Music in China

Chinese music can be traced back 5,000 years through archaeological and historical sources. Well-preserved bronze bells, bells, tuned L-shaped stone slabs and Oscarians from the Shang Dynasty, and citations fragments from the Zhou Dynasty are early testimonies to a rich instrumental music practice, among other things related to temple rites and the imperial ceremonial. In classic writings on poetry, history and philosophy from the 5th century BCE. referred folk songs and dances, singing and dancing at the court, ethnic music, military and hunting music.

Music has played an important role in Chinese thinking and mythology. Music theory was early embedded in the Chinese world system dominated by the male and female principle. The individual notes and instruments were associated with colors, planets, elements, celestial directions, seasons and so on. Everything was part of a harmonious world order that did not have to be disrupted. The basic tone of huang zhong (yellow bell) was re-determined for each dynasty, and a specially tuned bamboo flute was stored in the Institute of Measure and Weight.

The Chinese tuning system according to tradition theoretically derived by a series of perfect fifths on bamboo flutes giving one femtoneskala (corresponding FGACD). To this day, the music showcases a basic pentatonic character built on this scale. At the same time, two «auxiliary tones» (corresponding to EH) are used, so that the complete seventeen scale corresponds at intervals to the European major scale.

During the Shang Dynasty, the musical instruments were divided into groups according to the material they were made of: stone, metal, silk (ie strings), bamboo, wood, leather, pumpkin or clay. These eight groups were organized into four male and four female. One of the most distinctive instruments was the mouth organ, sheng, which was originally made of a pumpkin with bamboo pipes attached around it. The Chinese sitter qin with seven silk strings must have been Confucius’ favorite instrument.

With Buddhism came Indian art and music. Foreign musicians and dancers were engaged in teahouses to attract customers, and at the court there were musicians from Kuche, Samarkand, Bukhara and India.

Written sources tell of famous singer, virtuoso on drum and pipe (4-string lute) and establishment of music conservatories. From the Tang period are preserved the oldest known music manuscripts: compositions for qin and pipe. A variety of printed sources from the 9th century include manuals in qin games and accurate records of compositions. The tunes were recorded with Chinese letters which, among other things, indicated the individual tones, the mode of play (hard or soft touch) and vibration in the pitch (there are no less than 26 different species of vibrato on qin).

From the Song period comes the Chinese musical theater that forms the basis of the Beijing Opera. Here men perform in all roles and sing in falsetto, accompanied by flutes, mouth organ and various kinds of sounds and percussion. Since Chinese is pronounced so differently in the different parts of the country, the singers have had to use gestures to be understood, and thus have developed a system of tunes that are associated with special emotions.

During the Qing period, the classical solo repertoire for qin and pipe was created, and virtuoso performers have composed pieces all the way up to our time. The style is unanimous or heterophone, with many melodic-rhythmic decorations and great detail in the lecture. Other instruments from this period are erhu, two-string violin, zheng, a long strings of 16 strings, and the flute xiao. These instruments are assembled into different chamber groups.

In the 19th century, the Chinese became acquainted with Western music through missionaries, and Western military music became very popular. Harmonium was introduced.

Wall decoration in Chinese temple

After 1900

In the 1900s, an attempt was made to adapt the Chinese tone system to the temperate Western. The classics of the West began to be established, and many Chinese studied in Germany, Japan and the United States. A music conservatory was established in Shanghai with Xiao Youmei (1884–1940) as leader, and young musicians such as Huang Zi (1904–38), Nie Er (1912–35) and Xian Xinghai (1905–45) sought to create Chinese music in western style. Nie Ers The Volunteer’s March 1949 became the Chinese national anthem.

Rapid social and political changes in recent times have created a need to take the music in the service of revolution and society. Numerous songs have been composed for use in organizations, for propaganda and for public and private purposes. Choral singing is very popular. Much of the new music combines Chinese tune based on pentatonics with Western harmonization and polyphony. Great emphasis has been placed on popular music, and a separate collective composition practice has been developed.

The pre-revolutionary music is still cultivated in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Chinese court music has been preserved longer and more unchanged in Korea and Japan than in China.