History of Music in China

Despite what language you speak, or what country you are from there is one language that every single person can comprehend. This language is known as music. Music has developed into multiple different forms and tells a wide range of differing stories. The development of music itself is a story that is interwoven with the history of a region. Culture and society can be explained through the analysis and development of their music. good thesis music and myth seem to be the universal constants

Music has played a more prominent role in the development of certain societies. In Chinese society there has always been an emphasis on the importance of music. Evidence indicates that a well-developed musical culture existed in China as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1075-221 B.C.). It seems that “every feudal state, dynasty and republic throughout Chinese history had established an official musical organization or bureau of music” (Liang 87).

There are numerous instruments that are prominent in classical Chinese music. Many of which can be dated back to the earliest dynasties of China. Many of these instruments have evolved over time and still exist in a modern form. In a classical Chinese Orchestra there are four sections. These sections are: the bowed strings, the plucked strings, the winds and the percussion. Each dynasty contributed different forms of instruments to the growing collection of instruments in use. During the Sui dynasty there was a distinction made over which instruments are better for outdoor performance and instruments better for indoor performances. Excellent and useful description

During the Qin (221 B.C- 207 B.C) and Han (206 B.C- 220 A.D.) dynasties a multitude of instruments were created and introduced to the royal court. Zithers, panpipes, vessel flutes and bells were all new instruments introduced during this period of time. Zithers are rectangular, plucked instruments that create a sound similar to a violin. Panpipes and vessel flutes are both members of the winds family and bells are a percussion instrument that are stuck with metal mallets to produce a note. During this time period foreign instruments were also introduced to China. The most important of these instruments were the end-blown di flute, the double-reed oboe and the plucked pipa lute. This period provided a plethora of instruments that could be mastered and further developed to create new instruments. Referen ce

From the end of the Han Dynasty to 589 A.D “China was no longer a unified empire and in its place reigned a number of contending kingdoms and states, the majority of which hardly ruled for more than fifty years before being overthrown by another faction” (History of China). China was re-united under the Sui dynasty in 581. The Sui had a short lived rule and were followed by the Tang dynasty. During the Tang dynasty China experienced a long period of economic, political and cultural growth. Foreign musicians were enticed by the brilliant capital center and growing sophistication of Tang China. Under the Tang the first music academy, Liyuan, “was instituted for performance and training of professional young musicians” (Liang 90). During the Tang dynasty, Yanyue began to overshadow the tradition banquet music that had been in use since the Zhou dynasty. And do you see a cultural meaning here?

Yanyue is elegant and refined music; it was the music of the aristocracy. Yanyue was “a court musical performance for the nobles and gentries during a state function and during days of festivity” (Development of Chines Music). I tried correcting the spelling on Chinese in prior () but to no avail - Yanyue was only one of ten musical divisions that had developed during the Tang dynasty. These divisions where call the shibu ji. The division was made created by the different regional and international styles that were part of Chinese music. However, into the early 8th century, music would no longer be divided by these characteristics. Rather music was divided into two key style; sitting music and standing music. references?

The standing music was “performed mostly outdoors, had a standard of repertory, and included from sixty to one-hundred and eight musicians and dancers” (Zhuang) . Instruments that were used for standing music were often larger than those used for sitting music. Instruments such as the harp, gong and double-reed oboe were commonly heard during standing music performances. Sitting music was more of an ensemble created for quality rather than volume. Sitting music required much less musicians and often had from three to twelve musicians and dancers. Newly composed music of the time period had overshadowed imported musical genres from Samarkand, Bukhara, South Asia, India and Korea. Great but references?

A growth in industry and commerce forced changes in art. Good With growth in industry came a “growing bourgeoisie population and a society that was more mobile” (Xia). From the late 900’s to the later years of the Yuan, China was rapidly and drastically changing. Music was always created to illustrate a story and emit emotions. Now, lyrics and poetry were being put to music. There were four major vocal genres; the poetic ci song, the art song, narrative music and zaju variety musical drama.

The ci was usually two stanzas in length and was a new type of poetry created and perfected during the Song dynasty. The ci was in irregular meter, unlike the popular shi poetry of the Tang dynasty which had a uniform amount of words per line. A ci was constructed by fitting words into an existing tune. The “filling in” practice of a tradition ci was replaced by ci poets who chose to use newly composed melodies for their poetry. The content of a ci was similar to what you would find in a modern day ballad, or love song.

The art song had two key types. The first type of art song, the xiaoling, was similar to a ci in structure and content. Xiaoling was popular during the 12th and 13th centuries. Xiaoling, similar to ci and shi, is placed to pre-existing tunes. The key difference between xiaoling art songs and ci is that xiaoling follows the form of qu poetry. Qu poetry “is popular poetry written by educated poets. The qu poem usual has rhymed line endings and is largely based on Taoistic themes” (Liang). Xiaoling was usually performed by a single solo artist and accompanied by a wooden clapper. The second type of art son is the changzhuan, or drum song. This form was developed during the Northern Song period. Changshuan was distinguished by its formal structure and instrumental accompaniment. The formal structures followed a pattern of “introduction, A, A, B, B, C, C and finale; and “introduction, A, B, A, B” (Liang). The musical instruments used in changzhuan included a single-framed stick drum, wooden clapper and transverse flute. References here and above?

These instruments were also found in the Narrative Song genre. During the Song dynasty the zhugongdiao was the most significant form of narrative songs. This form of narrative song was introduced to the Northern Song capital of Kaifeng sometime between 1068 and 1094. “A lengthy historical or romantic tale was told through the alternation of narration and song, which was accompanied by instrumentation similar to that of the drum song” (Zhuang). The final genre during this time was the Zaju, or variety musical drama. “From the 11th to 13th centuries, we begin to see a culminating fusion between folk songs, drama, narrative music, juggling and acrobatics to form a stage dramatic art” (Liang). The zaju was a combination of all these artistic elements. This combination of arts opened the doors for the development of other staged musical productions. In large cities, such as the Northern Song capital Bainliang, there were as many as fifty theatres that put on daily performances.

The script of a zaju, along with all musical forms of the time, allowed an opportunity for social commentary and characterized the philosophical and social attitudes of China during the 13th and 14th centuries. “14th century China under Mongol rule offered limited and miserable opportunities for the educated Han Chinese as a whole” (History of China). This period of time turned many intellectuals toward artistic and dramatic endeavors. Writing and composing music became a way to escape the political and social upheaval of China.