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John Thompson
Short biography (see also the shorter,1 medium length, and detailed versions)
唐世璋
Photo of John Thompson by LP     

John Thompson, with the largest recorded repertoire for the guqin silk-string zither, is certainly one of the most listened to players today: since May 2007 his website has averaged over 8,000 hits a day, many of them from people listening through China's music download websites to his recordings, unaware that it is not a Chinese master playing their most ancient surviving music. In all, he has reconstructed and recorded over 200 melodies from 15th and 16th century guqin tablature, and his website complements each melody with extensive musicological, historical and philosophical commentary.

As a result, John Thompson is also the best-known musician giving historically informed performances of early guqin of early guqin music. After a college degree in Western musicology (early music) and graduate studies in ethnomusicology, he began in 1974 to study the modern guqin tradition from Sun Yü-Ch'in in Taiwan. After moving to Hong Kong in 1976 to consult with Tong Kin-Woon he turned his focus to early repertoire, gradually gaining a reputation for the fidelity, fluency and feeling of his performances. In 1992 the National Union of Chinese Musicians invited him to Beijing as the focus of a seminar on reconstructing music from the earliest surviving guqin handbook, Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425 CE).

While based in Hong Kong as artistic consultant to the Festival of Asian Arts Thompson performed throughout East Asia, and published seven CDs of his musical reconstructions as well as four books of music transcription. Since 2001, when he moved to New York (and including 2009-2013, when he was based in Mumbai and Singapore), he has continued to perform, teach, research and lecture on the guqin, creating new music as well. His website, www.silkqin.com, is the most comprehensive English-language source of information on this instrument.

"Beautiful, supple and with great depth, John Thompson's Song and Ming Dynasty silk string guqin music is sound from heaven."
      (Lau Shing Hon, film director and professor, Hong Kong)2
"Ancient, exquisite and sublime, his qin playing recreates a great realm of traditional Chinese culture."
      (Wang Bu, Director, Music Conservatory of Hangzhou Normal University, 2008)
"Absorbing, and deeply involved in both Chinese and Western culture."
      (Wu Wenguang, Chinese Conservatory of Music, Beijing, 2003)
"He soars beyond the ordinary world to bring the beauty of the qin to music lovers worldwide."
      (Xu Kuanghua, Founder of the West Lake Qin Society, Hangzhou, 2002)


Education:

St. John's Episcopal Parish Day School, Tampa, Florida, 1960
The Asheville School, Asheville, N.C., 1963
Haverford College, B.A., 1967 (Musicology)
Florida State University, M.A., 1971 (Asian Studies)
University of Michigan, graduate studies in ethnomusicology and Chinese (1971 - 1974)
Mandarin Training Center, Taiwan Normal University, classical Chinese (1974 - 1976)
Private qin lessons with Sun Yü-ch'in, 1974 - 1976

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Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Shorter biographies
The biography above has about 300 words. Here are three shorter versions:

150 words

John Thompson, the best-known performer of early music for the Chinese guqin silk string zither, began his studies in Taiwan in 1974, learning the traditional repertoire from National Treasure Sun Yü-ch'in. Since 1976, though, he has focused on reconstructing old melodies directly from tablature, by now having recorded over 200 melodies learned from 15th, 16th and 17th century handbooks. From 1980 to 2000, while serving as artistic consultant to the Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts, he continued his own research and performance, publishing seven CDs of his musical reconstructions and four books of transcriptions. Since moving to the New York area in 2001 he has continued his research, also performing and lecturing in the United States and Europe as well as in Asia. His website, www.silkqin.com, which receives over 8,000 hits a day, is the most comprehensive source of information on this music and its cultural and historical context.

 
100 words:

John Thompson, the best-known performer of early music for the Chinese guqin silk string zither, has since 1976 personally reconstructed over 200 melodies from 15th to 17th century handbooks. From 1980 to 2000, while serving as artistic consultant to the Hong Kong Festival of Asian Arts, he performed throughout East Asia, publishing seven CDs of his musical reconstructions and four books of transcriptions. Since moving to the New York area in 2001 he has continued to perform, research and lecture. His website, www.silkqin.com, which receives over 8,000 hits a day, is the most comprehensive source of information on the subject.

 
50 words:

John Thompson, the best-known performer of early music for the guqin, has since 1976 published seven CDs of his reconstructions from 15th and 16th century handbooks and given numerous solo performances worldwide. His website, www.silkqin.com, the most comprehensive source of information on this subject, receives over 8,000 hits a day.
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2. Full quote
The quote above is excerpted from the following comment by Lau Shing Hon:

"Beautiful, supple and with great depth, John Thompson's Song and Ming Dynasty silk string guqin music is sound from heaven. Today when we are overwhelmed by the modern sound of the metal string 'guqin', we should be very grateful to John who relentlessly brings us back to a deeply moving realm of the ancient Chinese literati. Definitely not to be missed!."
「美妙、圓潤、渾厚、唐世璋的宋明天籟絲絃琴音韻味盎然。在今天鋼弦古琴充斥亂真之下,難得他為我們重現一个感動人心的古代中國文人境界、不容錯過!」 劉成漢 ( 香港電影導演及教授 )
(Return)
 
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