Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Meantone temperament

This is a hand out from BU choral workouts. We were practicing singing half tones.
My question on Facebook: Anybody knows how to sing half tone? Does bA and #G sound the same? Why there are different names? makes me think they might slightly different in pitch.

Answers from friends:

Jim Binkley if a system is based on just intonation, Ab and G# are different pitches. With Equal Temperament - they are the same.

Ralph Knag Jim's right - here's some more words: "They are only the same pitch in equal temperament tuning. In previous tuning systems, the black keys were a major problem in which ones to tune them to - for example, do you tune it to G# or Ab?

They are not the 
same note, and they do not have the same pitch, because they belong on different diatonic scales. Ab is slightly sharper than G#. It was a problem back then, because keyboard instruments back then could not play all 24 diatonic scales without having at least 1 of them having wolf intervals. For example: the key G#/Ab was tuned to G#, and the D#/Eb key was tuned to Eb, because that's what they used more often. G#-Eb (actually a diminished sixth) is supposed to be enharmonically equivalent to a perfect fifth, but it was so out of tune that it was dubbed the wolf fifth.

Today's keyboards are tuned to a compromise system called equal temperament, in which each note is the same distance from each other. The problem with this is that thirds and sixths tend to be quite out of tune, but because of its versatility, it has remained in widespread use."

David Badagnani In 12-tone equal temperament, fifths and fourths are within 2 cents of just intonation, but major thirds are 13.69 cents too large (400 cents as opposed to approximately 386.31 cents for just intonation). That means if you play a major third on a piano you hear a horrible 5 beats per second, something piano turners actually use in order to know if a piano is "in tune" or not. The 386.31-cents pure (just) major third doesn't have beats. The meantone tunings used in the Renaissance and Baroque periods have thirds that are closer to this ideal, though somewhat compromised for more distant keys.

Good string players and vocalists do slightly lower or raise their half steps depending on whether the pitch is the third of a chord or a leading tone, for example, but, unfortunately, many musicians don't pay attention to this and, as a result, some choirs sing chords with thirds that have the 5 beats per second, something I find intolerable.

A great invention from the 16th century was a keyboard with split keys that allowed for the differentiation of the enharmonic notes (such as the A-flat and G-sharp you mentioned). You can hear how it works with some actual music of that time period in this video. Chromaticism (coming from the root word "chroma," meaning "color") is really much more colorful with these gradations, and it's a shame that this original knowledge of intervals was mostly lost in the Western tradition, outside specialists in early music.


quarter-tone staff

Thursday, July 12, 2018


旋宮轉調 (五聲音階)

宮    商 角    徵 羽 少宮   少商 -----> 慢角調 /黃鐘調 /太簇調 /大呂調 /*碧玉調
Do  Re Mi Sol  La Do  Re 慢三絃
1     2 3 5     6 1  2 遯世操, 八極遊, 崆峒問道

商    角 徵    羽 宮 少商    少角 -----> 蕤賓調 / 清羽調
Re   Mi Sol   La Do Re       Mi 緊五絃
2      3 5     6 1 2         3 瀟湘水雲, 陽關三疊, 玉樓春曉 等多首曲目

角    徵 羽   宮 商 少角   少徵 -----> 慢宮調 / 夷則調 / 南呂調  
Mi   Sol La   Do Re Mi      Sol *慢 一三六絃
3      5 6     1 2 3         5 獲麟, 遠遊

徵     羽 宮    商 角 少徵   少羽 -----> 正調 / 仲呂調 / 清角調
Sol   La Do   Re Mi Sol      La standard tuning
5       6 1     2 3 5         6 梅花三弄, 高山, 流水 等多首曲目

羽    宮 商    角 徵 少羽    少宮 -----> 夾鐘調 / 清商調 / 姑洗調
La    Do Re   Mi Sol  La Do          緊二五七絃
6       1 2    3 5 6 1          秋鴻, 搗衣


5  5 1  2 3 5  6 ----->  慢商調

1  3 5  6 1 2  3 ----->  無射調 / 應鐘調 / 復古調
                                      胡笳十八拍, 大胡笳, 昭君怨

2  4 5  6 1 2  3 ----->  淒涼調 / 楚商調
                                      離騷/ 楚歌

b7  1 2  3 5 6  1 ------> 側商調

2  5 6  1 2 3  5 ----->  泉鳴調
                                     *慢一三六 (一絃低兩律)

1  2 3  5 b7 1  2 -----> 間絃調

1  2 5  6 1 2  3 -----> 離憂調
                                    慢一二, 緊五

1  2 3  5 6 7  2 -----> 無媒調

6  1 3  3 5 6  1 -----> *碧玉調
                                    慢一四六各半徽, 緊三與四同聲

7  2 3  5 6 1  2 -----> 玉女調

正 調 宮調/意 -- 梅花三弄, 流水 等多曲
          商調/意 -- 白雪, 鶴鳴九皋 等多曲
          商角調/意      -- 莊周夢蝶
          角調/意         -- 列子御風, 採真遊 等多曲
          角徵羽調/意   -- 南風暢
          徵調/意          -- 樵歌, 石上流泉, 洞庭秋思 等多曲
          羽調/意 -- 烏夜啼, 春曉吟 等多曲

外調 正調以外皆屬外調

1, 以上所有調整理自明朝[神奇秘譜]與[西麓堂琴統].
2, 列舉的曲目除古怨, 陽關三疊, 玉樓春曉, 與胡笳十八拍以外均出自神譜與西譜
3, 以上有*號為重複出現,但內容仍有所不同, 如碧玉調在神奇秘譜與西麓堂琴統為
4, 羅馬數字為方便記憶唱名
5, 慢角調, 清羽調等名稱是以絃名為主, 如慢角為慢角絃, 即是鬆第三絃. 清羽是緊
第五絃. 與五聲音階之宮商角徵羽無關.(請另行查閱古絃名)
6, 黃鐘調, 大呂調, 夷則調, 南呂調等名是以宮音在哪一個音高為主而定的調名.
而音高在古琴絃上, 一條絃有三個半音的範圍可變化.(請另行查閱古十二律名)
7, 宮調/意, 商調/意 等名是以首調為名, 即在正調調絃的情況下, 該曲圍繞在哪一個
音居多, 那一個音即為主調音/意.

Made by Peiyou Chang


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Qin Aesthetics

二十四琴況之"圓"(rounded, circled, just right)- 五音活潑之趣半在吟猱,而吟猱之妙處全在圓滿。宛轉動盪無滯無礙,不少不多,以至恰好,謂之圓。吟猱之鉅細緩急俱有圓者,不足則音虧缺,太過則音支離,皆為不美。故琴之妙在取音,取音宛轉則情聯,圓滿則意吐,其趣如水之興瀾,其體如珠之走盤,其聲如哦詠之有韻,斯可以名其圓矣。(溪山二十四琴況)

One of the 24 qin aesthetics is "Yuan" (rounded, circled, just right) which is talking about the vibrato on the guqin playing. The fine and subtle parts of creating a continuing sound after a pitch is reached, then continue to vibrate the string with the left hand, such as vibrato yin and nao, or zhuang, dou and huan. It was often described by ancient qin masters that the vibrato is like water ripples, or pearl running in a plate, or the rhythm we hear from chanting singing. Here I use Master Xin Xin Wang's singing of the "Southern Sound" style as an example. Listen the first 2 minutes, her voice and the flute's sound. One can hear the subtle sound motion from her singing and use that idea to relate to the vibrato on qin playing.


Later it says, "Yuan" is not only about vibrato, it also is about the left hand and the right hand's coordination. Like water drip on a lotus heart (need imagination or more observation). Just think about the Yin and Yang symbol. What is Yin and what is Yang, what is heavy and what is light, one has to define in mind.

恬Pleasing = 情到而不自擾, 意到而不自濃... 不味而味. 澹至妙來則生恬,恬至妙來則愈澹而不厭... (溪山二十四琴況)
a pleasing flavor in a primitive and plain music = a sentiment arrived but that does not bothering oneself; a feeling sensed but that one won't indulge himself or herself in.

One of the 24 Qin aesthetics - Pleasing. Came from Plain / Unsophisticated. But it does not giving no flavor, on the contrary, it creates a pleasing flavor that one never feeling tired or dislike.

雅(Elegant), 相對於俗: 喜工柔媚則俗,落指重濁則俗,性好炎鬧則俗,指拘局促則俗,取音粗厲則俗,入弦倉卒則俗,指法不式則俗,氣質浮躁則俗.

Elegant, as opposed to vulgarity which are: aiming for glamorous and seductive sound is vulgar; heavy and turbid or confused fingerings is vulgar; favor with busy sound is vulgar; Inflexible or unnatural fingerings is vulgar; unrefined and harsh sound is vulgar; hastily plucking is vulgar; not following the fingering rules is vulgar; impetuous energy is vulgar, etc.,

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Music and the Moral Psyche in Early Chinese Thought

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Bard College 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, I attended the Conference - Harmony And Power: The Role of Music in the Cultivation of the Literati in Ancient China

The First talk in the morning section was presented by Prof. Erica Brindley Penn State (Asian Studies, History, Philosophy)
Comments: Susan Blake, Bard College (Philosophy)

Her talk was:
Beautifying the Emotions: Music and the Moral Psyche in Early Chinese Thought

Prof. Brindly thinks that 儒 Confucius is a kind of like Rabbi. (Rabbi: a Jewish scholar or teacher, especially one who studies or teaches Jewish law.)... And Confucius believed that music was the best tool for becoming the idealized type of person, Junzi, the noble person. Junzi cultivate themselves with music... Confucius has set the path for intellectual culture today.

What music offers human beings? a moral education program for individual...

Prof. Brindly translates the word 知音(Zhi Yin, knowing sound) as "bosom buddy" -- Music was a way to bond deeply with or achieve communion with another being who would become a friend...

Please listen Prof. Brindley's talk with Prof. Susan Blake's comments and one question from Prof. François Picard towards the end at 49'47". (This recording is for personal study use only, please do not share. Thanks)

1993年郭店楚墓發現的竹簡裡有一篇[性自命出] 原文如下:

凡人雖有性,心亡奠志,待物而後作,待悅而後行,待習而後奠。喜怒哀悲之氣,性也。及其見於外,則物取之也。性自命出,命自天降。道始於情,情生於性。始者近情,終者近義。(Human nature comes from Heaven's command - Human nature emerges from Heavenly Decree; Heavenly Decree is sent down from Heaven... Dao is the path we should following...we have to learn to be in touch with the Dao, what was the right thing to do... Dao beginning with Raw Emotions and raw emotion is coming from human nature. He who is beginning on this dao is near to the raw emotion, and he who is starting his ending on this dao is near Yi -correctness... Music is the tool to train the emotions...  25'30" in the video ) 知情者能出之,知義者能內(入)之。
  好惡,性也。所好所惡,物也。善不善性也,所善所不善,勢也。凡性為主,物取之也。金石之有聲,弗扣 不鳴,人之雖有性,心弗取不出。凡心有志也,無與不可, 性不可獨行,猶口之不可獨言也。
  牛生而長,雁生而伸,其性使然, 人而學或使之也。凡物無不異也者,剛之柱也,剛取之也。柔之約[也],柔取之也。四海之內,其性一也。其用心各異,教使然也。
  《詩》、《書》、《禮》、《樂》,其始出皆生於人。 《詩》,有為為之也;《書》,有為言之也;《禮》、《樂》,有為舉之也。
  致容貌,所以度節也。君子美其情, 貴其義,善其節,好其容,樂其道,悅其教,是以敬焉。拜,所以為?與,其諛度也。幣帛,所以為信與證也,其詞義道也。
  笑,禮之淺澤也。樂,禮之深澤也。凡聲,其出於情也信,然後其入撥人之心也厚。聞笑聲,則鮮如也斯喜。聞歌謠,則陶如也斯奮。聽琴瑟之聲,則悸如也斯嘆觀《賚》、《武》,則齊如也斯作。觀《韶》、《夏》,則勉如也斯儉。詠思而動心,==如也,其居次也舊(久),其反善復始也慎(32'30" in the video) 其出入也順,司(始)其德也。鄭衛之樂,則非其聽而從之也。凡古樂龍(動)心,益(淫)樂龍(動)指(嗜),皆教其人者也。 《賚》、《武》樂取,《韶》、《夏》樂情。
  凡憂,思而後悲;凡樂,思而後忻。凡思之用,心為甚。嘆,思之方也,其聲變則 其心變,其心變則其聲亦然。吟遊(流)哀也,噪遊(流)樂也,啾遊(流)聲[也],嘔遊(流)心也。
  同方而交,以道者也。不同方而 交, 以 ?者[也]。同悅而交,以德者也。不同悅而交,以猷者也。門內之治,欲其逸也。門外之治,欲其製也。


Starting at 49'47" Prof. François Picard asked two questions. The first one is about the relationship between music and words, but this part Prof. Brindley did not answer. The 2nd question is about Li 禮, that Li is not about harmony but to distinguish heaven and living being.  My understanding is that Prof. Brindley thinks that Li is to distinguish everything and Yue 樂 (music) is to harmonize everything as Xunzi 荀子 say: 故樂者審一以定和者也,比物以飾節者也,合奏以成文者也;足以率一道,足以治萬變。...樂合同,禮別異,禮樂之統,管乎人心矣。 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bell Chimes from the Chinese Bronze Age

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Bard College 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, I attended the Conference - Harmony And Power: The Role of Music in the Cultivation of the Literati in Ancient China

The Second talk in the morning section was presented by Prof. Lothar Von Falkenhausen from University of California, Los Angeles (Art History, Archeology)
Comments: Patricia Karetzky, Bard College (Art History)

His talk was:
Music to the Ears of Confucius: Bell Chimes from the Chinese Bronze Age

I did not take many photos of his slides, therefore I used some information I found on-line to help my study. 

編鐘 Bian Zhong (A set of bronze bells. Zhong means bells)

Three major bell types:

甬鐘 Yong Zhong 各部位名稱 (names of each parts on the Yong Zhong) (棒狀掛頭, 橋型鐘口)

紐鐘 Niu Zhong (環狀掛頭, 橋型鐘口)

鎛鐘 Bo Bell (平口)


The difference between Yong bell and Niu bell is in the hanging mechanism. The Niu bell has a vertical suspension device while Yong bell has a cylindrical suspension device. The Bo bell is usually used as a single bell with a flat bottom opening, not like Yong and Niu bells which have a curved bottom opening. The Bo bell is much larger than the Yong bell and Niu bell. (Picture : the one in the middle on the ground)

Each bell can create two tones, according to Prof. Falkenhausen, they were design specifically to create two tones. The caster knew ahead of time which two tones they would make, before they made them. This formula for knowing which specific size and shape to cast a bell to achieve two specific tones has been lost. 

For Prof. Falkenhausen's talk, please listen from this video. (This sound recording is for private study use only, please do not share. Thank you.)

I recommend a fantastic catalog about the set of bronze bells at tomb of Marquis Yi of Zheng: 
Music in the Age of Confucius, 
published by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. in the year 2000.

About Rhapsody, Fu 賦

Layout of Prof Yang Ye's talk. 
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Bard College 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, I attended the Conference - Harmony And Power: The Role of Music in the Cultivation of the Literati in Ancient China

The last talk in the morning section was presented by Prof. Ye Yang from University of California, Riverside (Comparative Literature)

His talk was:
From Musical Instruments to Human Voice:
The Representation of Music in the Rhapsody
Comments by Ying Li-Hua, from Bard College (Art History)

Prof. Yang believes that Fu originally started in the south, not in the Yellow River valley, and was from the land of 屈原 Qu yuan. He also assumes that Fu has a lot to do with shamanism in the beginning.

Prof. Yang finished his talk by using a quote from a conversation between Huan Wen and Meng Jia : 絲不如竹, 竹不如肉  Silk (string instrument) is not as good as bamboo (wind instrument); Bamboo is not as good as human flesh (human voice) -- gradually get closer to nature.

Prof. Ying Li-hua commented that "Fu" (Rhapsody) is meant to celebrate and glorify, exaggerated and over the top, but has the core of a poem.

She questioned the English translation of the word "Xiao 嘯", Whistling. According to Prof. Yang, Xiao was not actually whistling, it is a kind of Daoist practice. She hopes Prof. Yang can show us what the Xiao sounds like. But Prof Yang did not try to do what "Xiao" sounds like.

Prof. Yang answered one audience question about whether Rhapsody is similar to todays Rap music. He says that it is impossible today to write Rhapsody... please listen from the video at the 48-minute.

Sound recording of Prof. Yang's talk: (please do not share, as this video is for personal use only.)


因為聽了此場演講, 本來就對賦並不孰悉, 如今更想弄個清楚

臺靜農先生 的[中國文學史]中說到"賦":
賦 誦也 這種文體是誦讀而不是歌唱
漢書 藝文志: 不歌 而誦謂之賦
聲音拉長為歌 (書: 歌永言)
聲音有頓挫為賦 (周禮 大司樂: 以聲節之曰誦)
誦其言謂之詩, 詠其言謂之歌 (漢書藝文志)
賦的文體是朗誦的 內容則是鋪陳政教善惡的
漢 楊雄認為: 詩人之賦麗以則 辭人之賦麗以淫 (則有criterion的意思, 淫有over the top 的意思)
楊雄認為賦並沒有勸戒的功能, 而是類似排優 (藝伎 skillful actor)

I recommend a good book worth to read:
R.H. Van Gulik 高羅佩 wrote:

Hsi K'ang and his Poetical Essay on the Lute (嵇康 琴賦)

with English translation 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A little note about Prof. François Picard's talk

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Bard College 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, I attended the Conference - Harmony And Power: The Role of Music in the Cultivation of the Literati in Ancient China

The first talk in the afternoon was presented by Prof. François Picard, from Paris-Sorbonne University (Ethnomusicology)

His talk was:
The Role of Guqin as a Link between Ancient and Contemporary China.

Here is a short clip of his talk. (please do not share, this is only for self study)

Prof. François played several music recordings that are modern composed music which used Guqin as one of the instruments. His point is that modern Chinese composers are all influenced by western music and he thinks that the guqin is not being used to its essential quality, but as other Chinese musical instrument just to create some decorative sounds. And the guqin music have lost its antiquity and the antiquity is declining.