Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Chun Shi (spring poem) 春诗

Note: this post has dead links which have to be up-dated.

春诗 chūn shī

Chun Shi - erhu: Jiang Jianhua
Link, 7.8MB
This is from a LP recorded whilst she was still a student in 1982.

Chun Shi - erhu: Wang Yijie
Link, 9.3MB

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Qianjin: how to fit it without a knot, and no loose ends

千斤 or 千金, qiānjīn or qianjin, sometimes mispelt as "qianjing" or "qian jing" (without tones)


The photo should make it clear how you do it, you then pull the end of the string on the left. Obviously when you actually do it, you wrap the string tightly around the neck without any spaces in between the windings. The photo shows a 150cm string, with 8 windings around the neck, then 3 around the neck and strings, then finally 8 around the neck again. The string is the string used to seal 10kg and 25kg bags of rice!

In my opinion, you should not have too many windings around the neck and erhu strings. In theory, if you had a unbreakable qianjin string, you would only have 1 winding because the contact area where the qianjin and erhu strings meet should be clear and sharp as possible, at least on the vibrating side of the strings. I use 3 and it seems to be strong enough.

A variation of this method is to use 2 pieces of string: the main length and a separate short elongated "U" bit. Actually this is better because both ends of the string on the finished qianjin will be completely hidden under the windings, whereas if you use the 1 string method in the photo, you have to cut off the last bit of string.

A further refinement maybe is to dampen the string, when it's dried it should end up tighter on the neck, although I haven't tried it.

The photo is not a square on side view of the neck, so the erhu strings appear to be closer to the neck than they actually are.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Tan Yue by Sun Wenming

This is called "Tán Yuè", literally "playing music" or "plucked string music", but apparently actually means pingtan music or a tune of pingtan. Pingtan is a type of storytelling music from Suzhou in Jiangsu province in China.

This erhu piece is composed and played by Sun Wenming (孙文明, 1928-1962).

This piece is unique in the erhu reportoire, as it is played, apparently, on an erhu without a qianjin (a loop of string which acts as a nut). According to a CD liner notes, it's influenced by the playing style of the sanxian (3 string lute) used in Pingtan.

tán yuè 弹乐 A Tune of Pingtan - Sūn Wénmíng 孙文明.mp3, 4MB mp3 file


Played by Sun Huang:

Played by Song Fei:

Han Gong Qiu Yue (Han palace autumn moon)

Note: this post has dead links which have to be up-dated.

This is the "Han4 Gong1 Qiu1 Yue4" from Guangdong Yinyue, not the solo erhu piece of the same name arranged by Jiang Fengzhi(蔣风之).

Hangong Qiuyue, gaohu:Yu Qiwei, and ensemble
This recording has a non-traditional accompiment to the gaohu solo. I mean "non-traditional" in the sense they are not all playing variations of the same tune together. Maybe because of this, the sound of the gaohu seems to stand out in front.

Han Gong Qiu Yue - huqin: Lu Wencheng, & unknown guzheng player
Lu Wencheng (吕文成 Lǚ Wénchéng) is the musician who "invented" the gaohu in the 1920s, the lead instrument in Guangdong Music, and the composer of many, many of the pieces in the reportoire. This is a transfer from LP to wav then compressed to mp3, I think the recording is from the 50s but I am not sure. This version is more densely played than Yu Qiwei's recording.

Skip the next bit if you don't play huqin:

Most Guangdong Music pieces including this one are played in the key of C (1=C), with the gaohu tuned to G, D. The open strings would be sol, re (5 with dot under, 2). The version by Yu Qiwei above is in this standard tuning. However this recording by Lu Wencheng as transfered from the LP has the key of approx G sharp or A flat (assuming A=440hz).

For the convenience of playing along with the recording without having to re-tune your instrument, I have slowed down the recording and the pitch has dropped about a semitone to 1=G (assuming A=440hz):

Han gong Qiu Yue - huqin: Lu Wencheng, & unknown guzheng player, lower in pitch and slowed
You can play along on the erhu in standard (gaohu) fingering (sol, re), or you can play along on the gaohu, yehu or zhonghu tuned to G, D, but with different fingering (open strings: do, sol).

Liu Yao Jin 柳搖金

Note: this post has dead links which have to be up-dated.

Liu Yao Jin (柳搖金 liu3 yao2 jin1)

This is one of my favourite pieces of Guangdong Music (guangdong yinyue). "Guangdong Yinyue", literally Guangdong music, as a descriptive name is actually a misnomer, as there are many types of traditional music in Guangdong.

Recording of ensemble lead by the gaohu played by Yu Qiwei
Link, 8MB

Liu Yao Jin - erhu: Yu Qiwei
Link, 6.5MB
This is one is also played by Yu Qiwei, but on the erhu.

Chinese in Britain (2007 BBC Radio 4)

This is going to be an off-topic post.

This is a radio programme first broadcast on Radio 4 in the UK by the BBC in 2007, consisting of ten 15min parts broadcast in the afternoon on each weekday over two weeks. This is a ground-breaking and important programme about the history of the largely unnoticed and little documented ethnic Chinese in the UK, who make up the third largest "visible" minority in the UK, after the Afro-Carribeans and (south) Asians.

This is the omnibus edition broadcast in 2008. The 10 parts have been edited into two 1 hour programmes, broadcast over two fridays.

More details and episode guide:

One mp3 file and one Real Audio file:
Dead link, 66MB
Alternative link, 66MB


Two mp3 files:
Download link: parts 1 to 5 (omnibus edition part 1), 40MB mp3 file
Download link: parts 6 to 10 (omnibus edition part 2), 30MB mp3 file
Dead link, 69MB

Yue Ye (moon night) 月夜

Note: this post has a lot of dead links which have to be up-dated.

Yue Ye (moon night, Yuè Yè 月夜) is a composition for the erhu by Liu Tianhua (Liú Tiānhuá 刘天华). The date given on the score is 1924, I assume this is the year of publication.

Here are 4 different recording of the piece. All are erhu only, which I prefer. It seems many if not most recordings have accompiment, ranging from just with yangqin to a small ensemble to the large modern Chinese orchestra.

Wang Yijie
Link, 7.2MB
This is my favourite of these four. The erhu tone is big, rich and full-bodied.

Liu Changfu 刘长福
Link, 5MB
This one is more reflective, less intense, with a sweeter and gently beautiful tone.

Xu Ke
Link, 8MB
The first thing that strikes me about this recording is that the player is playing the piece like a violin player.

Wang Guotong
Link, 9.8MB
This recording is noticeably slower than the other ones here. The erhu is tuned one semitone lower than the standard tuning (assuming A = 440hz), to D flat and A flat. So I wonder if it has been slowed down. All the other tracks on the CD this recording is from have the same open string tuning.

Zhang Rui
Link, 6.2MB
This is from a 1982 cassette released by the China Records Company(HL 113).

Friday, 18 July 2008

San Liu (three six) 三六

Note: this post has a lot of dead links which have to be up-dated.

San Liu (san1 liu4, three six) is one of the "eight great pieces" (ba1 da4 qu3) from Jiangnan sizhu (江南丝竹 Jiāngnán sīzhú).

"Jiangnan Sizhu" is a type of traditional Chinese instrumental music from the Jiangnan region of China, commonly translated as "Jiangnan silk and bamboo music". The Jiangnan region is made up of southern Jiangsu province, Shanghai and northern Zhejiang province.

Jiangnan Sizhu is performed by a small ensemble of up to about nine or ten instruments, with the dizi, erhu, pipa and yangqin being the main instruments.

Here are several different recorded versions of San Liu:

Shanghai Traditional Ensemble (Shanghai Minzu Yuetuan):
Link, 5.6MB, 6min8sec, 128kbps

Shanghai Traditional Ensemble (Shanghai Minzu Yuetuan):
Link, 8.2MB
Another recording by the Shanghai Minzu Yuetuan. This one is from a 1981 LP.

Lu Chunling (dizi), Zhou Hui (yangqin), Zhou Hao (erhu), Ma Shenglong (pipa):
Link, 5.6MB, 6min10sec, 128kbps

Chen Yonglu (erhu), Lu Chunling (dizi), Lin Shicheng (pipa):
Link, 6.3MB, 6min57sec, 128kbps

A traditional ensemble:
Link, 6.7MB, 7min24sec, 128kbps

Two erhu, one in standard D,A tuning, the second in a lower tuning:
Link, 5.3MB, 5min48sec, 128kbp

The earliest published notation of San Liu is in a collection of pipa pieces of 1895 by Li Fangyuan. According to Witzleben, that version is structurally different to the the present day San Liu performed by Jiangnan sizhu musicians.

There is also a version of San Liu for solo pipa (3.3MB, 3min37sec, 128kbps) and the large modern Chinese orchestra (available on youtube). It sounds very different to the San Liu as played within the Jiangnan Sizhu tradition. Perhaps this version is derived from Li Fangyuan's 1895 pipa score collection.

Further reading:
Witzleben, J. Lawrence (1995). "Silk and Bamboo" Music in Shanghai: The Jiangnan Sizhu Instrumental Ensemble Tradition. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press
The definitive work (in English) on Jiangnan Sizhu, essential reading for anyone interested in this music.

Monday, 7 July 2008

A good introduction to music played on various huqin instruments

Treasury of Chinese Musical Instruments
Vol.2 Bowed String Instruments

This is a recording released by the China Record Company in 1989. Each track features a huqin soloist with backing from a traditional Chinese ensemble.

Track list:
1. Moon Reflects in the Er Quan (Er Quan Ying Yue, Erhu: Zhu Changyao)
2. Regret (Shuang Sheng Hen, Gaohu: Yu Qiwei)
3. The Setting Moon of Early Dawn (Yue Ya Wu Geng, Banhu: Shen Cheng)
4. Birds Sing in the Empty Hills (Kong Shan Niao Yu,
Erhu: Zhu Changyao)
5. Deep Night (Ye Shen Chen, Jinghu: Zhang Suying)
6. A Paizi Tune of Shaanxi (Qinqiang) Opera
(Qinqiang Paizi Qu, Banhu: Shen Cheng)
7. Waves (Liu Bo Qu, Erhu: Zhu Changyao)
8. Autumn Moon on A Placid Lake (Ping Hu Qiu Yue, Gaohu: Yu Qiwei)
9. On Grassland (Cao Yuan Shang, Zhonghu: Zhu Changyao)

Track list, Titles and performers in Chinese and English:

01. èr quán yìng yuè 二泉映月 Moon Reflects in the Er Quan (erhu 二胡) - Zhū Chāngyào 朱昌耀, Shanghai trad ensemble
02. shuāng shēng hèn 双声恨 Regret (gaohu 高胡) - Yú Qíwěi 余其伟, with Guangdong song and dance ensemble quartet
03. yuè yá wǔ gēng 月芽五更 The Setting Moon of Early Dawn (banhu 板胡) - Shěn Chéng 沈诚 (banhu), Shanghai trad ensemble
04. kōng shān niǎo yǔ 空山鸟语 Birds Sing in the Empty Hills (erhu 二胡) - Zhū Chāngyào 朱昌耀
05. yè shēn chén 夜深沉 Deep Night (jinghu) - Zhāng Sùyīng 张素英, Shanghai trad ensemble
06. qínqiāng páiziqǔ 秦腔牌子曲 Paizi tune of Shaanxi opera (banhu 板胡) - Shěn Chéng 沈诚 (banhu), Shanghai trad ensemble
07. liú bō qǔ 流波曲 Waves (erhu 二胡) - Zhū Chāngyào 朱昌耀, Shanghai trad ensemble
08. píng hú qiū yuè 平湖秋月 Autumn Moon on a Placid Lake (gaohu 高胡) - Yú Qíwěi 余其伟, with Guangdong song and dance ensemble quartet
09. cǎo yuán shàng 草原上 On Grassland (zhonghu 中胡) - Zhū Chāngyào 朱昌耀, Shanghai trad ensemble

Part 1 link
Part 2 link