Monday, February 24, 2014

古琴 道樂 Guqin - Daoism

古琴受道家思想影響其審美觀甚深, 並成為主要的琴樂之審美標準

Daoism is the major philosophy that influences the Guqin aesthetic standards deeply. 

如葛瀚聰先生的[中國琴學源流論疏]中所說: 道家的"無為"琴觀, 幾乎就是一種被著音樂藝術外

As what Mr. Ge Han-cong said in his book [Zhōngguó qín xué yuánliú lùn shū] (The Study of The Chinese Qin Origin): The daoism philosophy of "effortless (wuwei)" to the guqin, is almost like a philosophy wearing a coat of musical art.

他提出莊子[知北遊][齊物論][天道][天運]等篇及老子之大音希聲, 為道家之琴觀, 點出精華

Mr. Ge quoted several essays from Zhuangzi and the saying of Laozi's Da Yin Xi Sheng (the greatest sound is almost no sound), to point out the essence of qin philosophy.  

其中, 我對[天運]篇中的[咸池]印象頗深, 越讀越覺得很精彩

Among Zhuangzi, in the [Tian Yun] (The Revolution of Heaven) chapter, the story about the musical piece [Xianchi] gave me the most impression about the qin daoism philosophy. I think it is very interesting to read these conversations between Yellow Emperor and Bei-men Cheng.

{ 北門成問於黃帝曰:帝張咸池之樂於洞庭之野,吾始聞之懼,復聞之怠,卒聞之而惑,蕩蕩默默,乃不自得。」 帝曰:「女殆其然哉!吾奏之以人,徵之以天,行之以禮義,建之以太清。夫至樂者,先應之以人事,順之以天理,行之以五德,應之以自然,然後調理四時,太和萬物。四時迭起,萬物循生;一盛一衰,文武倫經;一清一濁,陰陽調和,流光其聲;蟄蟲始作,吾驚之以雷霆;其卒無尾,其始無首;一死一生,一僨一起;所常無窮,而一不可待。女故懼也。 


吾又奏之以無怠之聲,調之以自然之命,故若混逐叢生,林樂而無形;布揮而不曳,幽昏而無聲。動於無方,居於窈冥;或謂之死,或謂之生;或謂之實,或謂之榮;行流散徙,不主常聲。世疑之,稽於聖人。聖也者,達於情而遂於命也。天機不張而五官皆備,此之謂天樂,無言而心說。故有焱氏為之頌曰:『聽之不聞其聲,視之不見其形,充滿天地,苞裏六極。』汝欲聽之而無接焉,而故惑也。 樂也者,始於懼,懼故祟;吾又次之以怠,怠故遁;卒之於惑,惑故愚;愚故道,道可載而與之俱也。」}

For English translation, one can check out this site for reference:

咸池是一篇樂章, 是黃帝在洞庭湖畔使樂官們演奏的樂曲

從 "帝曰: 女殆其然哉!"... 一直到"道可載而與之俱也。" 把一首樂曲如何承現,如何表現不同情緒,讓北門成由一開始的害怕, 到鬆懈睏倦, 再到困惑聽不懂, 述說地有聲有色.  這不正是跟很多古琴曲的情緒很像嗎?特別是感到聽不懂或聽了想睡. 

難怪葛瀚聰先生認為[咸池]極可能是一首以琴為主要樂器的音樂作品, 但葛先生是就"奏"字的使用 以及"清角"調性兩點,認為[咸池]可能是琴樂.

From the conversation between the Yellow Emperor and Bei-men Cheng and the reaction of Bei-men Cheng, one can sense what the musical piece [Xian Chi] might feel like, that it started with fears, then weary, then puzzled. Isn't that the reaction similar to many qin pieces to many people? Especially the feeling of puzzled. No wonder Mr. Ge thinks that [Xianchi] might be a musical piece for instrument like the qin. But Mr. Ge is based on two arguments: the character "奏" (the way of playing) and the tuning mode "清角".

而黃帝在最後的"惑故愚;愚故道,道可載而與之俱也" 指出了只有到了愚的境界, 道才真正與你同在了. 可是什麼是愚的境界? 什麼又是道?

At the end of the conversation, Yellow Emperor said that when one reaches to the stupidity stage one reaches the Dao. Then what is the stupidity stage and what is the Dao?

葛瀚聰先生認為"現象形式音樂的成份越多, 該樂段的價值就越低; 道琴天樂的成份在樂段中越純粹, 該樂段的價值就越高. "

Mr. Ge thinks that the more of phenomenon forms in a musical phrase, the less value of that phrase of music has. The purest form of a music is, the higher value it is. 

我想聽得懂的多半是現象形式音樂, 如大小聲, 如或快或慢或輕或重或模擬自然界人界等等的音樂技法上的變化, 以吸引聽眾之心. 

So I think when one can hear the variation on volume, rhythm, tempo, playing techniques,imitation of different sound,etc, the more attraction it is to audience, and that is what phenomenon forms of music is. 

葛瀚聰先生說 "聽之不聞其聲, 視之不見其形... 一種無形沉默的音樂, 一種已超然於人的感知之
外, 對它的傾聽, 除了運用心靈以外, 別無它途. 用心傾聽心靈可獲得愉悅, 即所謂無言而心悅.... 從有限的物性突破而蛻變成無限的靈性... 超越物象, 超越時空, 遺忘自我, 處於絕對的自由之中"

Mr. Ge says: when hearing it, one doesn't hear a sound; when looking at it, one doesn't see a form. It is a silent music with no form. It is beyond human's cognition. To listen to it, one can only listen by heart and mind, there is no other method. When you listen it by heart and mind, you will gain happiness. It is beyond limitation, beyond phenomenon, beyond time and space. One will be in a stage of freedom and forgotten oneself.  

但道家的音樂觀並不是將一切現象形式音樂打入冷宮, [咸池]的前中段是為引入最後段的的天樂漸次進入. 如果只求現象音樂而無超越物象進到無象, 只智不愚,並不是道家音樂的理想境界.

Daoism musical aesthetic standard is not against phenomenon forms. In fact, it is the combination of having forms and formless and the phenomenon forms are the path to the formless. 




You ~ got it?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Painting with Sounds - Guqin

1st Slide.

Guqin music has been used in a number of famous movies. If you Have seen these movies, you probably heard guqin music.

Although these movies are fiction, 諸葛亮 for example, in the movie Red cliff and Confucius,from the movie Confucius were real historical people who could play the guqin. So we know the guqin has a very ancient history.

Guqin, literally means "ancient zither." or the zither of antiquity. It has 7 string, therefore also called seven-stringed zither. Or it can be simply called the qin. Guqin is the oldest string instrument that has existed in Chinese history for almost 3000 years.  The qin that we play now is not much different from what the people were playing 2000 years ago.

The qin is often confused with the Chinese 古箏 and the Japanese Koto. 琴 and 箏 are two different instruments, both have a long history, but Qin is even older than zheng. JP koto belongs to the Zheng family.

The major differences are the qin has one stable bridge at the head. While the Zheng has a number of Moveable bridges/ Qin has 7 strings. While zheng has 13-21 strings/ Qin has a softer and lower tone, while zheng has a  brighter and louder tone/ Zheng players wear long artificial nails for plucking, qin player don't wear such nails, they just use their hands.

Although the qin only has 7 strings, it has a Wide range of sound including 4 octaves 

In the mean time, I am showing you this painting from Tang dynasty artist Zhou Fang, Drinking tea tuning qin. You can see this Tang lady is going to play the qin and before she start to play, she is tuning her qin. 
When playing the guqin, the first thing qin players do is checking the tuning and make sure all the strings are in tune. 

This piece I am going to play is a very elegant short piece called 良宵引, Song of a Pleasant Night.

[Qin playing]

As you can hear the Qin produces a soft and highly refined music with charming tones. The Taoist master Laozi once said 大音希聲" the greatest sound is almost no sound.  And maybe that is why for 2000 years, qin players play qin to meditate, to cultivate their mind and soul, and hope to reach to the highest level of pure and peaceful spirit.

Recently, there are two important world events happen in the modern history of the Guqin.

1, In 2003, guqin music was proclaimed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

2, Earlier In 1977, NASA sent the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft into outer space. They are carrying a Golden Record, containing music from around the world. Among those music, there is one guqin piece, "Flowing Water" (流水) performed by Master Guan Pinghu, one of the best qin players of the 20th century.

Qin is mainly used as a solo instrument. It is seldom seen in an orchestra but rather is played alone or with a small group of people who understand and appreciate its music. It is closely engaged with the Chinese literary class and Chinese painting, poetry, and the philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism.

This painting is from the Song dynasty artist 劉松年, it is called Listening to the Qin. It shows a qin scholar playing a qin on a special qin table, just like I have here a table specially made for playing the qin. While a friend bends toward him, you can see he appreciates the music. And their servant you can see is also listening to the music.  

The 20th century famous Dutch Sinologist, Robert Van Gulik, who was also a qin player, once said that a “painting with sounds” might be a good way to describe the essential quality of the guqin. It is so true. Therefore today I chose some ancient Chinese paintings to represent each piece I am going to play and hope you will enjoy the painting with sounds. 

The next piece I am going to play is called 泛滄浪 Boating on Azure Waves. It is an ancient qin piece from a 15th century qin music book. The Composer of this piece was said to be 郭楚望from the Song dynasty,  the11th century. This piece is presenting an image of riding on a boat on a big river, . You want to be within the universe looking at the misty clouds over the river, thinking how small human beings are against the big nature. 

The painting I chose to go with this qin piece is the only surviving painting from the Jing dynasty artist Wu Yuan Zhi in the 12th century, now in the Taipei Palace museum collection.

[qin playing] 

Now I would like to talk a little bit more about the qin notation. The qin has its unique notation system which allowed qin music to survive so many thousands of years. This picture is the earliest surviving qin manuscript from Tang Dynasty 7-8th century, called  Jie Shi Diao Yo Lan (elegant orchid in Jie Shi Mode). It is written in Chinese characters for qin players to remember how to play each song. For example, the first sentence of You Lan is telling the player to recline the left middle finger on the slightly left side of the 10th dot and press down the 2nd string. The 2nd sentence is telling the player to use the right middle and index finger to double “qian” (pluck) the 1st and 2nd string. And so on.

It was just like writing a story saying where and what the finger should play. It does not tell the rhythm and tempo. The tuning mode was indicated in front of a group of qin pieces which have the same tuning mode. So once you know the tuning and you know where to position your fingers, the rest is up to the creativity of the qin players to present whatever feeling they want to present.

The previous picture was the earliest surviving piece of that notation style, however that notation style was invented almost 200** years earlier than that piece (elegant orchid ) Yolan we saw. That notation style is called Wen-Zi-Pu, (literate notation). At least 200 years later there was the invention of Jian-Zi-Pu (abbreviated Chinese notation), that is what this picture is showing. They simplified the Chinese characters to a symbol system that has been used until now.

日人林謙三說烏絲欄指法譜是由隋唐人所寫, 說荻生俎徠曾明書烏絲欄為唐恆武(781)以前筆跡, 與幽蘭譜的筆跡年代一致. 可證兩者同為一物. 古譜都說制譜始於雍門周(戰國人約320BC), 到隋唐時的趙耶利(died in 639) 修正. 集字成譜. 然後才有曹柔做減字譜. 也有說唐陳拙作減字, 明的楊倫說有楊氏減字法應是指宋的楊祖雲的減字法. 可曹柔到底是哪個年代的人未考, 汪孟舒先生認為曹柔應該在唐陳拙之前.So the qin writing system of notation, probably has been existed even about 1000 years earlier than the Yolan manuscript. And the abbreviated notation system could be developed around Sui and Tang dynasty. In another word, the guqin literate notation has been using for more than 1000 years then the abbreviated Chinese notation developed.

On the right side of this picture, I point out one symbol to show how it is constructed. Basically it has a upper half and a lower half. The upper half has left finger indication and the dot position indication. The lower half has the right hand indication and the string number. For example, this symbol says left ring finger on the 10th dot, and the right middle pluck inward the 2nd string. Again this style of notation system does not tell the rhythm and tempo.   

These are two of the modern ways of qin notation that some people are using now. They are Using the Jian-Zi Pu combine with Numeral notation or  western staff notation on top of the Jian-zi pu to address the needs for rhythm and tempo in the notation.

Mountain and water are the most favorite subjects in Chinese paintings, they are also nature scenery that ancient Chinese people like to worship and enjoy to be with.  

The next piece I am going to play is石上流泉 Spring Water Flowing over Pebbles. Spring water is a moving motion, while pebbles are quietly sitting there. However they don't hinder each other, rather they get along in harmony. That is one of the concept of yin and yang that the whole is greater than parts.

This painting is “Playing the Qin in a Secluded Valley” painted in 1548 by Wen  Zhengming, now is in the collection of the Cleveland museum of art. You can see the stream next to the qin player and his listener.

[qin playing]

To listen qin music, Qin listener like to hear the ringing of each qin sound and they also like to imagine the scene depicted by the music.  

 the next piece I am going to play, is the beautiful qin piece, "3 Variations on the Plum Blossom" – perhaps you can hear the Evening moon over the mountains and the plum blossom dancing in the wind.
And the painting here is called Plum blossoms by moonlight. 

[qin playing]
Qin music has three basic sound formats:
1st San Yin which is open string sound, which is referred to as the earth tone
2nd An Yin which is the press down string sound, and it is referred to as the human tone
3rd Fan Yin which is the harmonic sound, which is referred to as the Heaven tone. The harmonic is when the left hand lightly touches the strings while the right hand plucks the string. 

The next piece I am going to play uses a lot of Fan yin, harmonics, the heaven tone. 
It is called 神人暢 literally means Harmony between god and human but it can also mean Harmony between Spirit and mind.

Now let's look at the construction of the guqin and its different styles.  
The guqin is basically constructed with two pieces of wood; a top board and a bottom board.  The top rounded board of qin symbolizes heaven (天圓) and the bottom flat board of qin symbolizes earth. (地方) The top board is often made with paulownia wood 桐木 and the bottom board is often made from Catalpa wood梓木. In this picture, on the top left we can see a qin is opened and The top board is hollowed out,The bottom board has 2 sound holes.  On the top right of this picture, it shows the qin accessories, the goose feet and tuning pegs and the pegs with fringes.

Below are some of the different qin styles. Each style has a name.  For example on the 1st right is called Hun Tun Shi, the Simple natural style. Banana leaf style, the Confucian Style which is the most common style. Like the one I am playing today is the Confucian style.  On the left is one of the oldest surviving qin from 7-8th century, collected in Beijing Palace museum.  and the style is called 靈機式 some also call it神農式 which is the name of the god of aquiculture, same as my other qin there that I brought today. You can see this antique qin has inscriptions on the bottom board

This picture is showing the different names of each parts on the guqin.  

This painting is called finished playing Qin. So I know that I am going to play my last piece today. The last piece I am going to play is Drunken Ecstasy,  

 The Drunken Ecstasy is said to be composed by Ruan Ji, one of the famous Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), a time with a lot of turmoil.  Ruan Ji was a talented poet, a musician, a very sensitive and righthearted man. It is said that Ruan Ji kept himself drunk all the time in order to  avoid many political dangers. Did he really want to be drunk all the time, we don't know but His pretending drunk allow him to be able to live the life he wanted.

Clip of Mei Hua San Nong.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Immortal Elegant Orchid 不朽之幽蘭

From Cao Pi’s (曹丕) “On Literature” (論文, Lun Wen)
“Truly, literature is a great accomplishment that brings order to the state; it is a splendor that does not decay. One’s years stay for a while but then they expire; one’s fame and happiness die with the body. A time for both of these things to end is inevitable. How could they compare with the endlessness of literature! Thus, the writers of antiquity entrusted themselves to their brush and ink and made known their ideas in written documents. Without relying on the words of a good historian, and without depending on a powerful patron, their names have been passed down to posterity. Moreover, King Wen expanded the Book of Changes while he was imprisoned; whereas, the Duke of Zhou fashioned the Rites of Zhou while he enjoyed great renown. The former still focused his effort, though his circumstances were difficult; the latter did not allow himself to be distracted by his fortune. So we see that the ancients spurned large disks of jade, but highly valued the use of their time, lest the years pass them by. However, people often do not exert their potential: if they are poor, then they fear hunger and cold; if they are rich, then they let themselves drift away in pleasure-seeking; their vision is stuck on just what’s immediately in front of them, and they abandon the accomplishments of a thousand years. While the sun and moon pass overhead, their bodies languish below, and suddenly they will transform away with the myriad things — this is the greatest pity to a person of intentions!
今日讀上文遂連想到幽蘭譜 (上文出於: above is quot from HarvardX: SW12.2x ChinaX Part 2: The Creation and End of a Centralized Empire on-line course) Reading this writing makes me think about the oldest surviving qin manuscript, Elegant Orchid. 

可那背後隱藏的中國人的want to be immortal 之心思想必也不無存在
可不是嗎, 兩千年後人們仍舊能夠經由研讀此譜而彈出幽蘭曲調.
My feeling to this manuscript is that whoever wrote this must be doing as a self cultivation, meditation, and to record the music piece for the sack of carrying on. Perhaps the strongest intention is the subconsciousness of want to be immortal.  The physical body cannot be immortal, but the spirit, the literature won't be expired. And it is true, after almost 2000 years, people still can play this piece, Elegant Orchid in Jie Shi Mode. 

In the preface of Yolan 幽蘭 manuscript, there are three characters of "Year" (年 nian), two were written in Wuzetian's (the first female emperor 武則天 624-705AD) creation of the character of nian, and one is the regular nian. And looks like the Wuzetian's nian were re-write after the rice paper had some damage. 禎明三年= 開皇九年 =公元 589 AD年. So Yolan must had been existing then. I am just feeling amazed that we can still play a qin piece that is 1450 -1500 years ago without too much of difficulty. And think of that the qin must been played even longer than 1500 years to be able to develop to this mature stage.