Date: 19 January 2003
Place: Bo's Apartment, Lower Manhattan
Attending: Peiyou Chang, Stephen Dydo, Matthew Flannery, Bo Lawrengren, John Thompson, Marilyn Gleysteen-Wong, Mingmei Yip, Jung-Ping Yuan.
Guests: Aldolovni Acosta, Zdravko Balzekovic, Bao-yu Cheng, Elaine Sheng, Susan Altavet, Janette Leung, Eva Wen.
Journal Secretary: John
Several versions of a mission statement of the Society have been circulating among the members. It was agreed that Jung-Ping will consult with each member with concerns about the statement to arrive at a definitive version. Matthew agreed to put it into final editorial shape.
After the business meeting, food was served, including some from Zabar's contributed by Aldolovni and noodles from Lili's contributed by Mingmei.
“Li Sao,” 18 sections, each titled with a line from the poem “Li Sao.”
Since the Song dynasty there has been a tradition of illustrating these poems either individually or as parts of albums, so John commissioned the Hangzhou painter Bai Yunlito brush illustration in the Southern Song style corresponding directly to the titles of the qin melody.
John discussed the modes used in these pieces, nothing that within the qin repertoire tunings using a raised fifth or raised second and fifth strings appear to have been associated, at least since the Song, with the music of the ancient kingdom of Chu (corresponding roughly to Hubei and Hunan provinces). Also though primarily pentatonic, they often add non-pentatonic notes, apparently for special effect.
John then cited Alfreda Murck's The Subtle Art of Dissent, which analyzes how artists used poetry and painting to express opinions in ways that outsiders would not understand. Perhaps the most famous example cited by Murck are poems on the theme of the Xiao and Xiang rivers in Hunan province. The qin melody “Xiao Xiang Shui Yun (“Clouds over the Xiao and Xiang Rivers”) does not seem to have as many overt political implications as the famous painting “Xiao and Xiang Ba Jing (“ Eight views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers”), but it still conveys the theme of separation from homeland, and important one in this region since officials were often exiled to Hunan province. The preface to “Xiao Xiang Shui Yun” clams that the Song dynasty qin player Guo chuwang wrote its melody one day when clouds over the two rivers blocked his view of the Jiuyi mountains. In the face of this symbolic separation, he wrote this piece “to express his loyalty to his country.” His feelings of separation were piqued by the burial of the legendary emperor Yu Shun in the Juiyi mountains: the separation of Guo from the cloud-hidden military control by the Southern Song over north China.
Marilyn added that poetry was a standard form of scholarly protest, nothing that the literati often hid current feelings and political views by couching them in terms of older forms of expression and by reference to past events that symbolized, however, modern events, people, and governments.
John preface remarks by Stephen on Buddhist influences on qin and zhen music by noting that “Pu An Chou” as it is played today appears to have been the middle section of a much longer work, “Shitan Zhang.” These two pieces have had along and complex history that, between them, yielded at least 49 editions for various instruments and voices. John handed out a sheet detailing its qin versions, beginning with one from the Sanjiao Tongsheng, a handbook dated 1592, and concluding with another from the 1970s.
Stephen pointed out that Buddhist influences on qin music are scarce. Of “Pu An Chou,” there seem to have been at least two qin versions that do not appear to be musically related as well as a third version for the zheng. He commented that the Chinese do many interesting things in interpreting popular music, but that their usual structure consists of a musical skeleton to which the performer is expected to add his own variations and embellishments. To demonstrate this, he played a Buddhist related piece for zheng, the “Qian Sheng Go (or”Sacred Temple [and Hill] of Buddha”) in the two versions (on simple, one complex) recorded by Yang Xiu-ming. The composer Chu Yun also has written his own version of the “Qian Sheng Fo” in northwestern style. Much of his music is based on the revival and interpretation of this ancient style from the northwest.
The “Xiangshan She Gu” is another piece representation of the Shaanxi zheng style. Written in the early 1980s by Qu Yun of the Xi'an Conservatory of Music, it has a heavy regional flavor uncommon among other contemporary pieces for the zheng. Indeed, all pieces from Shaanxi are modern. Shaanxi was known as Qin during the Warring States period (476-221 BCE), from which we have the earliest extant records noting the existence of the zheng. For this reason, the Shaanxi zheng of that time is known as the Qin zheng. However, none of its music survives. What is now known as Shaanzi zheng music are modern pieces that incorporate archaic traits of the Qin region's secular music style known as Yan Yue, type of court music. Yan Yue emphasizes such elements as the “crying note,” the “laughing note”#4. B7. And the like.
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