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New Qin Melodies
My own original qin music has been largely of three types:
||文人 China Scholar 4
||Based on motifs, not a specific melody
(聽別的樂器伴奏 Listen to an acompanied version).
Basic melody (.50), three variations, then coda
||古風 Olden Ways
||Compare 古風操 Gufeng Cao (video with commentary6 )
Basic melody (.39), then five variations
||朝雉 Morning Birds 7
||Compare 雉朝飛 Zhi Zhao Fei
Basic melody (.46) twice, three variations, then coda
||鳳凰 Love Birds
||Compare Wen Jun Cao recordings
(聽 文君操 錄音
Basic melody in two parts, 12 measures each (1.20), then one variation;
then repeat basic melody on beat, play variation on beat, then coda
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
Most of my work has been reconstructing melodies from ancient tablature. Of course, if my reconstructions are inaccurate the result might also be considered as "new music".
Guqin Blues 古琴布魯士音樂 (related paper:
The melodies listed above, which I created and/or arranged in 1997 and 1998, all have a structure based mainly on 12-bar blues. The reason have I used this structure is related to my appreciation of that music and to my interest in improvisation. This is discussed further in the attached paper.
China Scholar Blues was my first effort. For that I took a variety of qin music motifs and tried to put them in a 12-bar blues structure, but when I then added lyrics (which probably appeal only to someone studying Chinese) it came out as 13-bar. This done, I took a some actual melodies I had reconstructed, Gufeng Cao and Zhi Zhao Fei, and altered their melodies to fit the 12-bar blues structure. The mode of the original melodies is 6 - 3, and when I played my new arrangements for some Chinese friends they did not realize that these were not old qin melodies. However, when I next did Wen Jun Cao, the original of which is in a 1 - 5 mode, the result was more clearly outside the early qin modes.
Although I have enjoyed very much listening to improvisational music of many types, my personal music training and experience were first Western classical then early qin, neither of which demands much improvisation. So my idea has been that I would create and learn these blues-structured melodies and their variations so well that I could improvise on them. I would then have structures that would allow jamming with musicians who didn't know Chinese music.
Since then I have created some more melodies using this structure, but have not developed them as much as the four mentioned above. And I have not yet found anyone with whom to play any of these. Since I enjoy very much what I normally do, it will probably take some further outside impetus to get me to focus more on the blues.
Reduced here from the original .aif files, which were about 10 times larger.
China Scholar Blues
Raised fifth string tuning; further above.
Accompanied version of China Scholar Blues
This version has silk string guqin with guitar and harmonica. A friend in England, Stephen Darbyshire, sent me several trial runs where he added guitar and harmonica accompaniment to this track, which I had recorded solo. One of these is now online. (3.15MB/MP3; turn down treble EQ for best result.)
Also called "Old Time Blues"; standard tuning.
Olden Ways video with commentary
This video was made for an online meeting of the New York Qin Society in June 2021. The video references this transcription and included this commentary.
Love Bird Blues
With the original 12-bar arrangement most measures begin on the upbeat (as with my reconstruction from the 1539 handbook). Playing basically the same melody beginning phrases on the beat seems to give the melody a more upbeat feeling. The original was presented in Byron Bay, Australia, 2000.
Return to Listen to Qin Music, or to the Guqin ToC.