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New Qin Melodies 1

My own original qin music has been largely of three types:

  1. Guqin Blues (or: Silkqin Blues 2)
    I have taken traditional qin melodies and motifs and put them into a form of blues structure. Examples include the following MP3 files,3 which contain my "Opus 1-4". These put traditional melodies and motifs into a new structure. Is the structure recognizable? Comments are appreciated (all copyright John Thompson).

    1.   文人 China Scholar 3:19 3.05 MB Accompanied version available 4 (聽加吉他、口琴本)
    Basic melody (.50), three variations, then coda
    2.   古風 Olden Ways 3:52 3.54 MB Compare 古風操 Gufeng Cao
    Basic melody (.39), then five variations
    3.   朝雉 Morning Birds 3:38 3.33 MB Compare 雉朝飛 Zhi Zhao Fei
    Basic melody (.46) twice, three variations, then coda
    4.   鳳凰 Love Birds 5:40 5.33 MB Compare Wen Jun Cao recordings #1 & #2 (聽 文君操 錄音 #1#2)
    Basic melody (1.20) in two parts, each 12-measures, then one variation;
    then repeat basic melody on beat, play variation on beat, then coda

  2. Film music (see also Qin in film)
    This has included:

    1. House of the Lute (慾火焚琴, 1979). I did most of the music for this 90-minute Cantonese feature film directed by 劉成漢 Lau Shing-Hon
    2. (tongue tongue stone) G.W. Leibnitz, by Ellen Zweig (2002; "rock music", not for qin)
    3. (unsolved) Robert van Gulik, by Ellen Zweig (2003; purely traditional qin music)

  3. East-West music in an early music style
    These are the East-West pieces I created or modified for use in the program Music from the Time of Marco Polo.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. "New music"
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".

2. Guqin Blues 古琴布魯士音樂 (related paper: Silkqin Blues)
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.

3. Reduced here from the original .aif files, which were about 10 times larger.

4. China Scholar Blues: 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.)


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