Monday, April 18, 2022

採真游 打譜 Dapu of Cai Zhen You

On 5/15/2022 NYQS dapu yaji 紐約琴社打譜雅集 I presented my dapu of CZY 採真游

Slides and 

Slide1 : Following Jim's Daoist piece, I am going to talk about my dapu of another daoist piece, Cai Zhen You from XLTQT. I will briefly talk about the following topics. Motivation, About the title, The Epilogue of CZY from XLTQT, the tuning and mode, and how to perform. 

In the fall of 2006,when I went to TW to meet some qin friends, I heard a friend talking about this piece, saying it is a daoist piece. I was very curious so I decided to study it myself in early 2007.

Slide2: About the title: Cai Zhen You.
Cai means to pick, to select, to gather
Zhen means real, the genuine, natural property
You means purposeful traveling
So I decided to translate it as Travelling to Gather Truth

The composer is unknown, it could have been composed before the Ming dynasty
The name of Cǎi Zhēn Yóu could be taken from the book of Zhuang Zi, Section FOURTEEN - THE TURNING OF HEAVEN (see the next slide)

Slide3: from the quote of ZHuang Zi, I feel this phrase could help my understanding of the Cai Zhen You: "Free and easy, he rested in inaction; plain and simple,"

Slide 4: at the end of this piece in XLTQT, there is this footnote, and I also find this phrase could help my understanding of this piece:  "the mind of a hermit who was arrogant and stayed outside the world."

Slide 5: CZY is using standard tuning, and the mode is Jue Mode. You can tune your qin from the 1st to the 7th string as CDFGACD or 1 to 2 steps lower. For example, my silk string qin is tuned one step lower. In this tuning, I sing it as 2 3 5 6 7 2 3 in order to match the Jue Mode.

Slide 6: The decision of 2 3 5 6 7 2 3 was made recently after I recorded my playing and put in REAPER (Audio recording software) to generate a staff notation system for me to understand why it is in Jue Mode. Due to limited time, I will not spend too much time on this matter. But will just show this drawing of a scale that I think is the closest scale to CZY. I also analysed all the notes that have been used in each section. 3 (角) and 6 (羽) are used the most, then is the 7 (Ren Jue/Bian Gong)

Slide 7: To decide how to play, first I have to decide the phrasing, as this traditional notation does not give clear indication of phrasing. Then there are some parts that are not quite clear such as where to repeat.
This piece does not have complicated fingering.
So the rest is just to play it and to decide the rhythm and a few parts where I need to decide the pitches.

Slide 8: Here are the places I need to decide where to repeat. In section 4, which is the only section that has hui positions between dots where I need to be careful for pitch decisions.

Slide 9: Such as here 78 and 67...

Slide 10: This is also in section 4. There is a wang lai technique here. It can be played as 11212 or 11717, I decided to play it as 11717.
And this is the only #5 note in the entire piece.

Slide 11: This is the ending part of CZY. You can see the ending phrase starts with Ruen Jue (ti) and ends with Yu Jue (La Mi) together. My understanding of Jue Mode is that it is based on the Chinese circle of fifths system, the Jue was generated from Yu, and Jue generates Ruen Jue. They are like a mother to son to grandson relationship. So one might find these three notes used quite a lot in a Jue Mode piece, especially in the beginning or/and end of a phrase or/and a section and the final ending.

Slide 12: To decide the rhythm. I have no method but using my intuition. Now I will play CZY on a silk string qin.

The following 6 pages of staff notation are from my own study of the mode. I am not an expert of transcribing music into staff notation. The rhythm presented in these pages are just for reference, as my playing of this piece will not be exactly the same every time. 

Please listen to my playing on silk strings :

Monday, August 23, 2021


I started to work on this music in the middle of June,  inspired by Akira Ifukube: Chant de la Sérinde (1997) for koto.  

Yves asked me if I can play like a conversation with the koto. I tried, but the result was not satisfactory for me. I also feel that qin should just play solo to bring out the natural character of the qin. Therefore, this 西域之歌 (Song of West Region) gradually came out. 

Two months later, now I think I can say that it is finished with my interpretation on the qin. I just have this funny feeling about how my brain is absorbing repeated playing and practicing and suddenly a phrase of creativity jumps out within my fingers, that is how I wrote down the ending section after a few tries in different directions. 

I basically took the first half of Ifukube's Chant de la Serinde for koto, and rearranged it on the qin. Koto has a different nature which can play a bunch of sequential notes in a rapid tempo, and both hands can create complicated chords. Qin has only 7 strings, therefore, I use sliding and crossing a few strings to create a sequential sound of notes. There are some cords but only in 2 notes at a time. Even so, I play some of the chords in a slightly separate timing to create two notes sequentially, which is a technique that I learned from the earliest surviving qin melody, Yolan from the 6th century.  This piece on the qin becomes simplified and I like to let each note linger.   To me, fewer notes but more subtle sounds are more mysterious and attractive. 

移植這首音樂到古琴上的過程是很愉悅的. 每一個音的取決都思考過一陣子. 是品嘗, 是醞釀. 最終該放在哪, 該輕還是該重. 指法該如何才能在不突兀, 不困難, 不太奇怪的手形之下完成適當的取音. 該忠實呈現原創者的音, 或加入自己的想像與創造. 再再都是一個走過當下的經驗. 也由衷讚嘆 Ifukybe 的優美創作. 

因為Yves的好奇心也引起我的好奇心. 到底原創者Akira Ifukube 對 Sérinde (西域) 是有著怎樣的幻想? 我對Sérinde 又是有怎樣的幻想. 老實說, 我一直沒有特別的感受, 直到最近塔利班佔領阿富汗首都喀布爾的新聞鋪天蓋地的席捲而來, 我才突然有了一些感觸. 

對於我, 這曲更多是充滿異國悲情. 在那個古來多征戰之地, 宗教文化造就某種對人類的影響, 是拯救還是偏頗與殘忍? 



王之渙(唐 )


王翰(唐 )


古琴曲[胡笳十八拍],[龍朔操](舊名昭君怨), (特別一提, 它們都是"無射調", 也就是我的"西域之歌"決定所用的調) 訴說的漢女遠嫁匈奴的故事...


The process of translating this piece of music onto the guqin was very pleasant. The decision of each tone must be considered for a while. It is like tasting and brewing. Where should the note be placed? Should it be light or heavy? How can my fingerings be unobtrusive, and not too difficult and not too strange to complete the appropriate sound? Should it faithfully present the original creator’s voice, or add my own imagination and creation? Every single decision was an experience of going through the moment. I also sincerely admire Ifukube’s beautiful creations .

Yves’ curiosity also awakened my curiosity. What kind of fantasy did Akira Ifukube have regarding Sérinde? What kind of fantasy do I have about Sérinde? To be honest, I have not had any special feelings until recently when the news of the Taliban's occupation of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, swept overwhelmingly, and I suddenly felt something in the music.

For me, this song is full of exotic sadness. In that place where there were many battles in ancient times. Different religions and cultures have created a certain influence on mankind. Is it salvation or prejudice and cruelty?

The frontier fortress poems of China in the Han and Tang Dynasties have already implicitly expressed sadness and desolation.

Guqin melodies [Hujia Shiba Pai], [Long Shuo Cao] (formerly known as Zhaojun Yuan), (In particular, they are all "Wuye tuning", which is the tuning I used in my "Song of the Western Regions" ), are the stories of Chinese women marrying the Xiongnu...

The Western Regions are a place parted in life and separated by death...
From Yves' Facebook:
For the New York Guqin Society August 22nd, 2021 yaji ('elegant gathering'), I suggested to guqin interpret/teacher Peiyou Chang to transcribe Akira Ifukube's Chant de la Sérinde originally written for 25-string koto.
Intrigued by the name Sérinde and why a Japanese composer would use a French title for his 'musings' about Central Asia, I presented the results of my research in a Google Docs presentation (3).
1) Chant de la Sérinde, solo for 25-string koto, by composer Akira Ifukube; interpret Keiko Nosaka who commissioned the piece to Ifukube.
2) Chant de la Sérinde on Guqin, transcriped and interpreted by Peiyou Chang
3)Google Docs presentation: Yves Seban

Huáng zhōng / Wú Yè Mode's pieces in Shénqí Mìpǔ

Huángyún Qiusài (Yellow Cloud Autumn Frontier)

Big Hújiā,
"Jia" is a reed instrument,
"Hu" means non-Han nationalities living in the north and west of China in ancient times.

Dàyǎ, Great Elegant

黃鐘調(無射調) 在古琴曲裡使用到的主音仍以do, re, me, sol, la, 為主,但偶而會加入fa and si/ti.
西域之歌則用到了所有七音, 並多一個#sol (or 降la)

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

長亭怨慢英文翻譯 Slow Lament at the Tall Pavilion translated by Yves Seban

Yves has several modification, and the 4th one is the final.

1, A morning breeze blows on the woolen dew from the branches.
A green halo fills the doors of people’s houses.

At sunset, circling away in sea creeks,
The sails are hoisted and flap to the wind.
Where do they go?

I know the world.
Nothing compares with the trees at the Tall Pavilion.
If they were sentient beings,
They wouldn’t blossom like this.

The high city walls shield the sun's last rays.
Countless mountains everywhere.

Master Fei has departed.
Will remember his jade-minted command:
"Return soon
Or Red-Calyx will have no master."

No shears are sharp enough to cut the
Thousand threads of sorrow when lovers part.

Translation by Yves Seban
New York March 25th, 2021

2, A morning breeze blows the woolen dew from the branches.
A green halo fills the doors of people’s houses.

At sunset, circling away in sea creeks,
The sails are hoisted and flap to the wind.
And where do they go?

I know the world.

Do the willow trees at the Tall Pavilion
Know how green and fresh they’ve become?
The high city walls shield the sun's last rays.
Countless mountains everywhere.

Master Wei died.
We’ll remember his jade-minted command:
"Return soon
Or Red-Calyx will have no master."

When lovers part, no shears are sharp enough to cut the
Thousand threads of sorrow that bind them.

Translation by Yves Seban
New York March 24th, 2021

3,Slow Lament at the Tall Pavilion

A morning breeze blows balls of woolen dew from the branches.
People’s houses. A green halo fills the doors.

At sunset, circling away in sea creeks,
The sails are hoisted and flap to the wind.
And where do they go?

I know the world.

Do the willow trees at the Tall Pavilion
Know how green and fresh they’ve become?

The high city walls shield the sun's last rays.
Countless mountains everywhere.

Master Wei left.
They said:
“Return soon
Or Yuhuan will have no master. ”

She drowned in sorrow.

Translation by Yves Seban
New York March 26th, 2021

A morning breeze blows on the woolen dew from the branches.
A green halo fills the doors of people’s houses.

At sunset, circling away in sea creeks,
The sails are hoisted and flap to the wind.
Where do they go?

I know the world.

Do the willow trees at the Tall Pavilion
Know how green and fresh they’ve become?

The high city walls shield the sun's last rays.
Countless mountains everywhere.

Master Wei left
Will remember Yuhuan 's command:
"Return soon
Or Red-Calyx will have no master."

No shears are sharp enough to cut the
Thousand threads of sorrow when lovers part.

Translation by Yves Seban
New York March 27th, 2021

詞牌:長亭怨慢 一名"長亭怨" 詞曲 姜夔 (1154-1221)  



Monday, March 15, 2021

從現代音樂上論琴 彭祉卿





(二)琴的聲律——“聲律”兩個字,就狹義來說,就是五聲——宮、商、角、徴、羽和十二律——黃鐘、大呂、太簇、夾鍾、姑洗、仲呂、蕤賓、林鐘、夷則、南呂、無射、應鐘;一切音的構造,都是用它們作基本。就廣義來說,除此之外,尚包括均調節奏在內,在現代音樂名詞上,就叫作音域、音程、音階、調子、拍子等等。琴的音域,由低至高,除重複者外共有四組;比起西樂的大風琴鋼琴,誠不算多,但在絲樂中也就可以了。(實在它的重複音多,便於應用,也是他種樂器所不及)它的音程,雖也是十二位,但在兩音距離中間,尚可分出很多的小音位;譬如由宮至商或由商至宮,即西樂之由D至C,本來是一個長二度音程;但如琴上指法,用個引上,或用個抑下,則長二度中間,就加了一個增一度或減二度音程;又如指法用飛吟上或用淌吟下,那就其中經歷的小音程甚多,它的音便複雜起來。再說到音階,現在一般音樂家的心理,總認定我國樂曲,所用的只是一種五聲音階,哪裏知道琴曲裏面除五音外,尚有七聲九聲,(《樵歌》就完全用了九聲)而且所用的七聲九聲,均能各自獨立,並不是附屬於五聲,或只作轉調之用。此外尚有用至九聲以外者,略與西樂用臨時井b記號相等,不過都暗含在徽分裏面,並未明記在譜上,所以大家就習焉不察了。調子一項,琴上尤爲完備,古人所稱的十二均,六十調或八十四調,琴用三準音及五式調絃,便可以概括無餘;此外尚有一種變調,調絃不依五音定位,取音亦與通常不同,大有西樂旋律的短音階之意味,可惜近來此種曲操,彈的很少了。拍子一項,在琴譜上並無明顯標誌,所以一般人往往不知,但是它的緩急輕重,已暗含在指法之中,深明譜理的人,不難一望而知;例如滾拂兩指法,凡十二聲相連共得一拍,彈時須兩頭重而急,中間輕而緩,若用西樂譜表現出來,就大約可以寫做“653 2  1  6.  5.  6  1   235(please see the bottom link, page 84) 我們看了這個例,也可以知道里面音階之細密了。



(四)琴的性質——琴這個東西,說它是音樂可以,說它不是音樂也可以;因爲向來彈琴的人,就不肯把琴看作一種藝術 (really? how about "四藝之首" 之說?) ;說它是合乎道的,應該拿來修身理性,導養延年的。這話固然玄妙一點,但是琴確實與其他音樂,有點不同,它的聲音直接與心靈發生關係,所以彈琴的時候,無不心氣和平,聽琴的時候,也無不神志安定;這種效能,絕不是其他音樂所可辦到。它的曲操,在人的方面,必定要能發出一種情感,在物的方面,也必定要能寫出它的情態;若並無所表現,單是聲調抑揚,音階鏗鏘,使人聽了悅耳,那在琴家就說這是時腔俗調,不足爲重了。所以愈高古的琴曲,初聽時愈覺並不好聽,必定要聽的耳力程度,逐漸加高,(自然彈的也須要高手)那時就能感覺到意味深長了。琴學裏面最流行的故事,就是伯牙彈琴,子期能聽出他志在高山,志在流水,這種境界,在琴上是確有可能,我們不要把它當作其他神話去一概抹煞的!





Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Guillaume de Machaut and love songs

A couple months ago, my friend Yves Seban sent me a link with a bunch of Middle Ages music by Guillaume De Machaut. When I heard the first one which is Douce Dame Jolie, I immediately wanted to try it on the qin. By listening to its melody, I could almost find all the notes on the qin. So I went online to get the staff notation of this song and then worked carefully for the details, as I wanted to make it as a fingering exercise piece. I also listened to several different recordings on Youtube, including this one from La Morra that Yves sent me too. After a few days, I could play the whole song with confidence. After making a couple of recordings myself, I have fine tuned a few notes and then finally have come up with what I played at the 1/3/2021 yaji. This recording I made two days before the yaji.

For the Yaji records, please visit my guqin yaji blog.

Here are the slides of my 1/3/2021 presentation

Reference about courtly love and A Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love.
Thanks to Yves provided this link:

Marilyn's question during the yaji makes me to review my creation process. I had put some notes down as below.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Do Diao 調 and Yi 意 function as western music "scale?"

 We had this discussion on facebook, I would like to keep them here...

9/15/2020 I asked:

Juni L Yeung
Bin Li
 Do the "diao 調" and "yi 意" in the ancient Chinese guqin music function as the same idea of western music term of those scales ?

  • There's a WHOLE can of worms about diao being "a tune/song", "a tuning", and "a mode" all using the sameword. Yi is a little easier - since it's "a motif" and that's easily understood in English as "an example of music that uses a certain mode, especially to demonstrate the characteristics of it." So we're good on that one.
    • Yea. This video went viral in my composer & educator circle but what is new in the discussion is more about racial/political theory than the music theory (although there is overlap). I agreed on some aspects but not all of them. For example, I certainly agreed on the college curriculum emphasis on Schenkerian analysis (usually a 2 semester courses...). We also need to recognize that music theory & ppl's perception of theory is changing all the time. Also composers do not really think in terms of theory before composing. It is rather the other way around. Composition first then theory. This is evident at Beethoven's music. I also agree we should not use the framework of the western theory to music from other cultures. For comparison OK, but not as the only way to understand. I think Chinese Diao does talk about how pitches are organized similar to the Western scale. Same as 十二律 (e.g. 黄钟,大吕, etc.) similar to the fixed-do/tuning system.
    • scales ... don't have a single function. it depends on the instrument. if fretless - then you are trying to learn both finger agility and to hit the notes. if fretted - then it is all about agility as with guitar players with perhaps a side order of teaching you where notes are to be found but you really don't need to worry about missing the notes because you can't. However there is very little if any musical sense in scales. No one ever says and now I will play you a C scale on the guitar that starts at such and such a position. diao yi or whatever seem to be more or less a set of "riffs" and a higher level function of giving you musical sentences as well as a sense of the mode itself. To me they are very different. To often I think the point of guitar players at least playing scales is to learn how to jam the most notes into the smallest time and I don't find it interesting.
    NB. "Theory" is a post-facto attempt to understand the creative process, whether of music or of a visual art. I don't believe theory ever explains what music is, but in the act of looking at scores, or tablature, and analyzing the form, the phraseology, the sequencing and the textures, we have a way to deepen our understanding of a work. What is "theory" anyway? if it is verbal, it is already a translation into another language, whether it is Western or whatever. Speaking of Beethoven, a number of his scores, or holographs, are extant in the Library of Congress, and the Morgan Library, as are Mozart's. They are enlightening, but how close does it take us to his "music"? they are marks on a page of what went on in his brain/heart, and it is up to the musician(s) who read it to bring it alive in their instruments. Whether the result is what the composer intended, one can only ask a living composer. Am I discussing something completely different from what you have been, Li Bin? When you or Juni or Peiyou speak, it is also an act of interpreting what you are saying, and my trying to determine and fathom your point of view, because what you are saying is only the tip of the iceberg of what you have been thinking about. A musical piece, or visual work, condenses a complex process into a dense gem-like result, like a gem, it has undergone, heat, pressure, and time lapsing. That is why a real gem can hold our attention for so I make any sense here?
    • agreed. theory is nonetheless a process of "generalization". although it provides a framework but the exact framework might limit our appreciation of the music. what is worse: like the video pointed out, a tendency to use western theory for eastern music. that's why i don't really go with the theory when i compose. but for education purpose, i do think theory is important, a more "practical" way to inquire to the past music. but after one studies all the theories, it is also important to realize that sometimes one need to "unlearn" all things learned to appreciate music as it is. in addition, "theory" is changing all the time, as well. even the theory about Debussy 20 years ago is different than the theory about Debussy today.
    • The main difference between Bin (a composer) and I (a player/scholar) is that our critique on the same situation goes in slightly different shades. While he argues that theory too precise hinders the creative process, I argue that the theory hinders the creative process because it either doesn't explain enough, or is providing inaccurate guidelines for said creative processes. And given that Western theory is used to explain Chinese music since the 20th century as the standard curriculum, the "Chinese music" situation is really dire right now. This is why both of us are calling for a return of teaching Chinese "music theory" as it was used to be taught and understood, and perhaps work towards rearranging that knowledge for modern learning and thinking patterns for broad dissemination.
    • Bin Li
       For you as a composer I can see how the history of a musical form, whether from the East or the West, could be a burden, unless your creative drive can overcome that burden. I can see it in an art form like ballet as in music, there is a certain level of training that is necessary -- all the technical aspects, that have to be mastered, unless one is dancing or composing in completely "free form." Certain Schubert, who was not really appreciated in his own day by a wider public, felt the burden of the past that he revered, Haydn, Mozart, especially Beethoven. .....I find it interesting that you mention Debussy, because I do believe he is only being truly recognized today, and even not fully appreciated by many today, for his truly individual sound impressions, whether for piano or orchestrally, his ability to suggest mood, atmosphere, anxiety and even his sense of humor. Even his opera Peléas et Mélisande does not have a wide audience, but I love it: for the orchestration, for the relation of the music to the Fr. language and rhythms, etc ......Juni: I am interested in what you consider standard Chinese curriculum in music theory. When was it taught, that you refer to a return? which instruments would you consider standard (eg. as the keyboard is in western music, circle of 5ths, scales in all keys, etc). Was a standard text written at one time? I am so ignorant. It is only through studying guqin, and my interest in art history and archeaology that I can see certain things coming together, such as the development of percussion, and string instruments. Without audio examples, or illustrations of instruments, etc, any history of music ,Chinese or Western, would be quite dry, almost incomprehensible. I need to re-read Rulan Chao Pian's book in light of what was discussed at our last meeting, and Bill Mak has kindly referred me to several reviews. I acquired her book ( also v. Gulik's classic writings) before I could study qin or heard much Asian music, so now I would read those books quite differently than before....