Presentation on theme: "Chapter 13 A Musicultural History of the Chinese Zheng."— Presentation transcript:
Chapter 13 A Musicultural History of the Chinese Zheng
This chapter focuses on the zheng, an instrument with a history beginning in ancient times and continuing through to the present day. The principal focus is on the solo zheng music traditions associated with music conservatories in mainland China since the 20 th century, though earlier traditions and styles dating to antiquity are covered as well. Additionally, Beijing Opera is explored, along with Chinese instruments such as the pipa and the qin, Chinese and Chinese American rock music, Tibetan Buddhist chant, Uighur music, the koto and other Japanese instruments, and Japanese gagaku and popular musics.
China: An Overview
The Nation-State of Modern China The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has 1.3 billion people and the third largest geographical landmass of any world nation. It is bordered by nations including Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, India, Nepal, and Korea. The capital is Beijing, where Communist China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, declared the PRC in 1949. The official language is Mandarin Chinese, and the majority Han Chinese account for about 92% of the population.
The remaining 8% of the population of the PRC largely comprises “ethnic minorities” such as the Uighur and Tibetan peoples. There are 55 recognized ethnic minorities in China, many of which defy such categorization and regard themselves as occupied peoples. Many of the so-called ethnic minority groups—including the Tibetans and Uighurs, whose musics and cultures figure prominently in the chapter—have long struggled for independence from China.
From Antiquity to the Present Chinese civilization dates back more than 3,500 years. For most of its history, China was ruled by imperial dynasties, a tradition that ended with the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911. Following this collapse, the Republic of China was declared in 1912. Mao Zedong would later lead the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, to power. Mao founded the PRC as a socialist (communist) state in 1949. Chinese socialism has emphasized state patronage and control of music in its efforts to promote state ideology. The close and explicit connection of music and politics in Communist China reflects an ages-old pattern of close links between music and politics that extends throughout Chinese history.
There have been three main historical periods in the history of Communist China: The initial communist era of Mao Zedong’s regime, 1949- 1965, in which Chinese society was reformed under Communist rule. The Cultural Revolution era of 1966-1976, in which intolerance for deviation from state ideology and artistic and cultural expression were especially extreme. The Period of Openness, which began to emerge following Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. This period brought economic reform, free enterprise, expanded involvement in global economic and cultural markets, and a loosening of prior constraints on multiple levels.
An Introduction to the Zheng
The zheng is a Chinese board zither chordophone. It has a series of strings laid lengthwise across a wooden frame that is attached to its own resonating chamber. Archaeological evidence suggests an ancestry for the instrument dating back over 2,500 years. The instrument is hugely popular in the PRC, as well as in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and in Chinese musical communities worldwide. Older forms of the zheng used silk strings on a bamboo frame, but now the instrument commonly features 16 or 21 strings over a wooden frame. The strings are usually made from metal-wound nylon and are supported by movable bridges made from wood, ivory, plastic, or other materials.
Insights and Perspective s The Koto and Japanese Music in Ancient and Modern Times
The instrument that gave rise to the Japanese koto was brought from China, perhaps in the Nara period (710-784), when the foundations of Japanese gagaku were established. Gagaku translates as “elegant music.” The oldest gagaku pieces were meant to accompany dance performances, and the koto has had a traditionally important historical role in gagaku. The koto has also figured prominently in many other contexts throughout Japanese history, and has recently been used to good effect in some Japanese pop music (e.g., Rin’s “Sakitama,” CD ex. #4-24).
Musical Guided Tour The Zheng F ollow along with the transcript on pages 325-326 of the text as you listen to the Tour for this chapter. Audio Musical Guided Tour
The Zheng in Imperial China
The zheng is first mentioned in a Qin era manuscript from 237 BCE, which describes a group of rural Chinese musicians. Qin imperial expansion led to what some describe as China’s first popular music, and the zheng was a key instrument in this new musical culture. Regional styles began to emerge as far back as Qin times; elements of those ancient styles are believed to have been retained in their respective regions to the present day.
The Han Dynasty Era The Han dynasty era occurred from 202 BCE-220 CE. During this time, Confucianism was established as the foundation of the Chinese social order. The zheng gained popularity as an entertainment instrument and an instrument of ritual. It was played by court musicians, women, slaves, and common folk. Its connections to Confucianism may have favored its use in music performed as a method of self-cultivation.
Insights and Perspective s Confucianism and the Qin Zither See the boxed feature on p. 328 and listen to CD ex. #4-25.
The Tang Dynasty Era The zheng reached its apogee during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE); the Tang government employed 30,000 musicians and dancers and hosted a huge and cosmopolitan music ministry. The zheng was combined with other instruments in Tang court ensembles, including instruments originally foreign to China, like the pipa, which were brought to China via the Silk Road. Women began playing the zheng in greater numbers, creating a cultural association of gender to instrument that continues today. Female performance was promoted during this dynasty.
The Ming and Qing Dynasty Eras The Ming dynasty (1268-1644) saw a resurgence in the popularity of the zheng after a period of decline. Girls and young women were once again widely encouraged to study and play the zheng, especially in connection with the association of the instrument with a rising middle class. Chinese opera developed and flourished during the Ming, and distinctive playing techniques developed in each region in imitation of regional languages and dialects. Chinese opera and the prominent role of the zheng in opera music continued during the subsequent Qing dynasty era.
Insights and Perspective s Chinese Opera and Beijing Opera in Dynastic and Post-Dynastic China
Traditional Chinese opera commonly featured a dramatic story enacted by costumed performers wearing makeup. They employed heightened speech, song, dance, mime, acting, and acrobatics. Female characters were often played by boys or adult female impersonators. Beijing Opera (or Peking Opera) is the most widely known type of Chinese opera, and is highly stylized. There are 26 ways to laugh, 20 types of beard, and 39 ways to manipulate the beard. During the Communist era, Beijing opera was discredited or transformed in accordance with political priorities. Today, Beijing Opera appears in a variety of contexts, including popular music videos.
Regional Styles: Traditional Solo Zheng Music
During the Qing dynasty, many distinct regional styles of solo zheng music crystallized. They grew out of existing local traditions of folk opera, sung poetry, and other genres. Each regional style has its own distinctive yun, or “regional character.” The yun of Henan zheng is known for its liveliness and short, descending melodic phrases. The vocal rises and falls of Henan spoken dialect are mirrored by similar gliding ornaments in Henan zheng performance. “Autumn Moon over the Han Palace” (CD ex. #4-27, pp. 332- 334) is an example of a piece in the regional style of Shandong with a characteristic baban formal design. Its yijing, or emotional quality, is of a complex form of “sadness.”
Emergence and Development of the Conservatory Solo Zheng Style in Mainland China
Music and the Conservatory Solo Zheng Tradition in Communist China, 1949-1965 With the rise to power of Mao Zedong and the CCP in 1949, musical reform efforts initiated during the preceding Republican era (1912-1949) continued with an overlay of political content tied to Chinese socialist doctrines: The glorification of Mao Zedong and the CCP. The rationalization of CCP policies regarding “ethnic minorities.” The “emancipation” of the peasant masses. The ideal of building socialism for China.
Patriotic songs such as “On the Golden Hill in Beijing” (CD ex. #4-28; pp. 336-337) and solo zheng compositions such as “Spring on Snowy Mountains” (CD ex. #4-29) reflected such ideological agendas. “Spring on Snowy Mountains” also illustrates new musical and stylistic elements of the period for the zheng, notably: Virtuosic, two-handed playing technique reflecting Western influences, especially of piano technique. Establishment of 21-string zheng as the standard instrument (replacing the earlier 16-string version). Appropriation of “minority” musical materials, in this case (as in “Golden Hill”) Tibetan specifically.
Insights and Perspective s The Chinese Occupation of Tibet and the Plight of Tibetan Buddhists
Beginning in 1950 and intensifying after 1956, China gradually took over and occupied Tibet. This led to the brutal persecution of Tibetans, especially monks of Tibetan Buddhist monastic orders. This persecution led the Dalai Lama to flee Tibet for exile in India in 1959, and over a hundred thousand Tibetan Buddhists followed his lead. In 1961, an international council accused China of committing genocide against Tibetans. The chants and music of exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks have been a subject of much scholarly and musical interest. CD ex. #4-30 provides an example of Tibetan Buddhist chant.
The Cultural Revolution Era The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) had the purported aim of ridding Chinese culture of anything “alien to the egalitarian spirit of [Chinese] socialism” (Fletcher 2001:344). Brutally oppressive policies were aimed at many sectors of Chinese society, limiting intellectual and artistic expression. Individuals and groups who resisted were sent to work camps, tortured, or even executed. Musical life was restrained, but continued. Revolutionary songs were sung and individuals continued to learn and play approved musical compositions. The zheng’s musical development was stifled during this time.
The Rise of Deng Xiaoping and the Period of Openness Mao Zedong’s 1976 death led to a period of social upheaval and instability, during which Deng Xiaoping rose as the new leader of China. Deng’s regime was a radical political experiment: he aimed to maintain the communist political order amid an environment of free enterprise. In many respects, Deng’s experiment was a great success (e.g., ushering in China’s phenomenal rise as a major global economic power). In other ways, it failed miserably, as manifest in tragic events like the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.
Insights and Perspective s Rocking the Zheng on the New Long March: Cui Jian and Bei Bei He
Cui Jian’s poignant songs speak of alienation in a rapidly changing China. His most popular song, “Nothing to My Name,” was the unofficial anthem of the Chinese democracy movement and reached the climax of its impact during a hunger-strike protest at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Bei Bei He, whose zheng playing within a cosmopolitan world/rock musical style is featured on CD ex. #4-31, began her formal musical education in the Chinese conservatory system as a zheng performer. In 2003, she moved to Southern California to cultivate her American/international musical life. Her performances are diverse: she has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, played in studio sessions for Battlestar Galactica, and performed at the National Arts Center of Canada.
The Arts, the Zheng, and Musicultural Life in Post-1970s China The new policies of openness combined with artistic freedom for Chinese musicians resulted in a musical renaissance. Attitudes toward Western art music transformed, and modern Western art and popular musics became appreciated and valued. Modern Chinese composers such as Tan Dun have achieved international fame through their cosmopolitan compositional styles. The zheng has blossomed in the post-1970s era. New compositional styles reflecting trends toward increasing virtuosity, experimentalism, and cosmopolitanism for the instrument have developed.
Problems of the Period of Openness era have included decreasing government support of state institutions (including music conservatories) and continued cultural appropriation of folk and minority musics (e.g., Tibetan, Uighur) by the state and its conservatory culture. Some music based on “minority” traditions from the modern “Openness” period, such as the Uighur-inspired piece “Music from the Muqam” (CD ex. #4-33; pp. 346-349), are criticized for projecting a positive image of a unified, inclusive, multicultural China that contradicts harsher sociopolitical realities.