T of C 
Home
My
Work
Hand-
books
Qin as
Object
Qin in
Art
Poetry
/ Song
Hear,
Watch
Play
Qin
Analysis History Ideo-
logy
Miscel-
lanea
More
Info
Personal email me search me
John Thompson     Performances     Performance Themes     Repertoire     My videos     House of the Lute 唐世璋     首頁
Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin 1 希聲:一個美國琴人的境界  
A feature-length documentary by veteran Hong Kong filmmaker Lau Shing-hon,2 2019 紀錄長片;劉成漢監製導演,2019  
112 minutes;  Facebook page;3  Trailer;4  Two excerptsOuttakes;5  Reviews6 112分鐘;電影摘錄;   電影摘錄字幕、新聞稿  

This film premiered Saturday 31 August 2019 at the Hong Kong Movie Movie festival Life is Art 2019, preceded by a short foyer performance.7 The film itself was shot in segments over a ten year period.8 During its first year it is being submitted to various international film festivals; public availability will come after that.9

這部電影用了十年分段拍攝,2019年5月杀青但尚未公開發布,因為暫被提交参选各國際電影節,之後将公開發布。

新聞稿 Press release

In 1974 an American, John Thompson, went to Taiwan, then Hong Kong, to study Chinese and the guqin, a silk string zither with an ancient history. Now, 45 years later, he plays on, still inspired by the beauty of the music and by the culture that produced it.
1974年美國人John Thompson 唐世璋往台灣和香港學習中文和絲弦古琴。45年後他仍在孜孜不倦,全情投入在優美的古琴演奏和文化硏究之中。

In 2010 he was the only non-Chinese among 14 masters the Zhejiang Museum invited to play in a program featuring guqins over 1000 years old.
2010年浙江省博物館唐琴演奏會邀請十四位古琴大師以國寶千年唐朝古琴演奏,唐世璋是唯一被邀請的外國古琴家!

How did this happen? And why should a Westerner spend so much of his life in something so Chinese?
一個西方人為甚麼會對古琴投入畢生光陰和精力,不離不棄!

This documentary film, made over a 10 year period by Hong Kong veteran filmmaker Lau Shing Hon, tries to answer this.
香港資深導演劉成漢花了十年時間拍成的最新紀錄長片, 試圖解答這個問題!

* * *

An East-West rendezvous in classical music and culture!
西方邂逅千年東方古典文化與音樂的璀燦 !

Beautiful music! Fascinating! Moving!
Absolutely inspiring!
啟發!豐富!音色優美!
真情投入!令人感動!

Not to be missed!
精心製作,萬勿錯過!

See also:

  • Signed Reviews (longer ones in Appendix One)

    “Music beyond Sound: an American's world of Guqin" reveals one man's enormous dedication beyond culture , and beautiful music beyond national boundaries. Both are truly heart warming !
    ~ Derek Chiu, Hong Kong film director.
    "希聲:一個美國琴人的境界" 電影那份專注,不限文化。那種音樂,跨越國界。兩種境界,同樣動人。
    香港電影導演趙崇基

  • 名家推介 - Testimonials from the film (Appendix Two)
 

 
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 希聲:一個美國琴人的境界 - Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin
A number of people worked on this film, most notably those mentioned in the film credits.

製作名單 Film Credits:

This page was initiated 1 May 2019.
(
Return)

2. 劉成漢 Lau Shing Hon (中文簡介)
Further information about Lau is linked here; see in particular his entry in the Ultimate Guide to HK Film Directors

Lau and I have been friends since 1978, when he asked me to do the music for his first feature film, 慾火焚琴 House of the Lute. To my knowledge this is still the only full length feature film to have used guqin music almost exclusively (see Guqin in film). Some of the musical decisions are described there.
(Return)

3. Facebook page
Select "Posts" to make a comment. You should also be able to make a comment on
my Facebook page.
(Return)

4. Trailer
The text of the trailer is the same as the text from the
press release.
(Return)

5. Outtakes
Other melodies recorded but not included in the film include:

These two scenes were filmed by 黃可範 Richard Wong on Cheung Chau island in February, 2017.
(Return)

6. Reviews
See Appendix 1
(
Return)
(Return)

7. Film premiere
The foyer performance (of necessity) featured my
qin with a piezo pickup under its silk strings. My piezo qin connects to an amplifier directly through a 1/4" plug on the end of the qin (warning).
(Return)

8. Shot locations
Lau directed the filming in Hong Kong (including Cheung Chau and Tung Chung) and Hangzhou. The film also includes an official video from the Zhejiang Concert Hall (浙江音樂廳) in Hangzhou, plus a video I made in Tampa, Florida.
(
Return)

9. Screening the film
As of August 2019 non-commercial screenings can be arranged on request. Meanwhile, the "Watch Video" button on the film's
Facebook page links only to the trailer.
目前Facebook頁面上的"Watch Video"(觀看視頻)鏈接到電影預告片。
(Return)

11. 電影預告片 Trailer for the film
Length: 2 min 36 sec.
(
Return)

12. 電影摘錄 Excerpt 1 from film
From 08.38 to 11.22; filmed in Tung Chung and Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
(Return)

13. 電影摘錄 Excerpt 2 from film
From 17.10 to 18.07; filmed in Tung Chung, Hong Kong, with images from Taipei and Hong Kong.
(Return)

14. Poster announcing the film
Poster design by 許晴嵐 Hui Ching Laam
(Return)

15. Image from the opening scene
1 min 14 sec from the beginning; shot at the end of 海濤半島 Seascape Peninsula, above 香港長州南氹灣 Nam Tam Bay, Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong. The text on screen refers to my focus on music of the Ming dynasty, discussed further here.
(Return)

16. More stills from the film
The first two images are from Hong Kong, the last two were shot in Hangzhou.
(Return)

 
Appendix One - Film reviews and related articles
Below are two

  1. 鬼佬與中國古琴 A "Foreign Devil" and the Chinese Guqin A
    Here is a translation of an article by leading Hong Kong film critic 石琪 Sek Kei about seeing the premiere. He wrote it for his column 傾偈集 Kinggai Gei ("Chats in a Box") in 明報 Ming Pao, 7 September 2019 (中文 .pdf).

    Director Lau Shing Hon spent 10 years filming his English-language documentary "Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin", and looking back it is such a rare find. The guqin is the most traditional Chinese musical instrument, but how many among the billion or so Chinese people are able really to appreciate it? I also didn’t know much about it, but always kept my respect from afar. Now, having watched this film, I cannot help but salute this American qin player John Thompson.

    For a "foreign devil" to be so enchanted with the Chinese guqin that he works so hard at it and gives performances is rarely seen. However, the actual difficulty that can be most valued is that fact that his studies of classical qin tablature have contributed so much, by taking the ancient tablature from its original condition then making it possible to play it that way again, causing not just a few ancient melodies to "come back to life"; in this way his efforts have far exceeded those Chinese experts in the field. His guqin website gets more than ten thousand hits daily, making it a catalyst for the guqin renaissance.B

    This documentary was filmed in quite a straightforward manner: it focuses on John’s in-depth talking about and playing of the qin, with inserts of photos and videos, the story line showing how he began studying music as a child, came to Asia while serving in the US army during the Vietnam war, developed a love for Asian culture, then went first to Taiwan then to Hong Kong to study guqin.

    John seems to have had a special bonding with Hong Kong. He lived on Cheung Chau island for more than 20 years and became almost like a local. He also worked for over 10 years with Hong Kong's "Festival of Asian Arts“.C And in 1980 he was responsible for the guqin music in the movie “House of the Lute”, directed by Lau Shing Hon, and in the documentary "Music Beyond Sound” there are excerpts from it showing 40 years ago the film stars Simon Yam Tat Wah in his first major role and Herman Kwan Hoi-san as his co-star.D

    Guqin also brought John love. In Hong Kong he met a New Yorker who became smitten by his qin music and they subequently tied the knot. The film has a scene showing the two of them revisiting Cheung Chau, and him playing the qin while he softly sings a classic love song for her in Mandarin. How sweet! John also explains that he must play on silk strings to maintain the traditional sound and style. And he points out that from ancient times literati always played qin for self enjoyment, never making a living from their art.

    Comments on the article:

    A: In the original text "foreign devil" was put in quotes to show it is intended as irony. Whoever wrote the headline (see the Chinese original: .jpg or .pdf) seems to have missed that.
    B: The website is very active but these official statistics, given by the website host, are rather dubious.
    C: 18 years: early 1980 to late 1998 but missing 1982.
    D: This is still the only feature length film to use guqin music almost exclusively from beginning to end. Part of the job was teaching Kwan Hoi-san to pretend to play qin.
    Thanks to Louisa Ross for help with the translation.


  2. 唐世璋:西方人過上東方古琴撞出火花 John Thompson: A Westerner experiences the Eastern guqin and hits a spark
    Published October 11, 2019 in the Chinese daily newspaper 文匯報 Wen Hui Bao (
    online edition; jpg).
    This is mainly a background article about me. After that (on the right side of the page) is the following short article that mentions the film; just above it is a photo taken at the place on Cheung Chau island where I spend two to three months a year; under it is the photo from the pre-show foyer event.

    紀錄長片傳播古琴之美 Documentary film transmits the beauty of the qin

    Hong Kong film director Lau Shing-hon, deeply moved by the fact that it is a Westerner who has worked so hard and accomplished so much on the guqin, and captivated by performances on guqins with silk strings, spent 10 years making the full length documentary "Music Beyond Sound: An American's World of Guqin", recently shown at the Taikoo Shing Movie Theatre. Director Lau Shing-Hon reckons that, John Thompson's decades of studying Chinese traditional music and culture have made huge contributions, but that many Chinese people don't know about (his important contributions) and this is very regrettable. He hopes that this film will also help them to appreciate the beauty of his guqin performance.

    香港導演劉成漢感嘆於一個西方人在古琴上的造詣與成就,陶醉於絲弦古琴演奏,以十年時間拍攝出紀錄長片《希聲:一個美國 琴人的境界》,日前在太古城戲院公映。 劉成漢導演認為,數十年來唐世璋對中華傳統音樂和文化貢獻龐大,但很多華人卻並不知悉,他認為實在非常可惜,希望將其拍攝成電影令更多人能夠欣賞古琴之美。

    The original text of the full article, by Hong Kong reporter 胡茜 Hu Qian, is as follows:

    在中國文化中,琴棋書畫向來被看作文人雅士修身養性的必由之徑,其中以「琴」為首,又以弦樂古琴為主要演奏樂器。古琴根據中國傳統「天人合一」的自然觀設計,琴面琴底對照天地,琴頭琴項、琴肩琴身比對人形,古琴家更以雙手撥奏人文與品格之美,展現無分民族的高雅美感。美國古琴家唐世璋(John Thompson)年輕時深受中華文化吸引,上世紀七十年代隻身走到香港與台灣學習中文及絲弦古琴,當年他的老師本認為外國人無法理解中華文化,不願收他為徒,但後來為了向熱衷西方音樂的中國學生證明古琴的價值,決定將他收歸師門。成就了今天的他。■文:香港文匯報記者 胡茜 部分圖片由劉成漢導演提供

    倘若人真的都有前世,唐世璋大概前世是個中國人。在台灣學習了普通話,以演奏古琴作為終生的職業與志趣,一年至少有一季的時間居住在香港,「中國」這個印記伴隨了唐世璋的大半生。

    John Thompson的第一個中文名叫湯約翰,但他覺得這個名字不太夠「中國」,一直到1971年,他正式開始學習中文,當時的語言老師為他改成「唐世璋」,「璋」取他的名字「John」的諧音,「唐」則是他本來姓氏的第一個音節,亦寓意「唐人」。由此一來,才奠定了他開啟中國文化的第一個篇章。

    回憶起第一次來到香港,唐世璋還記憶猶新:「那是1969年的時候,我還記得我住在那時位於中環的維多利亞酒店,當時的香港是個很有趣的城市,結合了英國和中國的特別印迹。」那時候的香港,既有中式的傳統也有西方的繁複,符合唐世璋對這個城市的嚮往。而今,城市由於再造失去了歷史痕跡,但是中環的蛻變對於唐世璋來說卻依然是相得益彰的美好。

                對亞洲文化的興趣

    唐世璋大學學的是西方早期音樂學,碩士研究的是人類音樂學。但亞洲的文化一直吸引着唐世璋,1974年,他往台灣學中文,跟從古琴大師孫毓芹學習古琴,也同時學習中文,不光是聽說,更能夠很好地讀寫中文。他希望不光是能夠運用中文去溝通,也可以看懂中文的書籍,這樣一來,才能夠更深層地理解中國文化。

    1976年,唐世璋向香港著名的古琴家唐健桓請益。此後他日益專注最早期之古琴譜,並逐漸以演奏之純粹、流暢和情感充沛而知名。爾後,如今,唐世璋在因緣際會下因為探訪友人而踏上長洲,他便喜愛上這片土地,直到2012年,太太從美國公司退休後,他們決定定居在那兒。「這裡很安靜。」他說。他與太太一年有兩三個月的時間住在長洲的一棟小屋裡,依海而居,附近都是土生土長的長洲居民,他們不時在屋頂的天台對着落日彈上幾曲,很是愜意。

    對亞洲文化的興趣並不是從天而降,大學期間,唐世璋前往越南參與越南戰爭,成為軍隊中的一員。雖然不上前線,但唐世璋在這裡意識到,自己對這個國家的了解實在太缺失了。

    「我喜歡學習的過程,當我認為我從一個很好的大學中已經得到了很棒的知識時,我應該要為越南的人做一些事情,但我發現自己對亞洲根本一竅不通,這就說明,知識有很多盲區。」年輕的唐世璋面對自己知識的欠缺感到「embarrassed」,由此,他開始了對亞洲文化的深入了解。

    「其一是因為亞洲文化很有趣,其二是因為亞洲很重要,尤其是中國,中國在世界上是一個非常重要的國家,其三則是如果你想要了解你自己,你要去用別人的眼光來審視自己,如果能去了解一種完全不同的文化,那麼我就可以用一個全然不同的方式、角度去看自己,這是了解自己的一種很好的方法。」他說。

                深入理解古琴文化

    雖然是演奏傳統文化,但唐世璋卻認為傳統並不是指一成不變,而是一直在變化的。「其實沒人知道在古代,古琴是如何被演奏的,那時候也沒有現代的科技可以記錄。」他認為,所謂的傳統其實都是在人的演奏、流傳下逐漸形成的,所以,即便自己還是在用最傳統的樂器制式去彈奏,其中的內容還是需要透過個人去發展和經營。

    事實上,一個西方人越過文化界限,再去學習一種就連中國人本身也不常見的樂器,是相當不容易的事情。除了演奏之外,唐世璋還做了大量關於古琴文化的文學資料搜集並集結成文,他的古琴研究網站是目前世界上最豐富的「古琴資料館」。他說:「當我去學習一種音樂的時候,我一定要知道它來源於哪裡,它的歷史是什麼,如果我不知道,那麼就無法真正去展示它。」

    「我嘗試去做一個盡可能理性的人,但我的感情太豐富了。」唐世璋笑言:「在別人看來我大概是個很理性的人,不過,演奏這件事必須要有充沛的情感才能做到。」

                獨特的「復古演奏風格」

    唐世璋對於「復古演奏風格」有很執着的一面,他說:「大部分亞洲國家,目前來講,好像仍然在追求越是『現代』的,就應該是越『西方』的,但我的目標是去將傳統的、亞洲的本來的美展現出來。」他在關於古琴文化的論文中記錄道:「中世紀西方音樂最容易通過其樂器而辨認。幾乎所有都與現代樂器不同。但是,直到中國文革,琴已基本有至少1,500年未改變了。

    「文革中,人們研製和採用了鋼絲弦來代替傳統絲弦。有着微妙聲音的絲弦體現了琴作為修身而非表演之物的傳統。而鋼絲弦則為試圖將琴改成為大型觀衆的表演性樂器的一種方式。鋼絲弦更光滑,其音更尖銳,更難斷,且更容易保持調音。但是,它們產生的聲音缺乏絲弦的濃厚音色。

    「現在在中國幾乎所有琴者都使用鋼絲弦。這在緩慢地改變彈奏風格。例如光滑的弦更易彈某些顫音且允許滑音時施加更多壓力;其共鳴度促使人將音符延長而其更大張力允許更快速的彈奏;最後,弦強度意味着更強烈的起音。另一方面,更薄的聲音掩藏了用不同彈法和琴弦彈奏同一音所產生的微妙音色,因此這不再被琴者着重。」

    「我很幸運,能夠將我最喜歡的事情作為我的職業。」他輕撫着身旁的琴,發出一聲有力而柔和的音調。

    讀文匯報PDF版面

    The pdf also shows an unrelated article underneath this one. Much of the information here can be found in English in the detailed version of My guqin work.

電影預告片  Trailer for the film 11

電影摘錄 Excerpt from the film12

電影摘錄 Another excerpt from the film 13

Poster announcing the film 14

Music source (from the opening scene) 15

More stills from the film16

 
Appendix Two: 名家推介 - Testimonials from the film
The film includes the following testimonials from scholars and qin players:

 

Go to JT Bio or to the Guqin ToC