Shi Yin: Intonation for Poetry
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58. Intonation for Poetry
Yu mode 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 2
詩吟 1
Shi Yin  
  Original tablature from 1573 (expand) 3       
The title of the present piece suggests its intention: although it survives only from 1573, where it is a melody set to a poem by Du Fu, it actually functions as a general melody that can be used to accompany any poem in the appropriate format, which in this case is four lines of seven character couplets ([7+7]x4), though the commentary says it can also accompany poems that consist of two lines of seven character couplets ([7+7]x2).4 The musical structure here does follow that of the four couplet structure, but in fact the music of the latter two couplets is only a small variation on that of the first two couplets, omitting some of the ornamentation, so the overall structure can be seen as ([7+7]x2)+([7+7]x2).

As discussed under Cipai and Qin Melodies, it is interesting to consider the issue of pairing words and music in connection with the traditional concepts regarding ci poetry. According to theory, ci lyrics originally accompanied a melody; the melody was subsequently lost, but people would still write poems according to the word count and tonal patterns of the original ci. Although there are several surviving examples of qin melodies with lyrics that fit an old ci pattern (see Surviving qin melodies and qin songs connected to ci patterns), they are relatively rare, and I have not yet found one that includes the instructions that the melody could be used with any lyrics following that pattern.

Getting back to the melody here in 1573, the title of the poem by 杜甫 Du Fu (712 - 770) to which it is set has been translated as Echoing Chancellery Secretary Jia Zhi's Poem on Morning Levee; the original poem and a translation are shown below. This poem has four 7-character couplets, but no other lyrics in 1573 or 1585 have this structure.

Xing Tan Yin; Apricot Tree Forum Intonation
On the other hand, both the 1573 (
#40) and 1585 (#56) handbooks do have a melody called Xing Tan Yin the lyrics of which are structured (7+7)x2. These lyrics, included below (with my recording), first survive from 1525, where the melody is completely different. They are also included as part of the 1573 and 1585 versions of the learning exercise generally called Caoman Yin. Here the musical settings in the 1573 and 1585 editions are slightly different from each other but almost the same as the melody used for the first half of Shi Yin.

To sum up, both of these pieces, Shi Yin and Xing Tan Yin, fit the pattern set up in the preface for use with further melodies, but none of the editions I have seen of this handbook (see list) includes or mentions specific other lyrics that can be substituted, nor have I seen this melody (or mention of it) in any other old handbooks.

On the other hand, there is in fact at least one other qin melody that was intended to serve as a melody for others in the same pattern. This is a piece called Qin Poem (Qin Shi), published in 1590 in Qinshu Daquan.5

Intonation for Poetry (詩吟Shi Yin) and other poems with the pattern ([7+7]x4)6
A modern published example of the Shi Yin melody paired with other lyrics can be found in the two collections of qin songs transcribed in modern times by Wang Di. Here she has paired a version of the present melody to a different poem by Du Fu, Ke Zhi without making clear the source of this pairing. Instead she publishes it under the title of the poem, Ke Zhi. Details of this pairing are as follows:

客至 Ke Zhi (A Guest Arrives)
Ke Zhi is the name of a poem by 杜甫
Du Fu; the qin melody of this name sets to music the words of the poem, which are as follows:

A Guest Arrives (客至 Ke Zhi):


The following translation is from here:

South of my hut, north of my hut, all is spring water,
    A flock of gulls is all I see come each day.
The floral path has never been swept for a guest,
    Today for the first time the rough gate opens for the gentleman.
Far from the market, my food has little taste,
    My poor home can offer only stale and cloudy wine.
Consent to have a drink with my elderly neighbour,
    At the fence I'll call him, then we'll finish it off.

Wang Di first transcribed this piece in her 琴歌 Qin Ge (1982, p.26), where she says the melody is from Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu, but her edition includes only transcriptions and lyrics, not any tablature. Later, in her Xian Ge Ya Yun (2007; pp. 42-49) she has the same lyrics and music (correcting the relative tuning from 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 to 5 6 1 2 3 5 6), but she (or the book editor) identifies the piece not as from Chongxiu Zhenchuan Qinpu but only as "hand-copied qin tablature". However, the tablature there, though slightly different, clearly shows that this is the same melody as the one that occurs as Shi Yin in 1573 with the completely different Du Fu lyrics. Unfortunately, there seems to be no further commentary on this in either of Wang Di's books and so at present it is not clear whether this comes from another edition of the handbook, whether this was done by someone else some time later, or whether she applied the alternate lyrics herself.

Other melodies that have lyrics with the pattern ([7+7]x4)7
There are a number of these listed in the footnote. In this regard, it is my tentative observation that in general the melodies designed for use with multiple lyrics of the same pattern tend to be more straightforward than melodies accompanying only one particular melody. For example, the melody with Huangzhong Diao has this pattern but its melody seems intended to hide the regularity of the lyrics rather than emphasize them.
Intonation for Poetry (詩吟 Shi Yin; 1573)   
The original preface and tablature are as follows:


The 1573 preface to Shi Yin, as shown above, focuses on the (7+7)x4 structure of the song, as follows:

Xifeng created this piece so it would accord with the sounds of the lyrics, aligning seven characters for eight phrases and accordingly play to the end. If you want to play the seven characters for four phrases, then taking the first four of the eight phrases and playing them is appropriate. All poems whether having old or new sounds for their phrases can follow this method. Playing to the end is the same, and its flavor is endlessly beautiful (creative).

The translation of this preface is tentative, but it clearly says that, although Shi Yin has the structure (7+7)x4, one can use the half of the melody for melodies with the structure (7+7)x2, and that the melody itself can be repeated endlessly without becoming boring. The fact that the presentation of the music in the second half is slightly different from that in the first half, plus the fact that the same handbook has another slightly different version for the melody Xing Tan Yin suggests that "無尽妙" might mean not just endlessly beautiful but endlessly creative.

Music and lyrics (see transcription linked below)
The 1573 Shi Yin (also above) has for lyrics the Du Fu poem Echoing Chancellery Secretary Jia Zhi's Poem on Morning Levee, as follows:

和賈舍人早朝 (Hé Jiǎ Shěrén Zǎo Cháo)

五夜漏聲催曉箭,九重春色醉仙桃。   (Wǔ yè lòu shēng cuī xiǎo jiàn,    jiǔ chóng chūn sè zuì xiān táo.)
旌旗日暖龍蛇動,宮殿風微燕雀高。   (Jīng qí rì nuǎn lóng shé dòng,    gōng diàn fēng wēi yàn què gāo.)
朝罷香煙攜滿袖,詩成珠玉在揮毫。   (Cháo bà xiāng yān xié mǎn xiù, shī chéng zhū yù zài huī háo.)
欲知世掌絲綸美,池上於今有鳳毛。   (Yù zhī shì zhǎng sī lún měi,        chí shàng yú jīn yǒu fèng máo.)

Echoing Chancellery Secretary Jia Zhi's Poem on Morning Levee (translation from here):

As the (clock) ticks out the watch final, dawn whizzes in like a flying arrow;
    The Emperor’s countenance emerges from the nine fold palace as gracefully as an intoxicating heavenly vernal peach blow.
Imperial banners like dragons and serpents flutter under the bright sun’s glow;
    Palatial birds soar high amidst the zephyr whiffles.
Everybody leaves the levee with regal incense smell all over their clothes;
    Having presented poems teeming with gems of pearls and jades under their great literary flair of elan vital.
Who could succeed generations to generations to serve in the Imperial Edict’s Court on call;
    This rarity is evinced by the only phoenix feather now prevailing over Phoenix Pool.
The lyrics for 杏壇吟 Xing Tan Yin (further above) are set to versions of this melody in 1585 (at right) and 1573 (below) 1585 杏壇吟 Xing Tan Yin
暑往寒來春復秋。夕陽西下水東流。   Shǔ wǎng hán lái chūn fù qiū. Xī yáng xī xià shuǐ dōng liú.
將軍戰馬今何在?野草閑花滿地愁。   Jiāng jūn zhàn mǎ jīn hé zài? Yě cǎo xián huā mǎn dì chóu.

Summer goes, winter arrives, spring turns to autumn;
    Stars and sun set in the west, water flows east.
Generals who fought on horseback: where are they now?
    Wild grass covers the flowers, filling the earth with gloom.

Recording (古琴獨奏 Qin solo; music combines Shi Yin and Xing Tan Yin, as they are essentially the same melody)
My transcription has Shi Yin first, then the 1585 Xing Tan;
Timings follow my recording; lyrics for both are directly above

00.00 Harmonic prelude (last 7 notes of the melody put in harmonics)
00.10 1573 Xing Tan Yin (not in transcription; see original at right: less ornamentation than 1585)
00.40 1585 Xing Tan Yin (at the end of the transcription)
01.09 1573 Shi Yin, part 1 (part of the opening ornament skipped)
01.36 1573 Shi Yin, part 2
02.10 End

Try others, starting here!

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Intonation for Poetry (詩吟 Shi Yin)
36260.46: 吟詩也 to intone poetry, adding only a reference ("喜有吟詩癖") to a poem called 送王尉歸觐 by 方岳 Fang Yue (1199 - 1262; Bio/307).

2. Yu Mode (羽調 yu diao)
The 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 2 tuning is relative; for further on this mode see Shenpin Yu Yi

3. 詩吟 Shi Yin: Original tablature from 1573 (compare 杏壇吟 Xing Tan Yin at right) 1573 杏壇吟 Xing Tan Yin 
Images above and at right copied from an online electronic facsimile of the original, which is in the National Museum, Taiwan. The source of the red marks in the Shi Yin preface is unclear; I added the punctuation for the melody.

The preface with the tablature at right begins,


See also the 1525 Xing Tan.

4. Other lyrics that fit the pattern ([7+7] x 2)
Again, as mentioned above, with a melody set to lyrics that have a particular pattern, other lyrics in the same pattern can be substituted. Several other melodies that have the present pattern, and that thus could be used as here with other poems in this pattern, have been given above. In all such cases the actual rhythm of the interpretation might then be adjusted to fit the feeling of the poem.

Here is a further example of a poem that could be sung using one or more of these melodies. (Many other poems by Du Fu that fit the pattern of Shi Yin could also be substituted). Here is an example:

Du Fu: On Meeting Li Guinian South of the Yangtze

Qí wáng zhái lǐ xún cháng jiàn
In Prince Qi's mansion house, I met you often,

Cuī jiǔ táng qián jǐ dù wén
By Cui Jiu's hall, I heard you several times.

Zhèng shì Jiāng nán hǎo fēng jǐng
Truly the landscape south of the river is good,

Luò huā shí jié yòu féng jūn
I meet you again in the season of falling blossom.

The above translation was copied from Interesting commentary can also be found with this translation by A.Z. Foreman.

5. Other melodies for poems with doubled seven character lines
Qinshu Daquan (1590) has a Qin Poem (Qin Shi) with a similar function. There may be more elsewhere but I have not yet found them.

It is not clear whether this melody is intended to work for any poems with the character count (7+7)x4 or (7+7)x2 or whether the tonal nature of the individual words should be considered (see further under the footnote for the original preface).

Could this melody (or a similar one) also have been used for longer poems using multiples of this structure, something not mentioned here? There is in fact evidence for traditions of using a repeated melody for singing/reciting long poems, but I do not know much about such traditions. Thus I do not know how to evaluate the source of, e.g., the four-line melody sung repeatedly in this YouTube example (thanks to David Badagnani for bringing it to my attention). Note that the four phrases of the melody mostly begin and end 6-2, 3-2, 2-1, 6-5, but near the middle (noting a section ending) and at the very end there is a single couplet that is 6-2, 2-1, i.e., ending on 1 ("do") instead of 5 ("sol"). According to Western music analysis the 5 keeps the music moving while the 1 denotes and ending. If that principle were followed in Shi Yin then perhaps the final phrase instead of ending on 6 ("la") could change to 1/do.

The qin song Si Si Ge uses as lyrics an early (2nd c. CE) example of poetry using seven character lines. Although the repeated (7+7)x2 pattern here cannot fit the pattern there (which I interpret as [3+7]x1 + [7+7]x3 for each verse), the similarity of the Si Si Ge melody for each of its four verses suggests a similar attitude towards the pairing of words and music.

6. Using lyrics that fit the pattern ([7+7] x 4) Calligraphy and music                            
Listed below are other musical settings that fit the pattern of the present melody and thus their music could perhaps also be used not only with the poem at right (listen) and above, but also other poems in the same structure (comment) or half structure (as here). Quite likely there are also other such multiple-use melodies not mentioned here.

There are, of course, countless such poems with no known musical setting. Here is one example, in calligraphy given to me by 李惠文 Prof. Li Huiwen of Bard College, which inspired me to make a recording singing the text of the calligraphy as lyrics for this melody.

Yellow Crane Tower (崔顥黃鶴樓 Huang He Lou by Cui Hao: listen)
This famous tower (Wiki), named for an immortal bird (Wiki), is also mentioned in other qin songs, e.g., here and here. My translation here is quite literal, sacrificing poetry for the sake of helping someone wanting to follow the meaning closely while singing it.

Xī rén yǐ chéng huáng hè qù, cǐ dì kòng yú Huáng Hè Lóu.
Where formerly people have mounted yellow cranes and departed,
      This land is now empty except for the Yellow Crane Tower.
Huáng hè yī qù bù fù fǎn, bái yún qiān zǎi kōng yōu yōu.
Yellow cranes once gone will never return,
      And white clouds over the millenia vainly go their way.

Qíng chuān lì lì Hàn yáng shù, fāng cǎo qī qī Yīng Wǔ Zhōu.
In the clear river one by one you see Hanyang's trees
      and sweet grass luxuriates on Parrot Island (in the Yangzi by Hanyang)
Rì mù xiāng guān hé chù shì? Yān bō jiāng shàng shǐ rén chóu.
As the sun sets I look towards home but where has it gone?
      Mist and ripples on the river only bring me sorrow.

The reader is encouraged to sing along here, as well as to find other poems to sing in this pattern.

7. Other melodies with lyrics having the present structure ([7+7]x4)
Existing early melodies with this structure include:

Other poems with this structure can also be used. For example, another poem from Du Fu is given below. None of these has music related to the music here. Several other pieces also have sections in (7+7)x4 or (7+7)x2, but as yet I have not found other qin songs using only one of these structures.

8. Original preface
The source of the red punctuation marks on the online facsimile copy shown at top is unclear; thanks to Peiyou Chang for suggesting the punctuation change in my version above. I am still puzzling over the terms "詩韻" and "韻句", wondering if they suggest a connection between the qin melody and the natural melody of the poetry (not to mention the old 平仄 ping ze system).

Return to the Chongxiu Zhenchuan intro, to the annotated handbook list or to the Guqin ToC.