nature. The common points of the two lie in that practitioners of both philosophies must practice what they advocate. The direct presentation of such artistic spirit can be found in such works as “Shenren Chang” and “Longxiang Cao”. In other works, such as “Xiaoxiang Shuryun (Water under the Cloud in Xiaoxiang River), we can feel the integration of Confucius and Taoist sentiments; in “You Lan ( Fragrant Lilies)”, we can sense one’s stubborn loneliness; in “Liu Shui (Running Waters)”, we can see people’s emotions entrusted in the natural beauties of waters and mountains; in “Yi Guren (Remembering Old Friends)”, we can imagine the loyalty and respect to superiors, siblings, relatives and friends, etc. From different works, we have experienced different humanistic sentiments.
Among various instrumental music, wind and percussion instrumental music is the one which expresses to the most extent the joyfulness and happiness of traditional folklore life. It is especially strong in expressing the warmth and happiness of the festival celebrations. If we need to summarize this nature of the wood-wind and percussion instrumental music by using an aesthetic 1deographical term, the word “Le (meaning happiness)” 1s the most suitable one.
Wood-wind and percussion instrumental music is the most straight, vivid and incisive expressive method to display the nature of “Le.” Percussion instruments such as gongs and drums are the best instruments for people to play to express the happiness that 1s generated from depth of mind and that is most natural emotion of human kind. Since far ancient times, percussion instruments have fundamentally moved human minds with their powerful sounds to such an extent that people utter their emotions fully and are also stirred up with real happiness. From the “Drum of Thunder’s God” said to exist in Huangdi Emperor period in the mythology to various kinds of gongs and drums used in current days, wood-wind and percussion music has prospered thousands of years in people’s life with its irreplaceable charms. Its existence implies a piece of eternal historical information, which is the real and straight expressions of pleased minds require certain powerful methods to release. Though such emotions might be pressed in the life, it requires certain time to let them released so as to experience the enthusiasm and power of life. This might explain why various wood-wind and percussion instruments such as gongs and drums are prosperous from generation to generation without interruption in various folk music activities.
Wood-wind and percussion instrumental music is deeply rooted in the soil of folklore life. In terms of its functions, wood-wind and percussion music is not only used in performances for marriages, funerals and other activities offering respect or sacrifices to the god or to pray for rains, but also used in other folk festival celebrations such as Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and temple celebrations as well as dragon-boat matches, etc. The joyfulness presented by such music is mainly that of good harvests, festivals and marriages. Major players come from local groups consisted of players who are both farmers and also musicians, or Taoists who are good at playing instruments, or simply local residents. Local folklore activities are also their activities so that they are members of those activities. Therefore, in terms of the devotion of emotions and aesthetic attitude, there is no sense of distance common between so-called “high-level artists and “folklore audience.”
The wood-wind and percussion instrumental music normally creates warm emotions and hot atmosphere. The development of the emotion of “joyfulness” in the music also mimics the real development of the natural feelings of human beings in the structured patterns—trom adagio to moderato to allegro and finally to the climax. In some festival celebrations where musicians play instruments while walking along the road, there are also episodes of adagio with beautiful and highspirited melodies; but in general, the music of such kind develops from adagio to allegro in steps and finally reaches the course of climax. In such wood-wind and percussion instrumental music performances, melodies originated from local opera pieces or folklore songs echo with paragraphs solely played with gongs and drums, played on turns or paragraphs of this kind played in connection of paragraphs of the other kind. There are also solo performances of certain wood-wind and percussion instruments, but instruments that can be played solo are mainly those like so-na (Chinese trumpets) or flutes that can create sounds with penetrating forces or even “sharp” sounds to some “musical ears.” Actually, only with such penetrating power can those instruments be used to perform and exert their unique charms in activities held for folklore celebrations at big-sized locations such places. This is also in accordance to the worldly aesthetical nature of the wood-wind and percussion instrumental music, 1.e., to express “joyfulness.”
Sorrows of Parting
There are not so many works in the traditional folk instrumental music toexpress sorrows and depressions due to parting from home or friends, etc., and some classical pieces are mainly concentrated on several subjects. For example, Wang Zhaojun misses her hometown is one of the subjects. (Wang Zhaojun, a court lady during the Han Dynasty, was given to the chieftain of a northern tribe as his wife in the performance of matrimonial diplomacy.) Other examples in Han Dynasty include Su Wu herbing sheep (Su Wu (C. 143-60 B.C.) was an emissary spending 19 years in captivity among the Hu ethnic people in Han Dynasty) and Cai Wenji returning to Han court after parting from her husband and son (Cai Wenji, a talented woman whose father Cai Yong was a famous scholar at the end of the Han Dynasty, was kidnapped by a northern tribe for 12 years before she was ransomed when she left both her husband and son for the Han.) There are also other works, such as “Yangguan Sandie”, made out of sorrowful and depressed sentiments of poems in Tang Dynasty to express soldiers trouped at the border of the country missing their hometowns. All those works expressed a kind of historical sentiment which is deeply rooted in Chinese people’s minds and is rich in self-awareness and self-consciousness of Chinese cultures.
It is note-worthy that “sorrows of parting from hometown” in those historical stories normally spanned central China at that time, Turkestan regions (current Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region) and Chinese border at that time in terms of space. From emotions expressed by those music pieces people can find traces of poems in Tang and Song dynasties. For example, “Depression of Zhaojun” written by Lu Zhaoling of Tang Dynasty says like this, “Fields of Han must have been in green now, but here in Hu regions, they are still covered by flying sand. How much I hope to become a wild goose and be able to head back home in every autumn!” Among poems written on people staying at the border of the country, there are well-known sentences like those in “Cong Junxing (Traveling with the Army)” by Wang Changling—“Dances start to the new tunes of pipa, but what I memorize is still old friends and hometown. , and also the one in “Song Yuan’er Zhi Anxi (Sending Yuan’er Off for the West)’ by Wang Wei—“Friend, please drink another cup of wine, because after getting out of Yangguan (the west border of Tang Dynasty) this time, there will be no friends any more.” In modern China when the country was placed in worries and depressions created by internal corrupted government and external invasions, subjects such as Su Wu Herbing Sheep and Su Wu Missing Hometown were also very popularly presented in many traditional instrumental music pieces as well as songs sung in schools.
It is fair to say that those historical sentiments provided by stories and poems from Han, Tang and Song dynasties are repeatedly presented by various instrumental music pieces with great concentration is because they provide a channel to utter sorrows people feel when parting from parents, descendents, friends and when traveling outside of home. Such historical sentiments can create far-reaching influences and also be depicted and presented repeatedly in different ways at different times because of their depth and power in utterance, and therefore be able to be mirrored by different emotions created out of those music works……. This almost becomes a kind of historical complex. Today, we can see how folk instruments repeatedly retell us such historical complex via pieces played by gins, zhengs, hu qins, pi-pas, yang-qins and kung-’hou.
In the creation and performance of urheen works, sorrowful sentiments also help the development of such instrumental solo or concerto pieces as “Jianghe Shui (River Water)” and “Xinhun Bie (Parting upon Newly Married)”. Especially in “Jianghe Shui” where the hero cries his bitterest sorrows and angers due to separation by death and where the hero’s internal emotional changes are vividly depicted and uttered so that it leaves irremovable memories and traces on almost everbody who has listened to this piece.
Sorrows and Depressions of Court Ladies
Instrumental music pieces depicting sorrows of court ladies were normally works created under special cultural environment where Chinese court ladies were regulated and limited by traditional moralities and ethics. The historical complex represented in such music pieces is even stronger and more concentrated than that in works depicting sorrows due to parting from home. The court sorrows and depressions in the environment of “Han Court under the Autumn Moonlight” becomes a repeated historical subject in creations of instrumental music works.
There are works for all those instruments such as gins, pi-pas, zhengs, urheen and san-xians (three strings) in the name of “Han Court under the Autumn Moonlight” or with contents about sorrows and depressions of court ladies in Han Dynasty. The subject about court ladies’ sorrows and depressions actually originated from the poem “Yuan Ge Xing (Sorrowful Songs)” written by Ban Jieyu (Concubine Ban) in the reign of Emperor Cheng. The sentence “Fans help reduce the heat during the hot summer, but when autumn comes, they are thrown into rubbish cans” implies that Emperor Cheng first doted on Ban Jieyu but later favored Zhao Fetyan and her sister so that Ban Jieyu lost his attention from then on. Ban Jieyu pleaded to serve at the court of queen mother so to spend the rest of her lonely life there.
Several editions of the instrumental music piece “Han Court under Autumn Moonlight” existent nowadays depict almost the same contents: ladies in the court can’t hold their sorrows and depressions in the autumn evenings that they have to express in certain way. Of course, in the inheritance and continuous revisions of such kind of music pieces, no matter they are about ladies’ sorrows and depressions in Han court or in other courts as written later in pieces named as “Chen Shui’, and no matter the origin of their melodies is same or they come from different titles, the phenomenon of “Han Court under the Autumn Moonlight” is maintained in the aesthetics of Chinese folklore instrumental music.
There are other instrumental music pieces which also depict sorrows of Han court ladies with the subject of “Changmen Yuan (Sorrow at Changmen Court).” “Changmen Yuan” was originally a literary subject related to the story that Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty built “ a house of gold to hide A’jiao,” but it mainly retold the story that Chen Ajiao re-gained favor of the emperor after she knew she lost the emperor’s preference but she paid highly to Sima Xiangru (great literarist in Han Dynasty) to write the poem “Changmen Fu (Poem on Changmen Court).” This story was recorded also in “Yuefu Jieti (Explanations on Court Poems)” by Wu Jin in Tang Dynasty. He said, “The work “Changmen Yuan” was made for Queen Chen. When the queen lost emperor’s favor and was placed in Changmen Court, she become very sorrowful and depressed. Once she heard that Sima Xiangru excelled in literature, so she paid him hundreds grams of gold to Xiangru to write poems so as to utter her sorrow. Xiangru wrote the poem “Changmen Fu”, which was read later by the emperor and brought up memories of the queen in his mind. Then, the queen re-gained the favor of the emperor. This is the ongin of “Changmen Fu” In the music history, “Changmen Yuan” was sung as Xianghe works. (as seen in “Yuefu Poem Collection—Xianghe Ge Ci—Chudiao Qu (Collection of Court Poems—Volume on Xianghe Songs—in Tunes of Chu State)’. The gin piece “Changmen Yuan” was later included in the “Mei’an Qin Pu (Mei’an Qin Score Collection)” compiled by followers of Zhucheng Qin Sect of Shandong Province in Qing Dynasty. Today, there is also the piece “Changmen Yuan” played by Huang Guifang with san xian (three strings). The charm of this ancient qin work lied not only in its melodious and elegant tunes, but also in the sadness like murmuring 1n tears created by various skills like singing, rou (rubbing), hua (sliding), and mo (brushing), which are skills that san-xian (three strings) is normally good at.
Free and Relaxed State of Mind
The artistic conceptions in the instrumental music works created free and relaxed state of mind by placing the audience in co-existence with the nature, the mountains and the waters. In terms of artistic features, folk instrumental music which creates free and relaxed state of mind can be compared with paintings that depict natural sceneries such as mountains and waters as well. When people are located in natural beauties of mountains and waters and naturally generate a kind of free and relaxed state of mind which integrates the subjects—the audience—and the objects— sceneries—together, and this is so-called “free and relaxed state of mind.”
In the artistic conceptions of such kind of instrumental music, the natural objects that subjects are facing have the following three features: first, natural water and mountain environment; second, normally in seasons of summer and autumn which are comfortable and relaxing; third, normally evening sceneries which can activate people’s free-thinking. “Peace” is the psychological feature under such environment, because only in peaceful state the environment can become lingering, spatial, and far-reaching to allow free thinking. Also only in natural beauties of waters and mountains people can have the psychological room for free thinking and the music can be resounding and lingering. This is so-called beautiful environment.
Music pieces such as “Chunjiang HuaYue Ye (Moonlit Night on the Riverof Spring and Flowers)” and “Yuzhou Changwan (Singing on the Returning Fishing Boats)” are works with such aesthetic sentiments. They either depict the tender spring atmosphere of freshly green willows, and flowers under the moonlight on both sides of the river in spring; or the waving waters, red clouds full in the sky, beautiful and echoing of songs from the fishing boats at the side of Boyang Lake. There are quite a lot of this kind of music works normally with beautiful and harmonious tunes and lively beats, expressing the happiness of worldly life.
If we talk about the ethics and moralities implied by this kind of works, we should mention “Yue’ er Gao (Moon High in the Sky)” which is rich in Taoist atmosphere and “Pu’an Zou” which is full of Buddhism sentiments. “Yue’er Gao” depicts the fairy land in the moonlit beautiful environment related to the fairy tales that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty made a tour in the court of moon and heard the fairy music. The emergence of the big-scaled music piece “Nishang Yuyi Qu (The Dance in Leathery Clothes)” in Tang Dynasty was also said to be due to this fairy story. The beautiful, peaceful and elegant sentiments that the music implies are very pleasing. The music piece of the same name as “Yue’er Gao” 1s also included in one suite of the “Xiansuo Shisan Tao (Xiansuo Thirteen Suites of Music Pieces).” There is also another kind of ““Yue’er Gao” played by Pipa, or even by the folk instrumental band. “Beautiful Scenes in the Moonlit Evening” has become an eternal artistic conception in the traditional instrumental music works. The music conception of “Pwan Zhou” (also named “Shi Tan Zhang”) is similar to the explanation of the title of “Tianwenge Qinpu (Tianwenge Score Book of Qins)’—“Its phonology is so smooth and beat so natural. When played in the evening, the sounds were so like to those of drums in evenings or bells in mornings, and the mystery is like that of canons or Sanscrit. The audience who listens to such music feels complete peace and security both physically and mentally, like traveling in green woods or staying over-night in holy temples.” It is fair to say that drum and bell sound in temples or sounds of monks’ singing of canons or Sanscrit are another kind of artistic conception which makes people relaxed and pleased mentally.
“Taste” is an aesthetic category to which Chinese traditional music aesthetics’ researchers should pay high attention and that requires re-construction nowadays. In Chinese music aesthetics studies in the history, there are two earliest occasions where people used “tasty” to comment the instrumental performances. One occasion was recorded in “Liezi—Tang Wen” when the author described, “Whenever the music is played, Zhong Ziqi (famous ancient gin player) fully displays the taste of the piece.” The other occasion was in the work of “On Qins” by Ji Kang (famous man of letters in East Jin Dynasty) where he wrote, “If we try to reason the meaning of music, it seems not very understandable; if we consider its objective as a whole, it hasn’t reached the level for music with ethical beauty.” It is worth mentioning that those recordings were also the earliest recordings about “taste” and “objective” in Chinese aesthetics studies; meanwhile, they were related to aesthetic conceptions about gin music. In music aesthetic principles including those for gin music works in latter centuries after the above two examples, “taste” had been ignored to certain extent.
“Taste”, as the major character in the category of music aesthetics, mainly refers to “sentiment” (which covers the implications of interest, objective, and wittiness) on one hand; and to very obvious liveliness on the other hand. In terms of “sentiment”, it means the music presents certain objective and meaning; in terms of “liveliness”, it refers to certain technical and natural performance posture and related psychological experience. “Taste” is not only implied in the creation of music beauties but also in the experiences of music beauties. Lively taste is a summarized description of this major character in this music aesthetic category. Compared with other types of national music performances, the display and experiences of “lively taste” of folklore instrumental music in its composition and performances is the brightest as well as most typical.
Typical examples in this field include flute work “Zhegu Fei (Flying Partridge).” This music originally comes from the folk music in Hunan Province, but it was originally played with xiao. In “Collection of Chinese Yayue Music” compiled by Yan Gufan in 1926, the author explained that “this piece is not suitable for performance by fiute.” Later, this music was played not only by bamboo and stringed instruments but also revised for performance of flutes; and became a repertoire piece. The reason was that composer revised the music work to re-present the “lively taste” both in patterns and also in music conceptions, and fully exerted the advantages of flutes. Though such revision was opposite to the normal way and went in direction “from being elegant too being worldly”, it won great success, and can be considered as one successful experiment in the “lively taste” of the aesthetic music category.
Therefore, we can not only enjoy the “tasty” drum music works such as “Mouse Gets Married” (Jiangzhou drum music), “Tiger Grinds His Teeth” (X1’an drum music), “Yazi Banzui (Ducks Squabble)” (X1’an drum music), “Gun Hetao (Roll the Walnuts)” (Jiangzhou drum music), “Chong Tianpao (Pigtail Directing to the Sky)” (Sichuan gong and drum music), but also other works of different tastes including flute music “Yinzhong Niao (Birds in Shadows)”, so-na music “Tai Huajiao (Carry the Bride’s Sedan)” and sheng music “Fenghuang Zhanchi (Phoenix Extends Wings)”. The “lively taste” of folklore instrumental music pieces is implied by the lively mimicking of “moving images” on one hand, and by lively interpretation of “conceptive images” on the other hand. Especially in music aesthetics, “taste” 1s directly related to “sentiments” rather than “reasoning”. “Taste” is not simply the judgment on beauties, but also a kind of creation and presentation. “Taste” also emphasizes “happiness” rather than “peace.” Comparatively, “taste” is closer to folk customs rather than elegance.
Ode to the Life
So-called “ode to the life” refers to the in-depth expressions of the understanding and inspiration about life. One of the characters is to perform melodies with which performers are already so familiar in a kind of intuitive and natural way led by performers’ minds and sentiments. Such kind of performing status is like when somebody is under sub-consciousness and improvising. Another character is that such kind of performance of music, though being only a kind of sentimental presentation, becomes a “meaningful object” where the composer and performers entrust their mental subjects such as their experiences and in-depth sentiments about life. Therefore, in this kind of instrumental performances, the mental sentiments the music creates itself are similar to the mental movements of performers or a kind of movement of life. The movement of life continues accumulating to create the sentimental atmosphere of the music and integrating multiple kinds of psychological movements; it is also melodious and continues growing and extending with the development of performers’ feelings. Thus, the performance of music is not only entrusted with a lot of sentiments, but also endowed with a lot of melodious patterns and music features and changes that naturally emerge. Among folk instrumental music pieces, the most classical work and performance with such kind of aesthetic feature is the urheen one “Erquan Yingyue (Two Springs Reflecting the Moon)” by Hua Yanjun.
The whole piece is melodious, enlightening, and in some order; however, despite of such limitation of patterns, the deep sentiments and exclamation and the rise and fall of tunes of the music experience a kind of improvised variation centering a single subject. Such kind of presentation develops itself along with long-term psychological movement and accumulation; and it will continue developing itself. The performance of A Bing (Hua Yanjun) can differ from time to time and continue developing itself because he always improvises in certain way……. Such music 1s real music with life and movement. It is the direct expression and ode of the performers for the bitterness and sweetness of life. Its existence has already gone beyond the meaning of a simple music work.
How many other examples of such kind in current Chinese folk instrumental music pieces? Or, we should say how many more can come out. Maybe we can still experience some “ode to the life” in compositions of Liu Tianhua. Or maybe we can still hear such music in current folk instrumental compositions. That the essence of traditional instrumental music works is on the “performance” is due to the process of this experience of “ode to the life.” This is a psychological process where sentiments about life are continuously generated, accumulated and expressed. It is in the intuitive expression of sentiments, which are improvised, to be developed, melodious and subconscious, that beauties of such sentiments of “ode to the life” exist. Therefore, those performances already go beyond the normal understanding of “performances” such as on stages.
In the appreciation of arts, styles are not only the judgment on certain artistic performance but also are related to the appreciation of its beauty and value. “Style” is therefore an important standard for people to judge and comment in music appreciation. Similarly, whether one folk instrumental music work has its unique and prominent “folk style” can greatly decide whether it can be appreciated or not. The formation of some special artistic styles is not only related to such innate artistic development as composition skills and patterns, but also to the artistic styles and the spirit of certain nationality, as well as aesthetic conceptions of this nationality at certain stage. The national styles represented by artistic works, based on the acknowledgement of a special group of cultural population on its cultural type and presentation method, are not only a subjective expression of the integration of individuality and generality, but also a kind of objective existence. In the compositions and presentations of folklore instrumental music, it is necessary and also a kind of attitude and requirement for one to judge and enjoy a piece of work by appreciating the unique national style and also the spirit of this nationality in a special stage. In this sense, “folk style” also becomes an element in the category of music aesthetics.
The formation of folk styles requires multiple but unified elements. It not only requires the absorption and application of such materials as various folk music, tones (including dialect tones) and music presentation skills but also requires the composers to transfer those stylistic elements into their own music language and conduct overall maneuver and presentations of the music styles. In reality, the more local and folklore stylistic the music works are, the easier they can be accepted by people. Music works of such types as Qin Quang (literally meaning voices of qin region, currently Shan’x1 Province), Yu Opera of Henan Province, Bangzi of Henbei Province (one of local opera tunes in China with wooden clappers to strengthen rhythms), Qu Pai (names of tunes of Beijing Operas), Yangge of Hebei Province, Guangdong music and dancing music of Xinjian region all possess very special and prominent music styles. They have directly affected the creations of large amount of folk instrumental music pieces with “folklore styles.”
Sentiments of Grandeur and Fluctuations
In the aesthetic field, if we say “free and relaxing” performance creates a kind of “beautiful” status and atmosphere in artistic expressions, then, the performance in “grandeur and fluctuations” creates the beauty of power. Of course, “free and relaxed state of mind” and “sentiments of grandeur and fluctuations” are not equal to “free and relaxing beauty” and “powerful beauty” because the former two emphasize more on human kinds’ sentiments and aesthetic enjoyment when placed in the nature and social environment. “Free and relaxed state of mind” mainly tells people’s aesthetic experiences in music which mirrors for people beauties of the natural waters and mountains; while “sentiments of grandeur and fluctuations” display how people experience in the music the bitterand-sweetness when located in middle of various social conflicts. “Sentiments of grandeur” mainly refer to those feelings in power but solemnity; while “sentiments of fluctuations” focus first on those mental movements created by variations of music sentiments, and such varied sentiments are normally related to grand story-telling in the music.
Folk instrumental solo performance works that can be labeled as music of” sentiments of grandeur and fluctuations” include pipa solo piece “Shimian Maifu (Ambush at Ten Sides)” and “Bawang Xiejia (Heroic Emperor Takes off His Armor)’. These two music pieces used the battle between Chu and Han states in the history as their subjects. They center on the narration and plotting of the stories and re-create the battlefield atmosphere and vividly present the mental movements of characters by displaying epic scenes in front of the audience. It is only with the Chinese folklore instrument—pipa—that performers can so vividly present to the audience such grand battlefield scenes. Though many applications of the skills give concrete images, even onomatopoeic images, they leave the audience with more conceptive and psychological feelings and experiences. Many unique music presentation methods applied in those two pieces are even challenging for many contemporary composers.
There are also a lot of good works emerged out of the story-telling method where performers use the type of concerto to present the aesthetic “sentiments of grandeur and fluctuations.” In this collection we can find pipa concerto work “Chaoyuan Yingxiong Xiao Jiemei (Heroic Sisters from the Great Grassland)”, urheen concerto work “Changcheng Shuixiang (Capriccio on Great Wall)” and guzheng concerto work “Muiluojiang Huanxiangqu (Fantasia of Miluoyiang)”.
Above paragraphs and words are only a broad-brush description and explanation on the history and aesthetics of Chinese folklore instrumental music. I offered some new ideas on the humanistic sentiments and aesthetic conceptions. In the meantime, I think we still need to continue our efforts to refine, induct and summarize actions needed to construct the aesthetic features of Chinese traditional folklore music. On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, I wrote a seven-word-patterned poem in relation to the traditional and irreplaceable aesthetic conception on “moon” in Chinese instrumental music, which might also be a good echo to music works about “moonlit atmosphere” compiled in this “Collection”. “Mid-autumn moon reflects light since ancient times, No matter fine or rainy clouds flying at times; A mirror perfecting lots of people’s longing, As if Goddess of Mercy blesses many times”.
This article is written upon the invitation from Dragon Music Co., Ltd. of Hong Kong as the pre-lude for “Classical Collection of Chinese Traditional Instrumental Music”.