Saturday 19 June 2010

Chopsticks at Dawn (June 2010, BBC Radio4)

A BBC Radio4 (UK) programme exploring the background and history of oriental musical cliches in the West:

"The Chinese decorative arts are revered in the West but composers and musicians from Debussy and Ravel to George Formby and David Bowie have constantly parodied Chinese music. Now on Radio 4 the comedian Anna Chen sets out to investigate the musical cliches that which have blighted her life in Chopsticks at Dawn."

From BBC web page:

Chopsticks at Dawn
Broadcast on Tuesday, 13:30 on BBC Radio 4, and
Sat 12 Jun 2010, 15:30 on BBC Radio 4


Chinese decorative arts are revered in the West. From Willow pattern dinner plates to the Brighton Pavilion, their designs are regarded as beautiful and sophisticated. But for the past two centuries European composers and musicians have had no qualms about mercilessly parodying what they thought of as 'Chinese tunes'.

As a girl growing up in Hackney, the opening orientalised-flute strains of the 1970s pop record Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas were enough to send future comedian Anna Chen running for cover.

The same cliches haunt Turning Japanese by The Vapours, Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie And The Banshees and David Bowie's China Girl. They have all followed a pattern set by Claude Debussy, Malcolm Arnold, Albert Ketelbey and Lancashire Linnet George Formby, who were equally guilty of taking Chinese musical motifs and mangling them - or simply making them up!

How did this mocking abuse of a handful of venerable Far Eastern notes begin?

Musicologist Dr Jonathan Walker accompanies Anna on a historical mission, picking out examples on the piano and explaining why and how our western ears hear certain note configurations as "oriental" - from Chopsticks to Chopin.

They explore the pentatonic scale that chartacterises so much Chinese music, delve into the story of the Opium Wars which triggered a deep British disrespect of Chinese musical culture and unveil the earliest dubious examples of Chinoiserie in Western Music.

And we hear from a new generation of British born Chinese musicians who are putting right the discordant wrongs of the past 200 years.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.


1.Tue 8 Jun 2010, 13:30, BBC Radio 4
2.Sat 12 Jun 2010, 15:30, BBC Radio 4

Download link:
Filename: Chopsticks at Dawn (2010-06-12,BBC Radio4,Freeview).mp3
Size: 24.91 MB
Running time: approx 29 min

Some further reading:

"Orientalism and Musical Style" by Derek B. Scott, who is featured in the programme:

Friday 18 June 2010

Jiangnan Sizhu - The Autumn Moon Over the Han Palace (1988 cass)


Jiangnan silk and bamboo music performed by the Shanghai old Chenghuang temple lake pavilion ensemble.

Artist/Performers: "Traditional Ensemble of the Lake Pavilion of the Shanghai Old Emperor Temple"
shànghǎi lǎo chénghuángmiào húxīntíng yuèduì 上海老城隍庙湖心亭乐队
lit. Shanghai old chénghuáng (city god) temple pavilion in the middle of the lake ensemble

Album: The Autumn Moon Over the Han Palace,
Traditional Chinese String-Wind Music of the Southern Yangzi River (Jiangnan Sizhu)
hàn gōng qiū yuè, jiāngnán sīzhú 汉宫秋月, 江南丝竹

Year: 1988

Company: Pop Art Productions Co Ltd, bóyì zhìzuò yǒuxiàngōngsī 博艺制作有限公司, PA-881

Cassette tape track list:
A1. hàn gōng qiū yuè 汉宫秋月 The Autumn Moon Over the Han Palace
A2. xúnyáng yè yuè 浔阳夜月 Moonlit Night of Xunyang
B1. ní cháng qǔ 霓裳曲 Little Gauze Coat (aka rainbow skirts)
B2. dǎo bā bān 倒八扳 (fán wàng gōng 凡忘工) Dao Ba Ban (Fan Wang Gong)
B3. qīnglián yuèfǔ 青莲乐府 Qinglian Music School

Recorded by the Arts Development Section of Shanghai Conservatory
Jointly produced by Yunnan Audio and Video Co, and Pop Art Productions Co Ltd

Transferred from cassette tape:
Tape (Nakamichi CR-1) > wav (Edirol R09) > FLAC > LAME mp3.



Download link:
Filename: Jiangnan Sizhu - Hangong Qiuyue (1988 cass, mp3).zip
Size: 49.76 MB
Includes cover and notes in English and Chinese.

Saturday 29 May 2010

Passport to China (Supraphon/Artia LP c.1959)


Passport to China (Supraphon/Artia LP c.1959)

Artist/Performers: Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, conductors: Chenkheng Yin, Tsu Te Fang
Album: Passport to China
Year: c. 1959 (Artia release)
Company: Supraphon, Artia (originally recorded by the Czech company Supraphon)

LP track list:
A1. Music to the Dance with Shawls - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Chenkheng Yin, conductor
A2. The Bubbling Brook - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Tsu Te Fang, conductor
A3. New Life - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Chenkheng Yin, conductor
B1. The River Tatu - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Tsu Te Fang, conductor
B2. Song of the Maiden Lan Chua - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Chenkheng Yin, conductor
B3. The Last Battle between Kingdoms Chun and Han - Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles, Chenkheng Yin,conductor

A Supraphon/Ramco production.
Recorded in Europe.

Artia ALP-112

An Aria "Cultural Exchange" Presentation.
Artia Recording Corp., 600 Fifth Avenue, New York.

This LP was reviewed in the July 1960 issue of Gramophone magazine, page 89:




Passport to China; Authentic Chinese Folk Songs and Dances. Chinese National Song and Dance Ensembles conducted by Chenkheng Yin and Tsu Te Fang. Artia Q ALP112.

Gypsy King in Hi-Fi; Authentic Folk Songs and Dances of Hungary. Featuring Sandor Lakatos, Sandor Jaroka, Istvan Lukacs, Jozsef Fatyol, Sari Vorosy and Maria Berei. Artia Q ALP111.

Rumanian Folk Songs and Dances. Lautaru Barbu conducted by lone! Budlsteanu and Nicu Stanescu. Artia Q ALP105. The Red Army in Hi-Fi. Alexandrov Song and Dance Ensemble conducted by Boris Alexandrov. Artie Q ALP101. (All 12 in. 30s. plus Os. Pd. PT.).

The first thing to say about this very interesting group of records is that although they are American "Cultural Exchange" presentations they were recorded in Europe, even that of Chinese music. They are luxuriously packaged in thick cardboard containers which are more like albums than the ordinary sleeves.

"Passport to China" includes a lot of interesting notes about Chinese music in general and instruments in particular but nothing about the six pieces played, which is a pity, for I am no expert on Chinese music. I take this to be modern. Some of it suggests Western influences quite strongly and in places it is markedly akin to much of the popular music of Russia. The most prominent of the instruments are reeds, plucked strings, gongs, drums, cymbals and other members of the percussion family. There are also voices, male and female, solo and in chorus, and here I note particularly that there is rather less of the singing with cramped muscles and strained vocal chords than is the case in the older music of China. This is an interesting, exciting and in places quite fascinating record.

With "Gypsy King in Iii=Fi" we are on more familiar ground, but first of all attention should be called to odd discrepancies between the details of the artists as listed on the front cover and which are given above and those given in more detail inside and on the labels. Tv,.0 singers, Iren Meszaros, soprano, and Janos Csik, a pleasant voiced baritone, are included in both of the latter but not in the former. Mariz Berei is mentioned on the former but not on either of the latter; on the other hand there are in fact soloists who are not mentioned at all in two of the tracks, one of which may be Mario Berei. This is all unnecessarily confusing.

Sandor Lakatos, who plays nightly at Budapest's Astoria Bar, leads his Gypsy Orchestra on the first side and the leader on the reverse is Sandor Jaroka. How much is due to the playing and how much to the recording it is difficult to say, but the former achieves more pleasing and agreeable results as heard through the loudspeakers than the latter. Some top cut is desirable to tame the fierceness of the second side.

Much of this music goes back many years and snatches of melody, if no more, will be familiar to most via Liszt or Brahms. Best known Only One Girl which is charmingly sung by Sari Voros, but even more attractive to me are My Sweetheart mows in a Meadow in which the singer is Janos Csik, and the wild dance Verbunk with Fatyol as clarinet soloist. Fatyol exhibits his virtuosity also in Variations for Chardas, along with Lukacs who performs incredible feats on the cimbalom. All in all then this is much the mixture as before, but not quite, for I have heard many similar selections over the years that did not give the feeling of authenticity l whereas this one most certainly does."

I think the review sums up the LP very well; there is no information about either the pieces or the performers on the LP, just some somewhat dated descriptions of Chinese music in general. The LP is also mentioned in the 19 Oct 1959 issue (page 7 and 26) of Billboard magazine (available to read on Google Books).

Track B2. "Song of the Maiden Lan Chua" seems to be a version of the song "Lan Huahua".

Track B3. "The Last Battle between Kingdoms Chun and Han" is the well known pipa solo "Ambush on Ten Sides" (shí miàn mái fú 十面埋伏).

Going by the articles in Billboard magazine, I would guess the LP was released in the US by Artia Recording Corp of New York in 1959. However it seems the recording was made in Czechoslovakia by Supraphon, not necessarily in 1959.

Download link:
Filename: Passport to China (Supraphon LP c.1959).zip
Size: 27.68 MB

Chinese Folk Wind & Percussion Music (cassette tape)


Artist/Performers: Central Conservatory, Zhōngyāng Yīnyuè Xuéyuàn Mínyuètuán 中央音乐学院民乐团 (Central Conservatory folk ensemble),
Wáng Fǔjiàn 王甫建 (zhǐhuī 指挥, conductor),
Guō Yǎzhì 郭雅志 (suǒnà 嗩呐)
Bāo Jiàn 包键 (guǎnzi 管子)
Li3 Zhen1gui4 李真贵
Dan1 Wen2tong1 单文通et al
(instruments info from other CDs)

Album: Chinese Folk Wind & Percussion Music (cass), zhōngguó mínjiān chuīdǎyuè 中国民间吹打乐
Year: not stated, bought in late 1990s
Company: zhōngguó běiguāng shēngxiàng yìshù gōngsī 中国北光声像艺术公司 BSL-024(China Beiguang arts audio & video company)

Cassette tape track list:
A1. bǎi niǎo cháo fèng 百鸟朝凤 (hundred birds praising the phoenix)
A2. gōu jīn lìng 沟金令 (lit. ditch gold command)
A3. xiǎo èr fān 小二番 (lit. small two times)
A4. dǎ jīn zhī 打金枝 (pruning the golden branch)
B1. dà déshèng 大得胜 (great victory)
B2. lagūa 啦呱 (Shandong dialect meaning chat, casual conversation)
B3. qìng fēngshōu 庆丰收 (celebrate the bumper harvest)
B4. fàng lǘ 放驴 (driving a donkey)
B5. dǎ zǎo ér 打枣儿 (getting jujube dates)

Info from cassette notes:
A1. bǎi niǎo cháo fèng 百鸟朝凤 (hundred birds praising the phoenix)
Derived from Shandong "drum music" (Shandong guyue 山东鼓乐). Features the suona.
A2. gōu jīn lìng 沟金令 (lit. ditch gold command)
Suona and percussion music (suona luogu 唢呐锣鼓), from the Shandong and Hebei area.
A3. xiǎo èr fān 小二番 (lit. small two times)
From central Hebei, well known as guanzi piece.
A4. dǎ jīn zhī 打金枝 (pruning the golden branch)
From bangzi Chinese opera.
B1. dà déshèng 大得胜 (great victory)
Shanxi folk drum and wind music (Shandong minjian guchui yue 山西民间鼓吹乐).
B2. lagūa 啦呱 (Shandong dialect meaning chat, casual conversation)
"Lagua" is Shandong dialect to mean chat, casual conversation. Features two suona playing the part of two people chatting.
B3. qìng fēngshōu 庆丰收 (celebrate the bumper harvest)
Shandong wind and percussion music (Shandong chuida yue 山东吹打乐).
B4. fàng lǘ 放驴 (driving a donkey)
From central Hebei.
B5. dǎ zǎo ér 打枣儿 (picking jujube dates)
Hebei folk music.

Download link:
Filename: Chinese Folk Wind & Percussion Music (cass).zip
Size: 48.5 MB

Thursday 13 May 2010

Lü Wencheng - Chinese Masterpieces for the Erh-Hu


Artist: Lǚ Wénchéng 吕文成 (as Lui Man-Sing and his Group)
Album: Chinese Masterpieces for the Erh-Hu
Year: not stated
Format: 12 inch vinyl LP
Company: Lyrichord LLST 7132

A1. niǎo tóu lín 鸟投林 Birds Returning to the Forest (gaohu solo)
A2. hàn gōng qiū yuè 汉宫秋月 Palace Under Autumn Moonlight (erhu and zheng)
A3. dé shèng lìng 得胜令 Triumph from the Battlefield
A4. píng hú qiū yuè 平湖秋月 West Lake Autumn Moonlight
A5. xù huā luò 絮花落 Catkins in Wind (yangqin solo)
B1. liǔ làng wén yīng 柳浪闻莺 Orioles Sing in Willows
B2. shēn gōng yuàn 深宫怨 Yearning in the Palace
B3. sài lóng duó jǐn 赛龙夺锦 Dragon Boat Race
B4. méi huā sān nòng 梅花三弄 Admiration of Plum Flowers (erhu solo)

as "Lui Man-Sing and his Group" on the LP

Download link:
Filename: Lv Wencheng - Masterpieces for the Erh-Hu (Lyrichord LLST 7132).zip
Size: 52.03 MB

The title of the LP is a bit inaccurate, none of the pieces are specifically for the erhu, except maybe the first track. Most of the tracks are Guangdong yinyue (lit. Guangdong music; a specific style of music from Guangdong) performed by an ensemble.

This LP doesn't have a date, I would guess it was recorded in the 1960s. The performance of the ensemble pieces is somewhat similar in style to the Guangdong yinyue I've heard from pre-1949 China, on CD. It has that Shanghai dance hall jazzy feel of the 1930s, especially on track A4. píng hú qiū yuè 平湖秋月 West Lake Autumn Moonlight.

Three of the tracks are instrumental solos, the rest are ensemble. Interestingly, two tracks seem to be music from the Shanghai area:

A5. xù huā luò 絮花落 Catkins in Wind
B4. méi huā sān nòng 梅花三弄 Admiration of Plum Flowers

The second one, I would guess, is Lü's own version of San Liu (three six). San Liu is also called Meihua Sannong (three variations of plum plower).

I've include extra versions of 2 tracks. These have been slowed down to a slightly lower pitch.

A2. hàn gōng qiū yuè 汉宫秋月(80 percent lower and slower, in G)

Most Guangdong Music pieces 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). This recording by Lü 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).

You can play along on the erhu in standard (gaohu) fingering (open strings: 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).

Friday 7 May 2010

Wutai Shan Buddhist Music (1992)


Spirit of the Earth, BBC Radio 3.

Concert of temple music performed by monks from Wutai Shan (or Mount Wutai), Shanxi, China.

Venue: Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, UK.

Date: Sunday 12 July 1992.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3; 21:50 - 22:50, Sun 12 July 1992.

Part of Radio 3's Spirit of the Earth festival.

Introduction by Donald Macleod with notes by Stephen Jones:

"Nihao, and welcome once again to Birmingham. Initial greeting in Chinese but although our concert tonight..."


Guanzi (double reed wind): Ren Liang,
Sheng x 2 (free reed wind): not named,
Dizi (flute): not named,
Yunluo (tuned gongs): Liao Man ("abbot of the most important temple in Wutai Shan"),
Small cymbals: not named,
Muyu (woodblock): not named,
Bell and drum: not named.
Nao and bo (large cymbals) played by sheng and dizi players.


Instrumental suite: Bai Ma Tuo Jing (the white horse carrying the scriptures).
Start at 5:45, end at 19:00.

Instrumental and vocal: San Bao Zan (a hymn to the three treasures; Buddha, Dharma, Zanga). From the ritual releasing the flaming mouths or feeding the hungry ghosts.
Start at 20:15, end at 26:20.

Instrumental version of two hymns: Hymn to the western paradise, One thousand calls to the Buddha.
Start at 27:30, end at 37:35.

Instrumental suite (a sequence of melodies and percussion interludes): Da Chong Jing.
Start at 38:15, end at 52:40.
(has pause at 46:25 due to cassette tape being turned over during recording from the radio).

This is a cassette tape recording of a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of a concert of temple music performed by monks from Wutai Shan, Shanxi, China, at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, UK.

Date of broadcast and concert: Sunday 12 July 1992.

Radio broadcast FM > cassette tape, TDK MA90, Nakamichi CR-1 > WAV, Edirol R09 > FLAC > LAME mp3 vbr 165

Download link:
Filename: Wutai Shan music, Birmingham, UK, 12 July 1992.mp3
Size: 63.16 MB

Newspaper article about the Spirit of the Earth festival:


Here's the interval talk "Sacred Mountains".

Download link:
Filename: Sacred Mountains, Spirit of the Earth concert interval talk,BBC Radio 3, Sun 12 July 1992.mp3
Size: 13.25 MB

Wednesday 24 February 2010

River Water, Erhu Solos (Art-Tune LP)

Post updated with links, 10 Apr 2010.


Artist/Performers: VA (Song Guosheng, Wu Suhua, Guo Junming, Chen Maojian, Lu Rirong, Wang Guotong)
Album: jiāng hé shuǐ,èrhú yǎnzòuqǔ 江河水,二胡演奏曲 (river water,erhu solos)
Year: not stated, LP is 1980s or older
Company: Art-Tune Company Hong Kong, COL-3132, xiānggǎng yìshēng chàngpiàn gōngsī 香港艺声唱片公司
Format: 12inch vinyl LP 33rpm

Track list:

A1. hénán xiǎoqǔ 河南小曲 (Henan melody) - Sòng Guóshēng 宋国生 (erhu), Liú Jùntíng 刘俊亭 (yangqin), arranged by Liú Míngyuán 刘明源
A2. jiāng hé shuǐ 江河水 (river water) - Wú Sùhuá 吴素华 (erhu), Liáng Ruìhuá 梁瑞华 (yangqin), arranged by Huáng Hǎihuái 黄海怀
A3. yùběi xùshìqǔ 豫北叙事曲 (Ballad of Northern Henan) - Guǒ Jùnmíng 果俊明 (erhu), Péng Xuěqióng 彭雪琼 (piano), composed by Liú Wénjīn 刘文金
B1. mùrén yuè 牧人乐 (music of herdsman) - Chén Màojiān 陈茂坚 (erhu), Zhāo Rǔkēng 赵汝铿 (yangqin), composed by Zhāng Xīnlín 张鑫林
B2. qínqiāng zhǔtí suíxiǎngqǔ 秦腔主题随想曲 (Theme From Qinqiang Opera) - Lǔ Rìróng 魯日融 (erhu), Liú Dázhāng 刘达章 (yangqin), arranged by Zhāo Zhènxiāo 赵振霄 & Lǔ Rìróng 魯日融
B3. sānménxiá chàngxiǎngqǔ 三门峡畅想曲 (Sanmen gorge capriccio) - Wáng Guótóng 王国潼 (erhu), Zhōu Guǎngrén 周广仁 (piano), composed by Liú Wénjīn 刘文金

Download link is:
Filename: River Water, Erhu Solos (Art-Tune LP).zip
Size: 33.6 MB
130vbr mp3 in zip folder inc covers


Half the tracks on this LP are also on the "A Collection of Music Played on the Erhu" set of 10 CDs. The other three I haven't seen on any other albums; Jiang He Shui (river water) played by Wu Suhua, Yubei Xushiqu (Ballad of Northern Henan) played by Guo Junming, and Qinqiang Zhuti Suixiangqu (Theme From Qinqiang Opera) played by Lu Rirong (one of its composers/arrangers).

Apart from the titles and the names of the musicians, the LP doesn't have any other information. I would guess the LP is copied from vinyl records from China and not from the master tapes, probably unofficially, hence the low sound quality.

Wu Suhua has a solo erhu CD called "Chine: L'art de la viele Erhu / China: The Art of the Erhu Fiddle" (Auvidis Ethnic B 6764, 1992).
My favourite track is track 3 "Ballade of Nijiang (Nijiang You)".

She also appears on the CD "Fleuve Jaune; Musique Instrumentale Chinoise / Yellow River; Instrumental Music of China" (Auvidis Ethnic B 6757, 1991)

One of the best tracks from the CD is "píng shā luò yàn" 平沙落雁 Wild geese land on beach (Guan Pinghu version), played by Yang Lining (qin), Francois Picard (xiao), Wu Suhua (erhu), Wang Ying (pipa).