Program notes on a concert I had a while back.
Charles Rupert Tsua BA FGMS FXKQS, resident of Birmingham, United Kingdom, member of the London Youlan Qin Society and the Three Eccentrics of the Western Plains, is a self-taught qin player. He took to learning the qin after discovering various websites about the qin around 2002 and eventually began to explore the world of qin music extensively by playing it. Since then he has concerntrated on several core melodies that he has transcribed himself as well as those that have been passed onto him by various qin masters over the years of which the style of Prof. Zeng Chengwei of the Shu School has influenced him the most with its clear and precise tones and straightforward play. On top of Zeng Chengwei’s tutelage, he has also received instruction from Li Xiangting, Gong Yi and Dai Xiaolian over the years and has participated and have been involved in many guqin related events (such as yaji) in the UK and abroad. He was also the editor and main contributor of the Wikipedia article on the guqin as well as its sister articles on ithe qin’s various aspects.
Other than qin music and ethnomusicology, his other interests include academical and formal dress and robemaking.
Programme (60 mins)
風 Wind – Serenity on the Passing of Things
Qiu Feng Ci – Ode of the Autumn Wind [2 mins]
From Guqin Quji (1962), adopted from Mei’an Qinpu (1912)
This piece, although relatively new in the history of the qin, is one of the most popular beginner’s pieces for the qin as it has a simple melody with a straightforward technique. However, the piece can be very profound when played well. It describes the feeling of loneliness in the Autumn on a moon lit night and longing for a lover.
Pingsha Luoyan – Wild Geese Descending on the Sandbank [7 mins]
From Jiao’an Qinpu (1868)
With almost 40 different versions, Pingsha remains a very popular piece amongst the repertoire of the qin. Each school and individual has its own take, each following the same melodic line but with variations. The scene described is self explanatory but the differences between each version changes the feeling of how the geese descend. This version is of the Guangling School and differs from the Jiuyi School (the other popular version) through its use of vibrato and softness.
水 Water – Lament on the Eternally Changing
Xiangfei Yuan – Resentment of the Concubine [3 mins]
From Wu Jinglue’s transcription
Xiangfei Yuan describes the story of Shun, who died during China’s pre-historical period. His concubines were so distressed by his death that they ran to the river and wept. They wept so much that they cried tears of blood which fell on bamboo, staining them with spots (hence why we get spotted bamboo). Eventually, they decided to join their master in death by throwing themselves into the river. The melody is simple yet moving.
Qiu Shui – Autumn Water [11 mins]
From Tianwenge Qinpu (1876), as learned from Zeng Chengwei
This piece is related to Shenhua Yin or ‘Transformation into the Divine’. The story goes that Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly and when he woke up he questioned whether it was the butterfly that is dreaming of Zhuangzi as the dream was so vivid and real. This is the forerunner to the French philosopher Descartes’s ‘deceiving demon’ meditation. The melody is plain and simple, like transcending the world of desires and vulgarity to a life of utter contentment.
Bijuan Liuquan – Flowing Spring of the Green Brook [5 mins]
From Gugang Yipu a.k.a. Wuxue Shanfang Qinpu (1836), as learned from Dai Xiaolian
This piece is a signiature melody of the Lingnan School, sometimes referred to as the ‘Liu Shui of the Lingnan School’. The melody is similar to Shishang Liuquan (flowing spring over rocks) but has a unique take on the main section describing the flowing spring.
地 Earth – The Amber Passage of Time
Yangguan Sandie – Three Variations on the Yang Pass Theme [7 mins]
From Guqin Quji (1962), adopted from the Qinxue Rumen (1864)
This piece is about a friend in exile and his depression at missing a friend. It is based on Wang Wei’s poem. It is called the ‘three variations’ because the main theme is repeated thrice with different melodic lines.
Kongzi Du Yi – Confucius Reads the Book of Changes [7 mins]
From Tianwenge Qinpu, as learned from Zeng Chengwei
According the the Analects, Confucius was fond of reading the Yijing. In fact, he read the book so much that he thrice broke the bindings of the wooden strip scrolls. The melody tries to mimick the swaying head of Confucius using the ‘double bump’ technique.
火 Fire – The Breath of Life
Jiu Kuang – Drunken Ecstasy [4 mins]
From Shenqi Mipu (1425)
Jiu Kuang was supposedly written by Ruan Ji, one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. The melody doesn’t describe total intoxication but ‘scholarly drunkeness’. Since its transcription by Yao Bingyan, it has been played in triple time because Yao thinks it ‘sounds better’ even though triple rhythms were rarely used in traditional Chinese music. Less played is the version in traditional 4/4 time which you will here.
Liangxiao Yin – Prelude to a Fine Evening [3 mins]
From Guqin Quji (1962), adopted from Wuzhizhai Qinpu (1722)
The melody describes a fine evening in the light breeze.
Pei Lan – Admiring the Orchid [12 mins]
From Tianwenge Qinpu, as learned from Zeng Chengwei
Pei Lan describes the scene of a scholar encountering an immortal playing a qin under a stone window, in a garden full of orchids with cranes dancing within them, the fragerance of the orchids wafting in the wind.