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.

The Laufer Expedition and the Chinese Wax Cylinders - Presented by Ralph Knag on 3/24/2019

The Earliest Chinese Music Recordings - 1901-4
  • While researching shadow puppets I learned that Indiana University had digitized the early wax cylinders 圓筒留聲機 collected by the Laufer Expedition
  • Recently they have announced funding to curate the collection and get it online
  • Here’s the earlier description of the collection and it’s digitization
  • The project is to be completed in two years, but I’ve been told that the digitized recordings will be online earlier…
  • There’s an number of different genres represented – it’s not clear if there is guqin.
Berthold Laufer
  • The first American sinologist – he was a an anthropologist who worked at the Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum in Chicago.
  • He went to China several times to collect material for the museums (1901-1923.)
  • Over 6,500 objects in the Museum of Natural History and another 19,000 at the Field Museum.
The Laufer Chinese Collections Online Museum of Natural History
You need to select Laufer, Bertold (Donor/Collector), then Asia (Collection Area) and China (Countries) to see the collection. From the 1901-4 expeditions

Field Museum: Laufer music From the 1908 and 1923 expeditions

Laufer the man
  • He worked under Franz Boas at the Museum of Natural History, both early anthropologists. I just read all of Boas work on NW Indians. 
  • Wrote on many things – he was famous for his work on Jade and ceramics, but also liked curiosities: The Swing in China, Insect Musicians of China (Crickets), tree climbing fish and more
  • "I have come to love the land and the people," he once wrote. "I feel myself to be better and healthier as a Chinese than as a European.“ This at a time soon after the Chinese exclusion act (1882) 
  • One of the few scholars of his time fluent in Chinese and other languages

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Bronze Bells of Marquis Yi of Zeng



https://www.bilibili.com/video/av28627418/

This video can hear the sound of the set of bronze bells from the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, unearthed in 1977 at Leigudun, Suizhou, Hubei province.  This recording was recorded in March 29, 1986.

Set of bronze bells:

- Since it is so costly to make, that only the wealthiest aristocrats could afford to own a set. 

- It is a fully melodic instrument, supplying all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, over a range of three octaves (a less dense scale continues for two more octaves). 

- Each bell with almond-shaped cross section (not including the middle bell at the bottom which was a gift from King of Chu) can produce two different fundamentals, depending on where the player strikes it. The center axis (front or back), or near the side (which the same pitch will be heard if the bell is struck at any of four symmetrically located points). 

- The two pitches are either major or minor third apart.

- Each bell's strike points have the names of the two pitches labeled with solmization syllables 唱名 (such as western's do or re, but in Chinese Gong or Shang 宮, 商 etc,. )  which is not the absolute pitches. 

- Longer and more extraordinary inscriptions on the other side of each bell relate its pitches to a series of named absolute pitches.


- The method of making set of bronze bells with accurate and required pitches is still unknown.
" 姑洗之下" 後面還有一個"角"字 This picture might
explain the picture below about this particular bells'
tone definition. 
Left: [正](1)   Right: [正](3)














Reference and photos: Music in the Age of Confucius, published in 2000 by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)











Thanks to Juni L Yeung who commented: 
the inscriptions indicate multiple things. 1: the common names of pitches in multiple states: Zeng, Chu, and Zhou, Jin and Qi, and what that particular tone would act as in the case of different modes. It shows both absolute and relative pitch positions - across multiple systems.

What is particularly important in these names is the use of a previously unknown system known as the Zeng/Pu system, which accounts for not just the thirds of the sanfen sunyi system, but also just intonations of fifths.

Peiyou: Zeng/pu should be Zeng/fu

See 曾侯乙編鍾的音律體系

Thursday, March 14, 2019

文王操 Wen Wang Cao (Praise the King Wen of Zhou)

舟中聽大人彈琴 by Su Shi 蘇軾

彈琴江浦夜漏水,斂衽竊聽獨激昂。風松瀑布已清絕,更愛玉佩聲琅璫。自従鄭衛亂雅樂,古器殘缺世已忘。千家寥落獨琴在,有如老仙不死閱興亡。世人不容獨反古,強以新曲求鏗鏘。微音淡弄忽變轉,數聲浮脆如笙簧。無情枯木今尚爾,何況古意墮渺茫。江空月出人響絕,夜闌更請彈文王。

Su Shi wrote this poem about listening a gentleman's qin playing on a boat, and asking the player to play Wen Wang Cao. Sushi lamented that people forgot the ancient melody because they all attracted by excited aroused modern music. (Isn't that also happening nowadays !?)

One of my favorite qin Master, Master Cheng Gongliang (1940-2015) playing Wen Wang Cao (Praise the King Wen of Zhou).



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.

When 10 days after Confucius learned the piece “Praise the King Wen of Zhou”
from Shi Xiang (the court musician of Lu State), 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 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.

原文:
師襄子,蓋魯人,《論語》所謂擊磬襄者是也。夫子學鼓琴師襄子, 十日不進,襄子曰:
“今子於琴已習,可以益矣。”孔子曰:“丘已習其曲矣,未得其數也” 有間,曰:“已習其數,
可以益矣。”孔子曰:“未得其志也。”有間,曰:“已習其志,可以益矣。”孔子曰:“未得其為
也。”有間,曰:“有所穆然深思焉,有所怡然髙望而遠志焉。”曰:“丘得其為人矣。黯然
而黑,頎(音qi2)然而長,曠如望洋,如王四國, 非文王其誰能為此也。”師襄子避席再拜曰:
“師蓋云《文王操》也。” 夫以琴為聖人師,其工妙矣。然師襄之學,徒知其音;聖人之學,
必得其意,其過襄遠矣。先授以聲而未授以名者,蓋古人之教人者,常待學者之自得而未
盡告也,自得則悟之深而左右逢其原矣

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

如何彈好琴 Important elements of learning guqin playing

如何彈好琴的幾項重要元素: Important elements of learning guqin playing:

1, RELAX and CONCENTRATION <-- this is the most important elements. Some times, we are eager to complete many tasks in a short time; eager to play nicely, but have not built up the skill yet. We forgot that concentrate on the basic training is the way to reach the goal and forgot to relax while practicing. 放鬆與專注, 莫要眼高手低, 想要在短時間完成很多任務.

2, PRACTICING. Muscle memory leads the playing. 所謂記憶在指尖, 就是指肌肉的記憶. 也因此練習再練習就是真理. therefore, practicing and practicing.

3, Correct foundation of playing techniques 正確的基礎, 因此初學時的正確教導與吸收非常重要.

4, Sense of accurate pitch 對音高的敏感度

5, Sense of rhythm/tempo 對節奏的敏感度

6, Understand the story and meaning behind the music piece. 對琴曲所要傳達的故事及意義的了解. 此項列於最後是因為如果前五項都無法達成, 第六項便毫無幫助. <-- I list this one at the final position. If none of the above 5 can be achieve, #6 won't do any help.






Sunday, February 24, 2019

爛柯行 A journey of a decayed axe handle

唐朝詩人孟郊〈爛柯山石橋〉:
仙界一日內,人間千載窮,
雙棋未遍局,萬物皆爲空。
樵客返歸路,斧柯爛從風,
唯餘石橋在,猶自凌丹紅。


李祐心先生演奏 Peformed by Mr. Li Yoxin


此曲頗有仙意
 "柯" 為斧柄. 一樵夫入山, 見一老一少正在下棋, 便把手上的斧頭放下, 專心的 觀棋, 不久, 少的轉頭對樵夫說: 你是否該回家了. 樵夫轉身要拾起自己的斧頭, 發現斧柄已腐朽, 原本鋒利的斧頭也殘鏽了, 原來樵夫入了仙境. 仙界一日, 人間早已千年...

"Ke" is the handle of an axe. A woodcutter entered a mountain, saw an old man and a young man playing chess. The woodcutter put down his axe , and stood there watching the chess game. Not too long after, the young man turn to him and said: Should you go home now? The woodcutter turned to pick up his axe but realized that the axe handle was decayed and the sharp knife was rusted. The woodcutter was actually entered a fairyland... One day in the fairyland, the human world has been thousands of years... This qin melody played by Mr. Li Yoxin is called Lan Ke Xin (trip of a decayed axe handle).

2018/11/1
聽完李祐心的演奏, 讓我也想打此曲. 找出清朝的德音堂琴譜, 此曲為尹芝仙作.
對於節奏的拿捏, 參考祐心先生的演奏, 逐漸找出自己的節奏. 心中也一直懷想著此曲的背景故事. 過程中有感古時學琴必得先聽老師彈, 節奏與細微處譜上無法看出的部分, 不先聽老師彈, 就得花多一點時間慢慢試, 慢慢體會. 如今video or sound recording 就如同老師, 也幫助了對細微處的提點. 重點自己也要會聽, 仔細聽, 在譜上做記號. 一彈再彈, 彈到腦中自動記住. 那個旋律感就出來了.

尹尔韬,号芝仙,浙江山阴人。宋儒尹彦明之后。精音律,明崇祯间,官武英殿中书。帝处之左右,每弹琴至精妙处,帝不觉击节曰:“仙乎,仙乎!”因号“芝仙”。明末游寓苏门,徜徉山水,志行高洁,力敦古道。孙征君极重之,乐与为友。所著有《徽言秘旨》。子域,汲县庠生。

2019/2/24
停了一段時間, 今日再度拿出此曲來練習. 越發欣賞此曲作曲者之心思.
Today, I pick up this piece after a long suspend. I enjoy to follow through the notation again, step by step, realizing how the composer (尹爾韜 Yǐn'ěr Tāo, around 1600-1678) arranged his fingers and notes and make this piece very interesting.

2019/4/27
小鎖, 背鎖 = 三聲
短鎖 = 五聲
長鎖 = 七聲


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

讀吳兆基先生對神奇秘譜的看法後...


Thanks to my sister sent me the article of master Wu Zhaoji 's (1908-1997) writing of what he thought about Sheng qi mipu. I suddenly had a feeling that the world is changing so fast, that I almost lost in this world. Master Wu's words reminding me the original mind of guqin, that I have forgotten. I have to pick up the "sunny spring" "white snow" again soon.

This picture is about Master Wu believed that studying the guqin, one should focus on few pieces that match his or her personality and keep practicing it years and years until really master it. For example, The Yushan school master Yian Tianchi (1547-1625) studied "Sunny Spring" all his life and he only felt that he had reached the flavor of this piece until he was really old. And Master Wu himself played Misty Clouds over Xiao & Xian River, Sunny Spring, and Fishermen Song for 60 years, but still not dared to claim that he had mastered those pieces.

Let me quote one saying from Master Wu which I agree:

文藝就是要強調一家之言,只有這樣才能充分體現作者獨特的文藝風格和成就。

" Literature and art is to emphasize the "one family statement" which means academic works of an independent thought which have formed a school of its own. Only in this way can the author's or artist's (or qin player's) unique style and achievements be fully reflected.

I will spend some time to try to translate the whole article of Master Wu's thought of SQMP. Stay tuned!

------------------------------------
目前翻譯了頭三段, 已能了解吳老所要強調的其實很單純, 也很實際, 就是一個"人心"的問題, 朱權在那樣一個環境下, 長期用盡心機生存, 如此如何能將琴藝推到高峰? 而現在世人還是瘋迷一個多樣, 多彩, 振奮, 刺激的感官享受, 對於修身養性是不會有所助益的. 古琴的高深奧妙就更不可能涉足到了.


So far, I have translated the first three paragraphs. I think master Wu’s emphasis is very simple and practical. It is a question of "human's heart". In such an environment, Zhu Quan was thinking of conspiracy all day long to try to survive, so how could he play the qin and cultivate his qin art to a higher level? Nowadays, the world is still crazy, aim for variety, colorful, inspiring, and stimulating sensory enjoyment. It will not help the self-cultivation, and the profound status of Guqin is even less likely to be reached.
------------------------------------

Below is my translation of the whole article, and the green color is my extra note. I use the initial letters of Sheng Qi Mi Pu through the whole article except the first time mention. Thanks to my husband's checking and correcting on my English.
------------------------------------

"My Opinion of Sheng Qi Mi Pu"  by Wu Zhaoji (1908-1997)

The early Ming dynasty feudal lord, Zhu Quan, 1378-1448, edited [Sheng Qi Mi Pu], which is a guqin handbook that was lost for many years until the 1950's. It was found in Shanghai (this book was kept at someone's home in Shanghai. In 1941,  Zhuang Jiancheng from Chengjiang once hand copied several qin pieces from this handbook).  Zhu Quan, this feudal lord who had political ambitions, was using the studying of literature and art to cover his ambition and was thinking of conspiracy all day long, how could he concentrate on the "outstanding achievement of guqin art?"

For sure, of the 61 qin pieces that are collected in the [SQMP], most of them were collected by the retainers of qin masters (a special social group who lived as dependents under a noble, an officeholder, or a powerful landlord), who managed, corrected, and edited the qin pieces during their teaching of the qin. The ancient saying: "the qin, (is to) restrain (oneself)," from the early time, the most important thing about studying qin is the emphasis on qin virtue. During the feudal kingdom, rebellion was a great threat. Those who had dignity, and cultivated literati, did not dare to live as dependents under a traitor.

Some people said that these qin pieces, "most likely have been group studied, edited and corrected by those qin masters. Most other qin handbooks only emphasized 'one school statement'  (which means academic works of an independent thought which have formed a school of its own) ,"  and claimed that "this (group study) is the great advantage of this qin handbook." I (master Wu) don't agree with this claim. Literature and arts are different from natural science. Natural science can be group discussed, though can also be discovered, developed, and created by individuals as well, but literature and arts are not like that. Obviously, we never hear that there is a great literature developed by a group discussion. The works of Beethoven were created by him alone. Lu Xun's ( a leading figure of modern Chinese literature) writings were written by him. Poetry, literature, calligraphy and painting, none of that is not like this, and there are endless examples. Literature and art emphasize "one school statement."  Only in this way can the author's or artist's unique style and achievements be fully reflected.  The development of guqin schools often start with one generation. They all had their own style during their own period of time, and so become "one school." There is no exception domestic or foreign, now or in ancient times. How can they denigrate it by saying that they are merely "one school statement?"  

Some say that until now, about 3000 qin pieces have been collected. Dividing by same titles or similar melodies, there are about 600 pieces. Currently there are about more than 100 pieces that can be seen, and about 50 something pieces that are often played by qin masters of all schools. This gives one an impression that there are only a small number of qin melodies. Therefore, there is the action of organizing a group of people to do Dapu (reinterpret ancient qin melodies), especially from the long time lost [SQMP], which is the most important work now, to rescue, to excavate, and to manage guqin music art.  

I have my own opinion on this issue. First of all, there should be an analysis of why, from thousands of years of time, did historical qin players favor these few (30 to 50 ) qin melodies? Historically in China, most of the literati could play the qin, especially during the Ming and Qing Dynasties which were the heyday of qin study. Doing "dapu"  was not a difficult job to qin masters. Many played the qin due to personal interest besides their major career, and they treated it as self cultivation. They played qin starting as a hobby. They decided which qin melodies to play based on if the melodies matched their personality, and sentiment. We cannot prove that those qin melodies which have not been played often, have not been touched by predecessors, rather we can assume that they were abandoned. On the contrary, those 30 to 50 pieces that have been played often, actually prove that they are most likely preferred by many people and have beautiful melodies. Of course every one has a different preference, and different skill level. To some pieces, perhaps with higher difficulty, or lack of the understanding of organisation of melody and rhythm, or limited by the time, the age and personality of the qin players, that caused them to stop being played after a few attempts. Many amateur qin players give up playing due to their time being occupied by their major career. A friend of mine has reinterpreted more than 40 pieces but only plays around 10 pieces often. I have studied qin for 70 years and only studied 15 pieces, and still able to play them, I feel lucky, but the flexibility of my finger movement has declined.

The qin pieces collected in [SQMP] are from Ming and before the Ming dynasties. (It is said that "Heming Jiugao, cranes calling on the high marshland" and "Qiu Hong, autumn geese " were composed by Zhu Quan.) The fingerings in those qin pieces have emphasis on the right hand plucking, and use more of the open string sound and harmonics, allowing the melodies and rhythm to be more pleasant to the ears and easier to be touched.  It is very insufficient applied to the left hand fingerings. Things are always moving forward with non-stop development. Since the early Ming dynasty, qin players started to notice the development of the left hand fingerings, such as the application of yin, nao, chuo, zhu, shang xia, dou, and zhuang etc., techniques, which allowed the players to express, and the listeners to hear, deeper feeling and emotion. This is a great progress in the qin history.  Most of those qin handbooks published during the Ming and Qing dynasties have this quality. And that is the great contribution from the careful and mindful study of the two dynasties qin players. Taking the "Hujia" as an example, [Da Hujia, the Great Nomad Reed-pipe] and [Xiao Hujia, the Small Nomad Reed-pipe] both are collected in [SQMP] and both are very pleasant to listen to and easier to be accepted by the public. However if talking about deeper meaning and feeling that can touch people's hearts, the [Hujia Shiba Pai, the 18 beats of Nomad Reed-pipe] from [Wuzhi Zhai Qinpu] is the best.

Some fingering notations in [SQMP] are not following the fingering law. For example, the right hand fingerings that are plucked outward (towards hui dots) like Tiao (index out) and Ti (middle out), and those plucked inward (towards oneself) like Muo (index in), and Goh (middle in), that play in sequence on the 5th and 4th strings become Muo 5th Goh 4th, or Muo 5th Goh 3rd, but that is very unreasonable. Might it be the editor's negligence or the printer's mistake? Some melodies, have uncoordinated phrasing, pauses , and musical law (temperament), that often make interpreters confused and feel uncomfortable to play.

I think there are many outstanding pieces worth study in [SQMP] indeed, but I have to reserve my view on this matter that to organize such a poor number of qin players, about 200,  to focus on the rescue of [SQMP] and to excavate and manage guqin music art.

There were a large number of qin handbooks published during the Ming and Qing dynasties, among them, some really outstanding ones. Although some handbooks were only printed with a few qin pieces,  those qin pieces have been carefully and repeatedly studied throughout a long period of the editors' life time. Besides, to study qin music, quantity is not the winner. To study an ancient melody, one might spend several months. However, to fully understand and master the essence, it may take several decades, and still not be fully achievable. The Yushan qin school master Yian Tianchi (1547-1625) once said that he studied "Sunny Spring" all his life and only felt that he had reached the flavor of this piece when he was very old. I myself played Misty Clouds Over Xiao & Xian River, Sunny Spring, and Fishermen Song for over 60 years, still not daring to claim that I have mastered those pieces. Here, at the international event the first time ever in the history of the guqin, qin friends gathered here from all places, and we can discuss and exchange knowledge on several famous qin melodies, which is truly my wish in my life. 

Written in April 4th 1990.



Friday, January 25, 2019

葛漢聰先生的招隱

一位琴友問葛漢聰先生的招隱是根據哪一個琴譜? 以下是我的回答:

謝謝你的提問, 讓我也仔細聽了一下葛先生的演奏. 再經過比對神奇秘譜與鳳宣玄品, 重修真傳, 以及琴苑心聲. 我認為葛先生是根據[神奇秘譜]為基礎, 然後加上他自己的創作. 從video 的4:05 以後到 7:05 以前是他的創作, 在那之前與之後則與神奇秘譜沒有不同, 除了他可能彈久了, 用指上不完全同神譜, 但旋律,音高,徽位,基本是一樣的. 

他的彈法很有它自己的風格. 比如綽上與注下都沒有藏頭. 此曲在葛先生的彈奏下, 頗合於招隱前序歌詞中的"振衣踯躅彈冠塵, 莫教雙鬢蕭蕭, 霜雪侵." 那種愾然.

4:05 以前是彈到神奇秘譜的"從召至隱復作"的第二遍, 然後是他自己的創作,到7:05又接回"從召至隱"後的散勾三, 挑五, 一直到曲終.

以上是我的一點看法, 

PS. 如果有琴友知道真實情況, 還請不吝賜教. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking the Principles of Practicing Taichi to the qin playing


Playing qin is pretty much related to practicing Taichi (or Taijiquan). Here I attempted to translate the 10 principles of practicing Taichi to English. The Chinese part was taken from Zhengzi Taichiquan.

Many concept are not easy to translate due to my limited English skill. If anyone has better idea, please let me know. I'll be very appreciate it.

一、虛靈頂勁:頂勁者,頭容正直,神貫於頂也。不可用力,用力則項強血氣不能流通,須有虛靈自然之意。非有虛靈頂勁,則精神不能提

1,  Xū líng dǐng jìn : "Xu" means empty, humble, void or abstract, the opposite of solid, or concrete. "Ling" means spirit. "Ding Jin" means that the head is upright, so the spirit goes to the top. However, don't use force. Using force, the neck will become stiff and the blood circulation won't be smooth. Keep the idea of emptiness and nature. If there is no emptiness, then the spirit and energy cannot be raised.

二、含胸拔背:含胸者,胸略內涵,使氣沉於丹田也。胸忌挺出,挺出則氣擁於胸際,上重下輕,腳根易於浮起。拔背者,氣貼於背也。能含胸則自能拔背,能拔背則力能由背發,所向無敵也。

2, Hánxiōng bá bèi : Han Xiong means that the chest is a little bit sunk in, in order to let the energy go down to the Dantian. Make sure that the chest is not elongated and standing out. If the chest is elongated and out, the qi energy will all stay in the chest area, and that will cause a heavier top and lighter bottom, and the heels will become unstable. While the back should be a little bit pulled, in order to enable the force energy to come out from the back to protect the whole body to be invincible.

三、鬆腰:腰為一身主宰,能鬆腰後兩足有力,下盤穩固。虛實變化,皆由腰動。故曰命意源頭在腰際,有不得力,必於腰腿求之也。

3,   Sōng yāo, loosen waist:  Our waist dominates the whole body. If one can loosen the waist, then the two legs become stronger, and the lower part of the body becomes stable. All the changes of abstract and concrete are ruled by the action of the waist.  Therefore, the source of energy is at the waist. If there is no effective energy, one must be pursued from the waist and legs.

四、分虛實:太極拳以分虛實為第一義。如全身皆坐在右腿,則右腿為實,左腿為虛。全身坐在左腿,則左腿為實,右腿為虛。虛實能分,而後轉動輕靈,毫不用力。如不能分,則邁步重滯,自立不穩, 而易為人所牽動。

4,   Fēn xūshí,  distinguish the "abstract (emptiness)" and "concrete (solidness)": The most important principle of Taichiquan is the distinguishing of abstract and concrete. If the weight is on the right leg, then the right leg is the concrete one and the left leg is the abstract one, and vice versa.  After distinguishing the abstract and concrete, then the movement will become more easy without using any force. If one cannot distinguish the abstract and concrete, the steps will become heavy and stagnant, and standing will become unstable and easy to be pushed by others.

五、沉肩墜肘:沉肩者,肩鬆開下垂也。若不能鬆垂,兩肩端起,則氣亦隨之而上,全身皆不得力矣。墜肘者,肘往下鬆墜之意。肘若懸起,則肩不能沉,放人不遠,近於外家拳之斷勁矣。

5, Chén Jiān Zhuì Zhǒu, drop shoulders and elbows: Shoulders should be relaxed and sagging, otherwise the shoulders will be shrugging, and the qi energy will follow the shoulder up, which will cause the whole body not to have efficient energy.  While the elbows are also dropped, so shoulders won't shrug. This way the energy won't be easily broken by outside force.

六、用意不用力:太極拳論所云,全是用意不用力。練太極拳,全身鬆開,不使有絲毫之拙力以留滯於筋骨血脈之間,以自束縛,然後能輕靈變化,圓轉自如。或疑不用力,何以能長力?蓋人身之有經絡,如地之有溝洫。溝恤不塞而水行,筋絡不閉而氣通。如渾身僵勁充滿經絡,氣血停滯,轉動不靈,牽一髮而全身動矣。若不用力而用意,意之所屆,氣即至焉。如是氣血流注,日日貫輸,周流全身,無時停滯,長久練習,則其真正內勁,即太極拳論中所云,極柔軟然後能極堅剛也。太極拳功夫純熟之人,臂膊如棉裹鐵,分量極沉。練外家拳者,用力則顯有力,不用力時則甚輕浮,可見其力乃外勁浮面之勁也。外家拳之力最易引動,不足尚也。

6, Yòngyì bùyòng lì, using mind but not using force: All the theory that Taijiquan talks about is on the idea of using the mind but not using the force. Practicing Taijiquan, the whole body has to be loose, in order not to let any clumsy energy stay in between blood and vessels, muscles and bones to constrain oneself. Then one can move easily and freely. When there is no energy blockage, then the mind can guide the qi energy to wherever the intention is. After much practicing, blood and qi energy flows through the whole body without blockage, and one can gain the real inner force. As Taijiquan theory often says that after the extreme soft, is the extreme power. When you see a master of Taijiquan, his or her arms are like iron covered with cotton, full of inner force.

七、上下相隨:上下相隨者,即太極拳論中所云,其根在腳,發於腿,主宰於腰,形於手指,由腳而腿而腰,總須完整一氣也。手動腰動足動,眼神亦隨之動,如是方可謂上下相隨,有一不動,即散亂也。

7, shàngxià xiāng suí, up and down coordinate with each other: The root is at the feet, developed to the legs, ruled by the waist, formed to the fingers, all that has to achieve as a whole. Hand moves, waist moves, feet moves, and the eyes also follow the movement, then it is said the up and down are coordinated with each other. If there is one part not following the movement, that is scattered.

八、內外相合:太極所練在神,故云神為主帥,身為軀使。精袖能提得起自然舉動輕靈。架子不外虛實開合。所謂開者,不但手足開,心意亦與之俱開;所謂合者,不但手足合,心意亦與之俱合:能內外合為一氣,則渾然無間矣。

8, Nèiwài xianghé, inside and outside matched: Taiji practicing is focused on the spirit (or mind), so it is called that the spirit is the master, and the body is driven by the master. The forms are basically no more than "opening" and "combining",  "abstract" and "concrete". "Open" means not only the hands and legs are open, but the mind is open as well. "Combine" means not only the hands and legs are coordinated, the mind is also merged. Inside and outside are as a whole, without any space in between.


九、相連不斷:外家拳術,其勁乃後天之拙勁,故有起有止,有續有斷。舊力已斷,新力未生地時,最易為人所乘。太極拳用意不用力,自始至終,綿綿不斷,周而復始,循環無窮,原論所謂,如長江大河滔滔不絕。又曰,運勁如抽絲,皆言其貫串一氣也。

9, Xiānglián bùduàn, continuous connection without any break: If the force has any break, the old force cannot connect to the new force, that is the weakest time to let outside force to take advantage. Taijiquan does not use force but mind, from the beginning to the end, continuous, round and round, endless cycle. Just like the endless flow in the Long River. It is also like pulling a silk thread, which all mean the continuous energy.

十、動中求靜動靜合一:外家拳以跳擲為能,用盡氣力,故練習之後,無不氣喘者。太極拳以靜制動,雖動猶靜。故練架子愈慢愈好,慢者呼吸深長。氣沉丹田,自無血脈僨張 之弊。學者細心體會,庶可得其意焉。

10, Dòng zhōng qiú jìng dòngjìng hé yī, While moving, seeking the stillness; the moving and the stillness are as one:  Too much jumping up and down will use too much energy. Taijiquan is using the stillness to control the moving energy. The slower the better for practicing all movements. When it is slow, the breath will be long. The qi energy will sink to the Dantian, therefore there will be no problem caused by sudden excitement. The learner should carefully experience it, then one can understand the essential meaning.