Monday, October 28, 2019

Pu Xin-yu's Colligraphy to grandpa

相望等吳越 攻守何紛然
乃無張騫槎 直上銀河邊
登山望雲樓 臨溪濯塵纓
迷陽紛歧路 幽蘭逐澗生
我生非焦芳 安能灼復榮
飛泉鑑松色 泠然琴上聲



嚶嚶揮 林鳥 可以慰吾情
落日易水上 秋風度樊館
荊卿昔驅車 悲歌去不返
督 亢何所 有 夢草披長坂
空聞擊筑聲 關秦嗟已晚
秋風下玉殿 夜卷羅衣裳
隴首茂松柏 焉知舞光方




飛鶉火日薄鯤池邊 
山勢入南海 浩蕩連漳泉
一氣混宇宙 萬古橫蒼煙
八紘昔玉土 霜露無後先
和戎陷鋒 維 披髮悲伊川
崩沙明藩 鏞 裂地 稱 戈(金延)



秦王
一朝宮車出 三月愁咸陽
往迹已千古 空令來者傷
野火度虛落 皓影輝雕梁
不見驪山宮 空餘瑤草香




劍飛仁兄之屬

心畬錄舊作

"溥儒之印"

"心畬翰墨"


Saturday, October 5, 2019

About Wúmén Qin School 關於吳門琴

Wumen Qin School started from Master Wu Zhao-Ji 吳兆基 (1908-1997). When he was in his 70's,  he started to contact with other qin players from Beijing and Hong Kong. Before that he was mostly playing qin alone or with a few local friends. After contacting more qin players from different areas, people started to recognize and appreciate his playing style, and admit that it reflected the natural quality of Wu's local landscape and humanity. Wu 吳 is an abbreviated name of the area of the lower reach of the Yang-tze river which includes Nan-jing 南京, Zhen-jiang 鎮江,  Hang-zho 杭州, Su-zho 蘇州, Wu-xi 無錫, and Shanghai 上海 cities.  People from Hong Kong then gave the name of Wumen (the gate of Wu) Qin Yùn 吳門琴韻 to refer to his qin style. n means melodious music, charms or taste.


Wu Zhao-ji 

In 1990, encouraged by friends, Master Wu Zhao-ji wrote an article to review his qin life, titled: "The Formation and Development of The Wúmén Qín Yùn Which Combines The Two Schools of Chuan and Shú" [融合川熟兩派之吳門琴韻的形成及發展].  Chuan is the area of Si-chuan 四川 province, Shú is the area of Jiang-su 江蘇 province. Master Wu Zhao-ji learned the guqin from his father Wu Lan-sun 吳蘭蓀 and his father's good friend Wu Jin-yang 吳浸陽. Before Wu Lan-sun settled in Su-zho city, Jiang-su province, he was living in western Hu-nan 湖南province, next to Si-chuan province. Master Wu Jin-yang was born in Si-chuan province and also moved to Jiang-su province when he was in his 20's, and was active within the cities of Su-zho, Hang-zho and Shanghai. 

Si-chuan province has multiple plateaus and mountains with turbulent big rivers, which creates a rather vigorous, and intense style; while at the lower reach of the Yang-tze river with more fertile land, there was created a rather gentle and calmer style. 

Master Wu Zhao-ji believed that individual guqin playing styles are influenced by the player's life experiences, self cultivation and where and when he or she had been living with certain cultures. When qin playing entered to a much advanced and deeper level, the less of the style can be obviously identified and appreciated by a majority of people, as the musical language and concept becomes wider.  Such as the difference between a folk song (or popular music that has been shown on TV or in a movie), and the ancient majestic melodies of Sunny Spring 陽春 and White Snow 白雪, in that the later ones do not have repeating melodies that are easy to remember and are therefore harder to appreciate.

In addition to studying the guqin with his father and teacher, Master Wu Zhao-ji also enjoyed listening to western classical music.  Together with 60 years of Taichi Qigong training and practicing, his personal guqin style was formed. 

When playing qin, he preferred to use heavier, solid, sinking and stable energy (重, 實, 沉, 穩) and techniques to present windy, stormy and impassioned emotions. He would use lighter, less solid (or empty), floating and smooth energy (輕, 虛, 流, 滑) and techniques to present sunny pleasant weather, and tender emotions. He preferred to clearly identify different ways of vibrato in order to make the variation of rhythm. He avoided over using ornamental tones and vibratos. In general, he preferred calmer and sweeter tones instead of heavy and dramatic louder tones. In his later years, he enjoyed the realm of quietness, lightness, calmness and the state in between existing and non existing (寧靜淡泊, 恍恍惚惚, 虛無縹緲). 

---------------
The other day, Joe asked me about the difference between Wu school 吳派 and Wumen school 吳門. I briefly drew a chart as below.


The name of Wu was originally referring to the area where people speak the Wu dialect and it includes Jiang-su, Zhe-jiang, and An-hui provinces plus Shanghai city. In the Tang dynasty, the qin scholar Zhao Ye-li said that the sound of Wu is as light and gentle, as the long Yang-tze river flowing through the big land, stretching out and gradually disappear into the ocean, which has the character of an outstanding man of a country.  

唐琴學大師趙耶利曾說過“吳聲清婉,若長江廣流,綿延徐逝,有國士之風。

Wu school (Wu pai) can refer to many qin schools that developed from time to time in the Wu area, so Wumen is one of them.


Map of China with Yang- Tze River
Resource: Wu Zhao-ji Qin Xue Si Xiang, The Thoughts of Qin Study of Wu Zhao-ji. Edited by Wu Guang-tong. Published by Su-zho, Gu Wu Xuan Publishing House in September 2018.






Friday, October 4, 2019

My Newly Composition - Inspired By The Wise One




Tuning
Standard tuning, tighten the 2nd string to half step higher.
2 4 5 6 7 2 3





Sources of Reference:

Melody from the Saxophone

I adopted from this video to rearrange on the qin

I used this piano keyboard to find the keys



Friday, August 30, 2019

字如其人 琴如其人

把書道改為琴道, 完全能通. (The principal concept of the practicing of Chinese calligraphy is the same as practicing the qin)
功為技法, 性為性情, (Gong, work or exercise, is the skill; while Xing, quality or character, is the personality or character)
有功無性, 神采不生(Having Gong but no Xing, the expression or spirit won't come out)
有性無功, 神采不實 (Having Xing but no Gong, the expression or spirit won't be solid, honest and true)
功的目的是為表達內心情性, 最後要超越功法, 只觀神采((如唐朝張懷瓘的文字論所說)

字如其人, 琴如其人

The purpose of Gong is for expressing spirit and personality. After the Gong has been achieved, one has to forget about it and focus on observing one's own spirit.

To appreciate a calligrapher's brush writing is to look for his or her characters; the same as listening to a qin player's qin music, the listener is listening to the player's personality and spirit.

 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Parting At Yang Guan Gate Comparison of the playing of 4 qin masters


Parting at Yangguan Gate is a beautiful and popular ancient qin melody, which is often used as a training piece for beginners. Almost every qin players has learned or knows about this piece. Because of its popularity and its moderate length, I think it is good to take this piece and look into a little bit more detail on different master's playing.  I have listened 7 qin masters playing of Parting at Yangguan Gate, and here I would like to take 4 to discuss and see how the same piece can be interpreted differently with different players and hope we can all learned something from each of them.

So I will first give a brief highlight of each player's life background and then I will show some sound recordings on two short sections against music notations, and discuss a little bit from that. Then the conclusion.

Two qin players were trained in a Conservatory of Music, while two qin players were trained by so called literati qin players. Three have passed away. WP is still very active currently. Three are/were located in southern China, while one is in northern China.

Sound or Video Recordings

Cheng Gong-liang (https://youtu.be/frvF-1aqzMQ)

Notation on the two sections I picked from each recording

This is the beginning part of this piece. I use WZJ’s notation as the foundation and use red color to highlight the differences in each qin player’s part.

WP used 38 seconds on these three phrases which is the longest time.

Start from the first bar here, CGD made the 5th note a pressing note with vibrato, while the others played open string.

The 3rd phrase ... WP and CGL's playing are similar, but WP's vibratos are more noticeable...

The sense of rhythm of each master has slight differences.


This is from the 2nd to 4th phrases of the 3rd section of YG3D. We can see CGL and WP’s playing has more variations than WZJ and CGD.

CGL and WP created more notes while CGD bends notes to create more flat notes.

Conclusion

There is still more that can be discussed. Such as the dynamics and each qin master’s life philosophy to their qin playing, and the evolution of the tablature of this piece.  I believe that will help more clearly define each qin player’s playing style.
Today’s brief discussion reveals that a piece of melody can be played in many different ways, based on the player’s sense of rhythm and the nuances in vibratos or nicely creating an extra harmonised note, to enrich the sound and make the music very fruitful. Yet the melody can be still recognized as its original creation.
To conclude my feelings about each player’s

WZJ- 真體內充, 清微淡遠 - Calm and lofty with authentic rich energy.
CGL - 與古為新, 微婉細膩 - Innovation with Inheriting tradition; exquisite & beautiful.
CGD - 含蓄儒雅, 灑脫自適 - Implicit, free-spirited.
WP - 行健存雄, 縝細豪邁 - Vigorous and elaborate.g

Sunday, April 7, 2019

留白 Liu Bai

Sunrise by Claude Monet (1840-1926) 

Xiao Xiang Eight Scenery 瀟湘八景(partial 局部) by Yuang dynasty Zhang Yuan 張遠

我用以上兩圖來對比西洋古典音樂與中國古琴音樂的哲美學概念, 
上圖畫面飽滿, 下圖給予多處留白. 均為上品. 
古琴音樂乃道家思維, 大音希聲, 
絲弦, 走手音, 吟猱綽注, 少息, 大息, 等等元素產生留白, 
是氣, 是韻, 而不是聽不見就表示音死. 反是生, 是生命的氣韻的象徵.
是彈琴者與琴的天人合一, 
"人", 也就是創作者, 彈琴者, 的心, 氣, 與音的合一. 

在感官的感受外,還有心的感知. 
聲音並非一定要叮叮噹噹一直產生出來填補空間才表有生命力. 
當留白產生, 聽之以心. 則天人合一, 
超然, 雄渾, 於內心產生. 
然留白與有物之間是漸層的融合, 
此須先有一定的"技"為基礎. 

I used the above two paintings to compare the concept of philosophical aesthetic view between Western classical music and Chinese guqin music. The painting above is full, while the painting below has a lot of blank space.  Both paintings are top grade. Guqin music involves Daoist philosophy -- such as "the greatest sound is almost no sound," and the using of silk strings, the sliding techniques, vibratos, pauses, long pauses, etc,. which are the elements to create space (Liu Bai, reserve white), which symbolized the "qi" (energy), and *"yun" (a leftover sound). If one cannot hear the leftover sound, do not think it is a dying sound. On the contrary, it is still alive. It is the heaven and human as oneness. "Human" is the composer, the player, whose heart and qi combined with the nature (heaven).

In addition to the basic senses, there is the cognition of the mind. It is not necessary that to show a  lively music, one must create rich notes to  fully fill a given space. When there is "Liu Bai", the listener listens with his or her mind, to become one with heaven, and a transcendental or a powerful elegant feeling is developed. However, there is a gradual fusion between the actual objects and the Liu Bai. To achieve that gradual fusion, one must be able to achieve certain techniques first.

--------------------
Thanks to Shuengit's comment:
Shuengit Chow: "reserve white", white is an opaque physical piment (color) - shouldnt Liu Bai be more like leaving "empty spaces", "un touched", and not a white color (in English that is) in Chinese bai, means not only white, but "un-touched"

------------------------

*Yun 韻, relates to the sense of rhythm as well.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Stories of Qin Players in Ancient China - I

On 3/24/2019 the 3rd International On-line Guqin Yaji, Peiyou gave a brief talk of three stories of qin players in the Spring Autumn period.

Before the first dynasty of Imperial China, Qin, there were many feudal states, like small countries, and they constantly fought among those countries. In Chinese history, these unpeaceful periods were called the Spring Autumn period and the Warring States period. They were called the Spring Autumn period, for two reasons:

First,  according to the date of the year, and the order of the four seasons, the historical officials of the Lu State (where Confucius was from)  recorded the major events of the countries in the Spring and Autumn Period. Second, the ancient events occurred frequently in the spring and autumn seasons. Therefore, people generally call the chronicle "Spring and Autumn."

Here I have two maps to show some geographic concepts between China now and back then during the Spring Autumn Period. You can see the major two big rivers, the Yellow river in the north and the Yangzi River in the south, and those feudal states were located in the lower reaches of both rivers during the Spring Autumn period.

There is the Wu state, which is the yellow green color on the right side of the map, and that area was and still is the most rich land in China. The lineage of the qin school we are following, which is the "Wumen" (Gate of Wu) qin school, came from this Wu area. On the north side of the Wu state is the Lu state where Confucius and Shi Xiang, one of the qin players I will talk about, were from. On the left of the map is the Qin state which later became the Qin empire, after the First Emperor of Qin unified all the states.  Next to the Qin state is the Jin state, where another qin player I will talk about, Shi Kuang, was from.  And the qin player, Zhong Yi was from the Chu state.

The first qin player I will talk about is Zhong Yi who was a hereditary court musician from the Chu state, majoring in zither.  The Chu state was known for its distinct music and shamanistic rituals. In 1977, China unearthed a very important archaeological site, the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng and found many musical instruments including the magnificent bronze bells. The location of the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng is in a village called Sui which was in the Chu State. This find, gives us a sense that the Chu state music could have been developed to a high level.

The story about Zhong Yi is that back in his time, the Chu state was friendly to the Zheng State. The Jin State was not happy about that and caught the Duke Cheng of Zheng while the duke was visiting Jin. Jin then had their troops attack Zheng. The Zheng state sent a messenger for peace along with the Chu court musician Zhong Yi. The messenger was killed by Jin and Zhong Yi was kept as a prisoner. One day the Duke of Jin patrolled the military jail and saw Zhong Yi, and asked the warden: The tied prisoner wearing a southern hat, who is he? The warden answered: Chu prisoner dedicated by Zheng. The Duke of Jin requested the warden to untie Zhong Yi and let him come to the Duke’s office. When Zhong Yi was in the Duke’s office, he knelt down and bowed to the Duke a couple times. The Duke then asked Zhong Yi about his family, Zhong Yi answered that his family are musicians. Duke Jin asked: Can you perform music? Zhong Yi answered: Playing music is the mission from my ancestors, I dare not to do any other job. Duke Jin had someone bring Zhong Yi a zither and asked him to play. Zhong Yi played a southern melody. Duke Jin asked him more questions about the leader of Chu and Zhong Yi’s answers were praised by one of Duke Jin’s military leaders Fan Wenzi. Fan commended that Zhong Yi is a gentleman who respects his own leader and is loyal to his origins, is trustworthy, and suggested Duke Jin to let Zhong Yi go back to Chu to maintain a good relationship between Jin and Chu. Duke Jin released Zhong Yi. A couple years later, Chu and Jin formed an alliance.

The next qin player I will talk about is Shi Kuang, who was a blind court musician, active around 572-532 BC from the Jin State, He was good at Qin and Se playing, and so sensitive to music that he could recognize which bronze bell was not tuned correctly while the bell was being made. There is a story about a Chinese proverb, "light up a candle to brighten the way"... Duke Ping of Jin one day asked Shi Kuang: I am 70 years old now, and want to study new knowledge, am I too late? Shi Kuang answered: Why not light up the candle? Duke Ping said: Is there an official making a joke with his king? Shi Kuang said: How dare a blind official like me make fun of his king? I heard that when a young man likes to learn, that is like the light is shining from the morning sun; When a middle aged man likes to learn, that is like the sun light from the midday; When an aged man likes to learn, that is like lighting up a candle to shine his way, isn't that stronger than walking in the dark?" Duke Ping then said: Well said.

The story of Confucius learning the qin piece "Praise the King Wen of Zhou" came from the book, Family Sayings of Confucius 孔子家語 from the 3rd century. This story is actually to praise Confucius. The story is: When 10 days after Confucius learned the piece “Praise the King Wen of Zhou” from Shi Xiang, Shi Xiang suggested that he move on to learn a new piece. But Confucius said that he felt that he hadn’t mastered the playing technique and rhythm yet.  After a period of time, Shi Xiang said to Confucius that he thought Confucius had achieved the playing techniques and rhythm and that he could move on to a new piece. Confucius then said that he had not got the meaning of the piece yet. After a period of time, Shi Xiang said to Confucius that now he had learned the meaning of the piece, he could move on to a new piece. Confucius said that he still had not been able to picture the spirit of King Wen from the playing yet. After a period of time, Shi Xiang heard Confucius’ playing of Wen Wang Cao and said to him:
“your playing has qualities of respectful and solemnity with deep thought; pleasant with lofty prospects.”
Confucius then said: “ I have gained the characters of King Wen who is slender and tall, dark; broad as looking at the ocean; truly a king of four states. If he is not the King Wen, who could be qualified?”
Shi Xiang was very impressed and stood up to bow to Confucius, then said:  “you are really talking about the Wen Wang Cao here."

A wise man playing the qin not only with good skill but also knowing the meaning behind it. Shi Xiang’s learning of the guqin was only to know the melody. Confucius was really far more talented than Shi Xiang. The old way of teaching qin playing was to teach the melody first without teaching the meaning behind the melody, and to let the learners figure out the meaning themselves. This way the learner would understand more deeply and be able to achieve success.