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Guangdong Music

Guangdong music is one genre of the rich and colorful national music, including Cantonese and Chaozhou music, rhythm, and local folk opera, etc. In the later half of the 19th century, it was prevalent in the Guangzhou dialect area, including the Pearl River Delta. It started to become popular both in China and abroad in the early years of the 20th century. It enjoys a high reputation.

The early ensembles around 1919 consisted of two-string, Tiqin (an instrument similar to the Banhu), three-string, Yueqin and horizontal flute. Such orchestras were called "five frames" or "hard groups". Solos were mostly played on Pipa or Yangqin. As the 20th century progressed, the Gaohu became the main instrument, backed up by the Yangqin and Qinqin. These three were commonly known as the "frio" or "soft bow". Gaohu was said as the lead instrument or for special renditions. Gaohu is basically similar to Erhu, except that the sound box is smaller.

Most pieces of Guangdong music came from the folk music. It was not until the 1920s that a batch of composers of Guangdong music created about 500 works, greatly enriching the treasury of Guangdong music. For instance, at the beginning of the 20th century, folk artist Lu Wencheng changed the usual silk strings of Erhu to steel ones, raising its register four or five octaves, and giving it a brighter tone. During performances, he would hold the sound box between his legs in order to better control the pitch.

Guangdong music is good at depicting the minor facets of life, as well as being closely connected with revealing traditional emotions. To appreciate it, one should not be on the lookout for the great themes of social life, but for descriptions of natural scenery and objects, which bring a feeling of relaxation. Some of the typical Guangdong music are as follows.

Rain Strike on the Plantain Leaves. This was one of the earliest compositions of typical Guangdong music. With the use of flute and the bell, it becomes even more passionate and full of anger. Its smooth and lively melody expresses the very typical mood of life in south China. The notes are pure, to represent the pattering of raindrops on plantain leaves, the swaying of the leaves under their impact, and the delight with which people welcome rain after a drought.

Hungry Horse Rattle Its Bells. This was transcribed by He Liutang from an instrumental piece with Pipa as the leading instrument, and rearranged for strings. Its technique of using pure notes in quavering rhythms, with the notes So and Fa prominent, manages to convey the very image of a horse shaking its harness bells to express its hunger to its master.

Autumn Moon on the Calm Lake This is a representative piece by the master of Guangdong music Lu Wencheng, which he composed to express his admiration of the beautiful scenery of the West Lake. The tune combines elements of Zhejiang folk music with the Guangdong style. It has one of the most outstanding melodies in Chinese instrumental music.,
Author/Editor By : HCT