New qin melodies
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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. "Olden Ways" includes a video with commentary on the structure and rationale. Comments are appreciated (all copyright John Thompson).

    文人 China Scholar 4
    3.05 MB
    Based on motifs, not a specific melody (further comment;
    聽別的樂器伴奏 compare this accompanied version)
    Basic melody (00.01 - 00.50), three variations, then coda
    古風 Olden Ways 5
    3.54 MB
    Based on 古風操 Gufeng Cao (video with commentary6 )
    Basic melody (00.01 - 00.39), then five variations
    朝雉 Morning Birds 7
    3.33 MB
    Based on 雉朝飛 Zhi Zhao Fei
    Basic melody (00.01 - 00.46), repeat in harmonics, then three variations and a coda
    鳳凰 Love Birds 8
    5.33 MB
    Based on Wen Jun Cao recordings #1 & #2 (聽 文君操 錄音 #1#2)
    Basic melody in two parts, 12 measures each (00.01 - 01.20), then one variation (01.21 - 02.42);
    then from 02.42 repeat basic melody on beat, from 03.22 play variation on beat, then from 05.21 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
Raised fifth string tuning; further above.

Accompanied version of China Scholar Blues (Listen 聽吉他、口琴伴奏)
I sent my silk string guqin blues recording, which I had recorded solo, to a friend in England, Stephen Darbyshire, and in return he sent me several trial runs where he added guitar and harmonica accompaniment to the solo track. One of these is now online. (3.15MB/MP3; turn down treble EQ for best result.)

Playing this live would require overcoming the problem of the inherently quiet sound of guqin. Hence the fantasy of "renaissance-blues fusion": guqin with clavichord, which produces a similar volume.


5. Olden Ways
Also called "Old Time Blues"; standard tuning.

6. 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.

7. Morning Birds
Standard tuning

8. 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.


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