Summary of Assignments
Music of China
One more essay – second essay marks
Listening Test – actual date to be
Oldest written forms of music – more than two
thousand years old
Oldest articulated theories of music
Understanding of acoustics well before
Understanding of pitch
Music part of the state structure
Classification of Instruments
Play example of classical music.
WHAT MAKES IT CHINESE?
What are the basic characteristics?
The traditional music of China has evolved
over a great expanse of time, yet has
adapted to very changed circumstances.
Outline the main characteristics of
Chinese music and instruments.
1. Pentatonic tunes.
2. Lack of harmony in a western sense-
3. Texture of the individual instruments –
their particular sound and contrasting
Virtuosity and long acceptance of a
studied performance tradition.
Formative period – C3 B.C. to C4 AD. Earliest
artifacts – ocarinas, theoretical writings .
1 Origin myths
2. Theoretical writings
3. Instruments of court
4. Relationship of music to court life in Chou
and Han dynasties (3rd Century B.C. to 220 AD).
Theory of Music
Pipes basis for elaborate tone system –
pitch uniformity crucial for good
Chinese LU system – cyclic set of pitches
from tubes whose lengths were
mathematically proportioned – giving basic
Chinese scale. 5-tone scale with two
changing tones. But 12-tone chromatic
system also understood.
Shi Er Lü, literally translated as 12 pitches,
sometimes named as Chinese chromatic
scale. It is one kind of Chromatic scale
used in ancient Music of China. The
Chinese scaling is using the same
calculations as Pythagoras did, based on
2:3 ratios (8:9, 16:27, 64:81, etc.). It is
highly rational and uses exact proportions
to arrive at intervals.
Ancient instrument types
Primitive mouth organ – free reed
String, wind and percussion
Pentatonic scales the norm from the
Repertoire of ancient pieces – based on
tablature notation for zither
The qin is also the most characteristic of Chinese music.
Over one hundred symbols are used in its finger notation
for achieving the essential yet elusive qualities of this
music: subtle inflections in the production and control of
its tones as a means of expression. They indicate the
articulation and timbre of either a single tone or a series
of tones; they specify the occurrence of variable
microtones between fixed scale tones; and they control
the rhythmic and dynamic organization within each tonal
Chinese music part of natural philosophy.
System of ordering musical instruments by 8
sounds – earth, stone, metal, skin, wood,
bamboo, gourds, silk.
Instrument types used centuries ago – Ch’in (7-
string zither), P’ipa (short necked lute - play
example), Sheng (mouth organ) - still in use
today. Chinese Flute - play example.
International Period – 5th to 10th
century Sui and Tang dynasties – new instruments –
sets of hanging bells and iron slabs.
Chordophones (played by professional female
musicians) – P’ipa, moon guitar, hu ch’in (2
string fiddle from Mongolia) and San hsien.
Centre of music shifted from Confucian rites to
public stage and homes of wealthy.
National Period – 10th – 19th
Sung dynasty (960 – 1279) new stability –
development of language, poetry and drama.
Mongols invaded 1279 – development of
exclusive repertoires for particular instruments.
Good forms of instrumental notation.
Chang dynasty (1644-1911) saw development
of Peking Opera – addition of zither – (dulcimer
developed from West)
Since Cultural Revolution there has been both a
loss of tradition and an attempt to revive and
rediscover ancient traditions.
Both elements of the past and present are cultivated.
Communist antipathy towards ancient Chinese court
traditions – yet also dislike of Western influences.
Wanted music to be patriotic
Promotion of Folk musics that use traditional Chinese
instruments – but combine them in non-traditional ways.
Play except of er-hu ensemble
Zones of Westernised culture – Shanghai, etc – where
Chinese versions of Western popular music is the norm.
Books - General
Fletcher, World Music in Context
May, Worlds of Music
Garland Encyclopedia of World Music
Rough Guide Books and Recordings
China in New Grove
Witzleben, Music in China (Global Music