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Some Issues in Historically Informed Qin Performance 1
John Thompson 3
復古風格演奏的一些問題 2
唐世璋寫作;金秋雨譯 4


In the West when an audience goes to hear a performance of early music they generally expect a faithful representation of that style according to the principles of historically informed performance (HIP). If a performance purports to represent a particular early music style but does not follow these principles, critics and many in the audience will attack it. In China the principles of HIP have not yet become widely accepted, and this is reflected in almost all Chinese performances of their "early music".5 And yet the Chinese silk-string zither (qin, also called guqin, "old qin), is a music instrument ideally suited for HIP.

From 1974 to 1976 the present author studied the guqin in Taiwan. My teacher, Sun Yü-ch'in, taught in a purely traditional manner: he would play a melody and expect me to copy him exactly. Since 1976 my focus has been reconstructing and playing qin music from 15th and 16th century tablature. According to my understanding, if you respect a tradition you first learn it thoroughly; only then are you free to use it in your own personal ways. Here the tablature functions as my teacher.6 As a result, when I learn a new piece from tablature my aim is still to follow the tradition of copying my teacher as exactly as possible. Only after I have learned (and recorded!) a melody in this way do I feel that I can be free with it.

Music systems that emphasize improvisation, such as the classical Indian tradition, also have as their core copying one's teacher. After a period of study the teacher allows the student more freedom of interpretation and the student can then learn to improvise. Of course, if tablature is your teacher there is no one to tell you when you can start to be more free in your interpretation, and of course no one to guide you in improvisation. Today, when we have little familiarity with the qin idiom as expressed in Ming dynasty handbooks, a player who wishes to be free in their playing of qin melodies can only use later qin idiom as a starting point. On the other hand, accurate reconstruction of qin melodies as published in Ming dynasty handbooks might help us recreate the style of melodies as played in that period. This in turn would allow players to play music of that period and yet be free in their interpretations, or even improvise.7

The Chinese term for playing music directly from qin tablature is "dapu"; regarding dapu one can speak of two types: strict and free.8 Qin tablature itself is a shorthand description of how a qin melody could or should be played, detailing tuning, finger positions, stroke techniques and ornamentation. In other words, it tells us quite precisely the note pitches, but gives little direct information about the note values (note durations and rhythms). Nevertheless, I believe that qin tablature conveys enough information that it can be used not just to reconstruct the original note pitches, but also to give us a reasonable idea of what the original note values might have been. The test for such a reconstruction is not whether one can prove that this is exactly the way the melody was played when written down. Instead, the test is: if someone were to put into qin tablature this new interpretation, could what they write down be the same as the original tablature.

Some of these early melodies have survived into the modern repertoire, albeit much changed; others disappeared centuries ago. Determining the original playing method of music described in Ming dynasty tablature will require work arguably comparable to the efforts that have been made over the past 100 years to reconstruct Western Medieval and Renaissance music. The latter was also written down, but much information was left out; for centuries it was rarely played, and when played it was in a style contemporary with that of the performers. The 20th century reconstruction of it from the original sources (sometimes also consulting oral tradition) has resulted in performance styles whose accuracy is widely accepted but still very much debated.

In 1817 the British poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that his aim was "the willing suspension of disbelief". This term, most commonly used for literature or theater, can also be applied to performances of early music. With early Western music sufficient research has been done to allow an analytical person, though aware of the tentative nature of the research into that music, to suspend disbelief and imagine that the melodies are indeed the voices of our distant ancestors.9

Until around the years 1450 to 1550 the quantity and quality of materials available for reconstructing qin music are roughly comparable to those available for reconstructing Western instrumental music of the same period.10 My analysis and musical rendering of qin tablature up through 1614 produces music that, to the trained ear, is quite different from qin music played according to the style of today. Western Medieval and Renaissance music as heard today is the result of thousands of scholars and performers working with ancient materials. A comparable effort with the materials for pre-Qing dynasty qin music could produce many qin players capable of historically informed performances of long-forgotten qin melodies. This in turn would allow confidence that we can use these early melodic materials creatively while still remaining faithful to the musical sources.11

"Historically informed performance" describes a common aim in playing early Western music. After outlining my understanding of this term and its relevance to qin music, this paper discusses two specific relevant issues: the modern switch to metal strings, and changes in modality within the qin repertoire.12

Historically Informed Performance (H.I.P. or HIP)

The term "historically informed performance" is used only in connection with performances of music in a style that has had to be reconstructed from the past. It is generally not used if a performance is based on insufficient historical material, or if without giving appropriate justification it uses elements available only later than the stated period. Generally speaking, a performance can be considered HIP only if it is done in accordance with the historical and iconographic records of how it was performed at the prescribed time in the past. When possible, information can also be derived from relevant oral and written traditions. For some HIPs there is a large amount of documentation. Thus, for reconstruction of early 20th century jazz one can listen to many recordings. In other cases, in particular Medieval Western music, the documentation is much less specific. For the music of most oral traditions from periods that pre-date electronic recording, historical reconstruction is generally impossible.13

For instrumental music, musical elements which must be considered in doing or analyzing an HIP include: the sound sources (instruments, vocal quality), melody, modality, intonation, rhythmic structures, tempi, tone color, ornamentation or improvisation style, and many other factors. In addition there must be consideration of non-musical elements such as the venue, particularly with an instrument such as the guqin.14 For any specific performance there will always be disagreement about the degree to which it can be called historically informed.

Within oral traditions there have always been inclinations both to change and to preserve, the latter leading to claims for great antiquity of some genres. One aim of writing down music would seem to be to allow (or require) other performers, including those of future generations, to play music of previous periods as it was originally played. However, until the present century, the tendency seems to have been to play old music in a more modern style, with little apparent interest in reconstructing a verifiably ancient style.

In China, as in the West, there is both the opinion that ancient written sources can be used freely to inspire new music, and the opinion that they can be used to try to reconstruct ancient music. Both opinions are found in Chinese commentary on dapu (see footnote). But should the desire to recover ancient music from qin tablature make us confident that eventually it will be possible to do so with an accuracy which will hold up under modern critical analysis?

Traditional Chinese HIP?

The earliest surviving major collection of qin music is the Shen Qi Mi Pu, Handbook of Spiritual and Marvelous Mysteries, compiled in 1425 by Zhu Quan, a son of the first Ming emperor; it has 49 melodies and 15 or 16 modal preludes, altogether about six hours of music.15 Many of its melodies were faithfully copied out in later handbooks and some have survived, in altered state, into the present repertoire.

The best known collection of qin tablature from before 1425 was the Zixiadong Pu (Handbook of the Purple Haze Grotto), compiled by Yang Zuan and his group of qin players in Hangzhou in the mid-13th century.16 Said to have included 468 modal preludes and qin compositions, this handbook may have been the source of some of Zhu Quan's tablature. Unfortunately it has not survived, nor have any other earlier examples of the pieces Zhu Quan included in his handbook, so at present it is not possible to determine how faithful Zhu Quan was in transmitting the ancient qin tradition.

On the other hand, from his preface to Shen Qi Mi Pu, it seems clear that his aim was to preserve. Here, after describing how the qin tradition had come on hard times, Zhu Quan discusses his desire not simply to rescue the old tradition, but to reconstruct parts that were lost. (中文)

"As for rescuing this damaged legacy from the past and seeking its future as a Great Essence, I am writing this preface in order to (help) arrange this; to prompt teachers, when they accept students, to select the (sort of) person who will pass this on, so that they won't bring destruction on this profound creation, but rather spread out the beauty of its supreme great music.

Moreover, qin tablatures recorded by the various experts (include) several thousands of tunes, but those which have been passed on to our generation number no more than several tens.17 As for the ones for which we do not have definite indications of the performance technique, I am afraid they contain mistakes, and so I do not dare spread (them) throughout society, lest this mislead people of later periods.18

In contrast to this apparent aim of Zhu Quan to reconstruct an old tradition, Bell Yung's translation of some passages from the same preface suggests that Zhu Quan may have wanted players to interpret the tablature freely. For example, Prof. Yung translates another part (中文) of Zhu Quan's preface as follows,

Sometimes a piece may have different versions. This is because the qin player plays to express his aspirations. He has a born individuality which is different from anyone else's....Therefore how uncompromisingly (the qin player) would avoid following and copying the old and worn-out materials of others in order to express his own aspirations! Each person has his Tao! Therefore most versions are different from others. If they are identical, they fall into vulgarity. If so, they would have been extremely insignificant.19

However, my own understanding here is that Zhu Quan was simply saying that melodies are naturally different from each other, and one should not try to change this:

In my opinion, these pieces include ones with differing moods. This is because the aspirations of the (various) men of distinction (who played the qin melodies) each resulted from their own differing natural dispositions.... So how could they just slavishly follow along in the destruction of this refined object by their predecessors rather than use it to express their own aspirations? Everything has its own Dao! To take things that are different and make most of them the same would be despicable. Such is the importance of small details!

This latter interpretation seems to be more line with Zhu Quan's other comments. And taken altogether, these comments suggest that Zhu Quan's main aim in compiling and publishing Shen Qi Mi Pu was to help recover an ancient tradition. This was thus quite in line with the aims of those who today seek HIPs of early Western music.21

The number of people trying to reconstruct early qin music is today quite small. Until more research has been done, perhaps the only way to analyze whether performances from qin tablature can be called historically informed is to examine which aspects of modern performance are definitely different from the way these aspects would have been done in the past.22

Instrument construction: Consequences of the change from silk to metal strings23

Medieval Western music is most readily identifiable through the instruments used to play it. Almost all are different from instruments played today. Until the Chinese Cultural Revolution, however, the qin had been basically unchanged for at least 1500 years.

What happened during the Cultural Revolution was the development and adoption of metal strings, in place of the traditional silk ones. Silk strings, with their delicate sound, epitomized the tradition of qin played as a form of self-cultivation, not performance. Metal strings were part of the attempt to change the qin into an instrument which can be performed for larger audiences. Metal strings are smoother, have a more penetrating sound, are less likely to break and retain their tuning more easily. However, the sounds they produce lack the rich colors one can get with silk strings.

Today in China virtually all players use metal strings. This is gradually bringing about changes in playing style. For example, the smoother strings favor certain types of vibrato and allow greater pressure to be applied during slides; the resonance encourages notes to be held longer while the increased tension of the strings allows faster play; and the strength of the strings allows a stronger attack.24 On the other hand, because the thinner sound hides much of the subtlety of colors produced by playing the same note in different ways and on different strings, this is no longer emphasized.

The use of metal strings is also leading to changes in the construction of the qin itself; such changes include lowering the bridge, using heavier or thicker wood, re-shaping the interior sound box, and omitting the sound posts. To understand the reasons for this requires analyzing the nature of a music note, which consists of a fundamental sound plus the musical overtones which give this sound its color.25 One must also analyze the way qin strings vibrate.

Regarding the nature of musical notes, the special quality of the traditional qin sound is connected to the richness of its overtones. A specific musical pitch is generally measured in terms of vibrations per second, called hertz (Hz). For example, today the fundamental pitch of the note A is generally said to be 440 Hz. However, this musical A actually consists of a complex series of overtones which the ear puts together as 440 Hz. With stringed instruments the overtones are strongest the moment a string is plucked. With most plucked instruments the overtones die away within one second; with the silk string qin the overtones remain dominant for five or more seconds.26

The qin consists of two long boards glued together, with the sound box running almost the entire length between them. It is the design of this very long and narrow sound box that emphasizes the richness of music overtones rather than emphasizing the fundamental. Balancing this, according to Western instrument makers I have consulted, two aspects of the traditional qin design seem to have served to reinforce the fundamental note. One is the two sound posts (pillars of heaven and earth) connecting the top and bottom board; the other is the ridge (sound receptacle) which runs along the inner side of the top board.27

Some old qins have had their sound posts removed and/or the ridge cut away. In the past this was occasionally done to derive a louder sound -- a sound criticized by connoisseurs as thin or empty. If the qin is being played with metal strings, however, removing the ridge and sound posts may compensate somewhat for the relative weakness of the fundamental tones.

As for the way qin strings vibrate, for the same pitch metal strings have a higher rigidity and tension than do silk strings;28 thus the amplitude (size) of this vibration is smaller. When vibrating, the strings must remain far enough from the top of the qin that they touch the surface only at the bridge and at the place where the finger stops them. The distance from the vibrating string to the qin surface must be small enough that the finger can easily push down the string tightly against the surface, but great enough that the string does not vibrate further along against the surface of the qin. For this to happen on a silk string qin the top, from about the 13th to the 4th stud, should be slightly concave. However, on a metal string qin this concavity should be less, otherwise the string's added tension means one has to push down too hard on the string.29

Although the sound of nylon metal strings is strong, the lack of overtone color makes the sound rather bland on a traditional qin. A standard way of trying to enrich the sound on new qins is by using heavier or thicker wood. This tends to make the sound more mellow; such instruments, though, generally have a very poor sound when strung with silk strings.

It is fine for to make new instruments designed for use with metal strings. Some changes in construction are probably required in order to help allow the new instruments with metal strings to sound more like the old silk string instruments. Such compromises are not unknown in making replicas of Western instruments for use in playing early music.30

However, it is not so good to use metal strings on older instruments, where they can cause severe damage. This damage can be caused in several ways. Because of the hardness of metal strings, when one plays with them regularly a groove eventually forms in the lacquer under some places where the strings are most commonly pushed down onto the qin surface.31 In addition, the rigidity of metal strings puts greater tension on the overall structure of a qin.32 Perhaps even worse, modern research has shown that the ultra sonic vibrations from metal strings may damage the cellular structure of the wood of a music instrument.33 For example, one scientific study looking for an answer as to why violinists who use metal strings change the violin bridge more often than those who play with gut strings discovered that the cellular structure of the bridge decayed very rapidly when metal strings were used.34

Modality 35 (see also Modality in early Ming qin tablature)

I am not an expert on modal theory. Thus, the following comments are based almost solely on direct observations of the music I have reconstructed from early qin tablature (see my transcriptions). The following chart of modes, tunings and tonal centers in Shen Qi Mi Pu summarizes some of the most important modal characteristics I have found during this reconstruction work.

Chart of the modes in Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425; 中文) 36

mode name tuning main note Secondary note(s) Main string Tuning method
gong 5612356 1 (gong) 5 (zhi) 3rd (jue) standard
shang 1245612 1 (gong) 2, 5 (shang, zhi) 1st (gong) standard
jue 5612356 1 (gong) 3, 6 (jue, yu) 3rd (jue) standard
zhi 1245612 5 (zhi ***) 2 (shang) 4th (zhi) standard
yu 5612356 6 (yu) 3 (jue) 2nd (shang) standard
shangjue 1245612 1 (gong) 3, 6 (jue, yu) 1st (gong) standard
          Non-standard :  
manshang 1145612 1 (gong) 5 (zhi) 1 (gong) slacken 2nd
manjue 1235612 1 (gong) 5 (zhi) [3 (jue)] 1st (gong) slacken 3rd
ruibin 2356123 6 (yu) 3, 2, 1 (jue, shang, gong) 4th (zhi) tighten 5th
qiliang 2456123 2 (shang) 6 (yu) 1st (gong) tighten 2nd/5th
guxian 6123561' 1 (gong); 5 (zhi) 6 (yu); 3 (jue) 2nd (shang) tighten 2nd/5th/7th
mangong 3561235 6 (yu); 1 (gong) 3 (jue) 3rd (jue) slacken 1st/3rd/6th
huangzhong 1356123 3, 6 (jue, yu) 1, 5 (gong, zhi) 2nd, 4th (shang, zhi) slacken 1, tighten 5

Regarding the first column, in the qin context the word diao37 can mean both mode and relative tuning. The first column lists the 13 different modes in Shen Qi Mi Pu, but these represent only eight different qin tunings: the first six modes listed on the chart all use standard tuning, while the next seven each uses a different non-standard tuning. For non-standard tunings the tuning name and mode name are the same, but for standard tuning there are six different mode names.

As for the second column, the notes of the Chinese pentatonic scale can be named according to their Western equivalents do re mi sol la. In Chinese writings these notes were traditionally called gong shang jue zhi yu. As was seen in column one, these are also the names of modes; and as can be seen in column five these are also the names of qin strings.40 In old notation the notes were sometimes written in a system called gongchepu; this then evolved into the modern Chinese number notation system, which uses Arabic numerals. In this modern system the same pentatonic scale is written 1 2 3 5 6. In my transcriptions into staff notation I have always made do or 1 = C. However, it must be emphasized that even though the music is written using staff notation, these are not absolute pitches but relative pitches (see comment).

Columns three and four provide more specific structural details of the early qin modes. The following characteristics are related to these structures.

The characteristic of certain melodies to include both flatted thirds and whole-tones thirds is connected to the above chart only in that it usually takes place above tonal centers. However, it merits more detailed analysis, since it seems to be unique to surviving early qin tablature and is thus very intriguing. This characteristic can be found in any mode, but it is particularly common in the shang mode. In Shen Qi Mi Pu shang mode has the largest number of melodies : 11 of the 22 melodies using standard tuning.46 Nevertheless, only three of these shang mode melodies, Yin De, Bai Xue and Yi Lan, are to be found in qin handbooks after 1600. The other eight are in this way similar to most of the Folio I pieces (the "most ancient spiritual pieces"). Before 1600 these usually were simply copied out as they occured in Shen Qi Mi Pu; after 1600 they are rarely found.47

Is there a connection between the disappearance of most shang mode melodies and the unusual use of thirds? What can we learn from analyzing this characteristic in the three shang mode melodies that did survive? In fact, Yi Lan is one of the few shang mode pieces which does not have any flatted thirds.48 Yin De survived in a different version, named Qiujiang Yebo,49 which had no flatted thirds. And later versions of Bai Xue seem to be descended from the somewhat different Bai Xue in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539), which also had no flatted thirds.50

All this suggests that a shifting third was a characteristic of many ancient qin melodies, and is thus evidence that melodies found in Shen Qi Mi Pu are indeed relics of earlier times. A number of melodies in Xilutang Qintong (1525) also share this characteristic; so this, in turn, may suggest a similar antiquity for some of its melodies.51 The compiler, Wang Zhi, did write (as had Zhu Quan) of collecting old tablature and then reprinting it.

Another characteristic of some melodies, already mentioned above, is the inclusion of both flatted 7s and 7s. The earliest version of Dongting Qiu Si (Autumn Thoughts at Dongting), in Xilutang Qintong, has this characteristic.52 Dongting Qiusi is in the zhi mode (see chart above), which has zhi (5) as the main note.53 A third above 5 is 7, and here 7 is often flatted. This is thus comparable to the flatted thirds and whole-tones thirds of shang mode; and likewise, later versions of this melody soon changed the flatted sevens to non-flatted sevens.

Huangzhong mode (again see chart) offers different but still related examples. Here the main note is usually yu (la, 6). The third above 6 is 1; this interval being a minor third, sometimes 1 is sharpened to 1#, making a whole-tone third.54 Likewise in yu mode, where the main note is again 6, 1 is sometimes changed to 1#.55 In addition, the tonal center in both modes often shifts up a fifth from 6 to 3 (mi). When 3 becomes the tonal center, 4 is often played as 4#.

Clearly for HIP it is important to understand such modal characteristics. My current belief is that an early Ming or pre-Ming HIP requires the inclusion of such altered thirds in appropriate places.56 Changing them to the standard pentatonic third, as is still generally done by most players, may result in an HIP, but it would more resemble a late Ming or Qing qin style. Here it must be emphasized that it is not at present certain whether this modal characteristic was a necessary part of early Ming style qin music in general, or of music of a still earlier period. Perhaps it was only a characteristic of certain schools of qin play (qinpai). However, someone who does change this characteristic in their dapu might be expected to present an argument as to why they can change this characteristic and still be considered as reconstructing music of the period when the music was published.


It must be emphasized that the above comments are tentative. Metal strings are not bad: they allow qin music to develop in new directions; but we should realize that, in addition to the irreparable damage they can cause to old instruments, their sound cannot replicate the unique silk string sound that enchanted listeners for thousands of years. Changing notes is not wrong: this also helps music to develop; but we should realize that notes that are considered odd today may have been important characteristics of earlier styles. Most of all, many more early melodies must be reconstructed and much more analytical research must be done before anyone can speak confidently of performing early qin music in an historically informed manner. Certainly, though, this must be a worthwhile task.57


Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Online version of "Some Issues in Historically Informed Qin Performance"
This paper was originally presented at the ACMR meeting in Detroit, October 2001. Since then it has been somewhat modified, but most of these modifications have been placed here in the footnotes. It does not argue that HIP performances are better than non-HIP, just that they are different and have their own validity. It also does not claim that the ultimate aim of HIP is just to play melodies as written down in the past, but rather to learn from these as one would learn from a teacher so that, once the master's way is learned, that learning can become a basis for being creative within (and then perhaps beyond) that style.

In this way the creativity of HIP is essentially different from that of the performance of music from the "Common practice period of Western classical music, where the creativity of the musician, though still said to be essential for a successful performance, is considered secondary to that of the composer. In fact, this supposed need for creativity can be seen as counter to the common 19th century attitude that the music existed separate from the performer, an attitude that changed the justifications for any alterations to the written music from them being creative contributions by the musician to being attempts to clarify something not clear from the existing notation.

It is my understanding that a characteristic of living traditions is that, although most players usually do not go beyond what they have learned, the ones eventually acclaimed as masters in that tradition are the ones who take the base they have learned and then develop it creatively. In this area I cannot make any claims, my excuse being that I still feel that I am apprenticing myself to the old tablature, and every time I reconstruct a "new" piece I like it so much that I want to do another rather than elaborate on the ones already learned.

The venue factor
A factor that should have been included in the original paper is venue: generally speaking early Western music was not designed for concert halls. The best venues are often churches or quiet chambers, and putting the performances in other venues requires close attention to this fact. Likewise, recordings should at best try to evoke the original environment. I learned this when at a young age I became very attracted to music from before 1700. I always tried to buy records on the Deutsche Grammophon Archive label because their engineers could do such a good job of making, for example, early church music sound like it was in an acoustically marvelous church.

Likewise, the primary rule of thumb for projecting sound at a guqin concert should be that the audience should be able to close their eyes and imagine they are listening in a quiet chamber with a group of friends. This is much better than actually putting them in such a chamber if it has so much ambient sound that listeners have to close their ears and imagine to what it is they are listening.

2. Translating "Historically Informed Performance" (HIP) and "Historically Informed Qin Performance" (HIP for qin)
Current translations: 復古風格演奏 and 復古風格古琴演奏 (2014 update)
Translating these terms into Chinese provides some unique challenges. In 2001 when I wrote this paper (now translated) I could find no Chinese term for HIP. To my knowledge, as of 2014 there is still no commonly accepted Chinese expression, nor does the concept seem to be current in Chinese music conservatories.

Various attempts to translate "HIP" into Chinese (see also in the Chinese version)
Listed below are some various possibilities. All but the first were suggested in response to requests I have made of various people.

  1. 通曉歷史的表演(HIP)導論 Tongxiao Lishi de Biaoyan (HIP) Daolun ("Thoroughly-Understand History type of Performance")
    An internet search in 2008 turned up this term in an article dated 2001 called An Introduction to Historically-Informed Performance. A further search found a few further references to this, including a webpage called http://www.5yin.com/HIP.htm that uses this term. However, I found few other references to it and it does not seem to have caught on. Apparently it sounds rather awkward in Chinese, like the translation of a foreign concept.

  2. 復古風格演奏 Fugufengge Yanzou: "Returning to an ancient style of play"
    People who play in this style would be said to belong to a 復古風格琴派 Fugufengge qinpai, "Qin school for returning to an ancient style". This term was suggested to me by 中央音樂學院教授余志剛 Prof. Yu Zhigang of the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Currently I am using this one as somewhat more specific than the following two, but less cumbersome than the descriptive one mentioned above.

  3. 古風演奏 Gufeng yanzou: "Playing in an ancient style"
    Here 古風 gufeng is short for 古代風格 gudai fengge. This translation resonates very nicely with an ancient guqin melody called 古風操 Gufeng Cao (The Ancient Style). People who play in this style would be said to belong to a 古風琴派 Gufeng qinpai, "Qin school for an ancient playing style".

  4. 復古演奏 Fugu yanzou: "Return-to-antiquity-stye playing" (my original translation)
    People who play in this style would be said to belong to a 復古琴派 Fugu qinpai, "Qin school for returning to antiquity". The reason I liked the term fugu (literally, Return to Antiquity) is that in China it has been used since early times to describe movements in both literature and art (see for example under Han Yu). With regard to the qin there is even a fugu mode that uses only five strings, thus evoking what was considered to be the earliest qin music. Prof. Yu Zhigang says this use of fugu would be acceptable, but adds that it also could have a somewhat derogatory meaning (one of my dictionaries says 復古主義 fugu zhuyi is the same as 反動主義 fandong zhuyi: "reactionary").

  5. 歷史考據古琴演奏 Historically researched guqin performance
    Specifically textual research (追溯現代古琴曲目的歷史面貌)

  6. 歷史重構古琴演奏 Historically reconstructed guqin performance
    Specifically examining the structures

Whatever the term, it should suggest returning to an ancient way of doing something. It may or may not suggest being creative with the original materials. In this way it is appropriate to apply it to a qin style which tries either to play strictly according to the original tablature, using instruments (with silk strings) comparable to ones used at the time the tablature was written, and/or to play in a creative manner that still re-captures the melodic and tonal frameworks within which players at that time would have played. As described in the text above, it should convey the concept of "playing according the original sources" or "describing accurately what you are doing in your interpretation of the music sources." HIP is generally used to describe performances of "early music", but there can be considerable argument about whether specific early music performances are really HIP. If, for example, a group plays 15th century music on 16th century instruments, is it still HIP? To put it another way, if no one gives a description of how what they do differs from what might have been done at the time the early music was created, then it may not be possible to evaluate it in terms of HIP ("strict HIP", "creative HIP", "HIP-inspired"?).

It should be emphasized that there is no conflict between a performance being HIP and it being creative. The results can also often be described as "new". In fact, my own interest in non-Western music has always been closely related to my original interest in "early" music: I hadn't heard it before, so to me it was "new".

3. Author
My own background in early Western music began at the age of 10 when I sang in the choir at St. John's Church in Tampa, Florida; even then the choir was steeped in the Anglican choral tradition. The formal background ended when I focused on early music for my music degree (1967) at Haverford College.

In graduate school my focus changed to Asia in general, then China. I was attracted to guqin in large part because it seemed to be the only non-Western music tradition written down in a detail that could be considered comparable to the written sources for early Western music. In 1974 I began traditional qin studies. I enjoyed the music, then became deeply committed to it when I discovered there was a seemingly limitless number of melodies I could play directly from tablature, most of which no one else played (further on this).

Although qin music had been written down for centuries, traditional qin studies followed the pattern of many oral music traditions: copying the teacher. While my teacher Sun Yü-Ch'in sat on one side of a table playing a melody, I sat on the other side and tried to copy him exactly. He told me not to look at the qin tablature for a melody until I had learned it by copying him.

4. Translation
Originally translated 2008; some modifications later.

5. Non-Historically Informed Performance
There are a number of programs that aim to represent music of ancient China. Many are entertaining, but few follow the principles of HIP. Examples include the following:

  1. 荊楚之音、編鐘樂舞 Music of Chu: To the Chime of Bells
    There is no extant notation that would allow recovery of actual melodies from this period, so the English title of this program is quite misleading. But even the Chinese title, which means "Sounds of Chu", is rather misleading. The program features bells and chimes that look like those found in the 5th C. BCE tomb of Zeng Hou Yi, but they are in fact copies that have been tuned up several pitches "to be more acceptable to the modern ear", and re-tuned using equal temperament "so they can play harmony". Although this information is often not in the program notes, no claim is made that music or dance can be recreated from this period, so the program can be enjoyed as a show.
  2. 仿唐樂舞 Recreated Tang Dynasty Dance and Music (陝西古典藝術團 Shaanxi Classical Arts Troupe)
    The Chinese title of this program actually means "imitating", not "recreating", and that is probably more accurate for this program. There may in fact be some possibility of reconstructing music and perhaps even recreating dance from the Tang dynasty by studying the modern re-interpretations of Japanese gagaku, but research on that was apparently not available to the producers of this program. The connection to the Tang dynasty is through reconstructed Tang dynasty instruments and tomb illustrations. The program also draws upon later Chinese arts such as 昆曲 Kunqu opera and 西安鼓樂 Xi'an drum music. However, the performers also clearly reveal their training in modern conservatory forms such as Western ballet and orchestral music.
  3. 姜夔歌曲 Songs of Jiang Kui (ca. 1155 - 1221)
    Jiang Kui wrote music and lyrics for at least 28 melodies: Gu Yuan in qin tablature and 27 songs in two forms of number notation. Based on his explanations as well as extrapolating from the qin tablature, it should be possible to do a HIP of many of the melodies. The fact that there is no specific information about how the voice sang the songs can be considered an interesting challenge to scholars; another challenge would be recreating the pronunciation of words at that time. However, applying the principles of HIP (which would require that any musical instruments used should be as they were in that period, not the modern versions) could eventually lead to convincing performances of the singing as well as the music. Unfortunately, the performances I have heard of these songs typically use a bel canto singing style and modernized instruments. The typical explanation for this is that the original vocal quality is unknown and it sounds good in bel canto. This argument, clearly showing bias towards the Western romantic tradition, takes a performance out of the realm of HIP.

6. Tablature as teacher
This topic is discussed in some detail under the page on dapu. See also Rhythm in early Ming qin tablature.

7. Guqin Improvisation
Some people argue that guqin music should be played accurately; others say it should be played freely. Some argue for improvisation, and there is even a movement suggesting that at best guqin music should be recreated during each performance through free improvisation. In fact, the guqin tradition is very broad and should be able to accommodate all these methods of interpretation. Such issues are discussed in a separate article, Guqin Improvisation.

8. The meaning of "dapu" 打譜
"Dapu" means playing music directly from qin tablature. When playing melodies from old tablature there seem to be two basic attitudes, but both are called simply "dapu". On the dapu page I try to distinguish between these two attitudes by using three terms. I refer to dapu itself as "realize", meaning to take written music and turn it into real music. The two attitudes towards making real music from the tablature can then be called "reconstructing" and "recreating".

Opinions expressed at the dapu conference August 2001 in 常熟 Changshu ranged from "do whatever you want" to "we must reconstruct our ancient tradition." Those of the latter opinion focused on the importance of finding mistakes in old tablature. In Changshu I presented the same concepts as discussed in the present paper. There seemed to be considerable interest in the concepts, but there was little specific discussion of details (in part because of my lack of fluency in Mandarin; Tong Kin-woon assisted with interpretation).

榮鴻曾 Bell Yung, the most frequently published writer in English on dapu, describes dapu as a form of music composition, but the processes he describes sound more like free interpretation. This makes the dapu process seem similar to processes used by Western performers to give non-HIP performances of music of earlier periods; this is rarely called composition. He has told me that he doesn't think the tablature can be used to reconstruct an ancient style, and it would be interesting to know if this means he does not think HIP of early Western music have any value. Unfortunately, he has never elaborated on this, either verbally or in writing. For his writings on dapu see the bibliography in his Celestial Airs of Antiquity; Madison, A-R editions, 1997. (See also Bell Yung on Dapu.)

9. Coleridge: "The willing suspension of disbelief" (柯爾律治﹕自願懸置懷疑)
In his Biographia Literaria (1817), British poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that in his "Lyrical Ballads" he aimed for "the willing suspension of disbelief". Applying this concept to early music, if a performance is supported by sufficient evidence, then the ability of the listener to suspend disbelief perhaps depends more on the willingness of the listener than on the music itself. Does the listener simply say, "There is no absolute proof", and so reject the music? Or does the listener ask, "Is there any obvious evidence that the performance is not accurate?", and if there is not, enjoy it as a possibly correct re-creation? Likewise, there are certain things, such as the use of metal strings, which clearly make a reconstruction of early qin music non-historical. However, qin tablature includes sufficient evidence to allow the reconstruction of early music following historical principles and avoiding obvious mistakes. Because one can never be sure whether any particular dapu of an early melody is accurate, one can always reject the whole notion that early qin music can be re-created. But had this attitude been prevalent when the early Western music began, we would today have none of the beautiful performances that, while suspending disbelief, modern listeners can imagine is a true reflection of this ancient music.

10. Comparing Western and Chinese materials for re-creating early music
Sources for medieval Western music are in many ways more sketchy than those for qin music from the same time. It is not always certain what the instruments were, and often they must be reconstructed based on old paintings. Often the Western notation consists only of one line of music for music presumed to have been played by several instruments. Modern research must then concern itself with such issues as the playing style (attack, stress, ornamentation, etc.); whether the music was played monophonically, polyphonically or heterophonically; what tempi were used and how closely to follow the rhythm, where indicated.

In contrast, until changes made in qin construction since the Cultural Revolution in order to accommodate metal strings, the qin itself was virtually unchanged in at least 1500 years. Its music is played from a continuous tradition, with great efforts being made to preserve this tradition. Consequently, qin tablature attempts to give all the detail of a particular performance, including relative tuning, notes, stroke techniques and ornamentation. And although it does not directly indicate note values, much of that is implied by the detailed information on stroke technique and ornamentation (see Rhythm in Early Ming Qin Tablature).

The above actually concerns mainly the major tradition within qin music, the solo tradition. Two other known traditions are not so well documented: qin melodies with vocal accompaniment (qin songs) and qin melodies accompanied by another music instrument, most commonly xiao flute but also, as in these images, other plucked instruments. For such duets there is no specific tablature or other description that says exactly what the voice or other instrument should play. Today there is a tendency to perform these duets in unison. This is perhaps due to respect for the ancient qin melodies and/or due to the inexperience of many qin players, but it goes against what is thought to have been the most common traditional Chinese playing style, which is heterophonic. In a heterophonic duet the two performers would play similar versions of the melody, but would generally not play in unison. This might lead to more interesting music than unison playing, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a monophonic performance would be more or less HIP than a heterophonic performance. (See further comment.)

Another tendency in modern performance is to sing qin songs using a Western bel canto style. Some Chinese have actually said that, since we do not know what the original vocal quality was, since great Western music is sung in bel canto style, and since qin music is great music of China, qin songs are best sung in bel canto style. However, to me this grandiose sort of singing represents exactly the opposite of the traditional guqin aesthetic and so cannot be used for HIP.

As to whether, as with the early Western music reconstructed from single lines of music (perhaps vocal or not specifying the instruments), early Chinese ensemble music can also be reconstructed from old qin scores, very little work on this has been done. Here perhaps one might begin with pieces that seem most sympathetic to such treatment, such as Da Ming Yi Tong.

Here it should be noted that, although the qin apparently was often part of ritual orchestras, its role tended to be symbolic rather than musical. Comparison should also be made with the music for Tang dynasty ensembles preserved in Japan (Togaku; further comment is linked below below).

11. Using early melodic materials creatively
Many years of textual research went into early Western music before performers could have some hope of being creative as well as "accurate". Now, although some consensus has been reached about how to perform Western Medieval and Renaissance music, there is still considerable argument about details. One result of this is that performers have more leeway in playing earlier music than they do when playing from later music scores, particularly those from after 1800; in addition, after 1800 such creativity on the part of the musician was often actively discouraged. This combination of facts, combined with the relative unfamiliarity of early music, allows this early music to sound arguably more modern than later music.

12. Rhythmic structure is discussed in Rhythm in Early Ming Qin Tablature. Other issues, including intonation, tempi and ornamentation, have so far received only tentative treatment on my website. My focus to date has been on playing old melodies and seeing what comes up, rather than on making and testing theories.

13. Authenticity
These comments concern "accuracy"; "authenticity" is a separate issue. Some people define "authenticity" simply as "the attempt to be accurate"; I would qualify that by saying "the attempt to do what one says one is doing". This may be the responsibility of the commentators on a performance rather than that of the performers themselves. Thus in my Festival of Asian Arts work I felt any performance could be authentic, no matter how inaccurate, as long as we told the audience what they were getting (if they didn't want to know, they didn't have to read the program notes).

14. Appropriate venues for performing qin
There is a strong tradition that the qin should be played for oneself or a few friends. At the same time, there were clearly instances where it was presented in performance (see, e.g., Qin in popular culture). Often the qin is presented not in a "sterile" concert hall, but in a garden or Chinese-style hall. The problem is that in such places often one cannot hear the music very well. In my opinion it is better to experience the qin in an environment where one can hearly clearly all its subtle nuances than it is to experience it in a natural environment where one must imagine how the music actually sounds. If desired, in a concert hall one can use multimedia to evoke a natural scene; in a noisy environment, no matter how beautiful, the delicacy of the music cannot come through, even with amplification.

15. 神奇秘譜 Shen Qi Mi Pu has been reprinted several times. A complete translation of all of Zhu Quan's commentary is available on my website (including his preface and the commentary on individual melodies). The website also has much additional commentary, including information about my 6 CD set, and the corresponding transcriptions into staff notation, of all the music from Shen Qi Mi Pu.

16. 楊瓚,紫霞洞譜 Yang Zuan: Zixiadong Pu; For more on this see 許健,琴史初編 Xu Jian, Qinshi Chubian, p.90. Quite likely this handbook was only hand-copied, not printed (at least not in full).

17. There would have been four categories of qin pieces for Zhu to consider:

  1. Pieces existing in name only; these are what Zhu Quan numbered as "more than a thousand".
  2. Pieces for which there were players but not tablature; Zhu wrote nothing specific about this, but perhaps many of them were the popular pieces played by people he referred to as the "vulgar sort".
  3. Pieces for which there was tablature but no players; this probably included the ones for which they "did not have definite indications of the performance technique" so he "did not dare spread (them) throughout society, lest this mislead people of later periods" (ibid). Zhu seems to have been saying that he was only willing to transmit the tablature of those few pieces he had tried to play himself -- these are the pieces included in Folio I -- and even here he was not willing to add his own punctuation, lest it be incorrect. Some of the other early handbooks might include further pieces in this category.
  4. Pieces for which there are both players and pu: 34; for these the players could help him correct mistakes in the tablature. These 34 must be the 20 standard tuning melodies in Folio II and 14 non-standard tuning melodies in Folio III (i.e., titled melodies only, not modal preludes).

18. Mistakes in qin tablature
What does Zhu Quan mean by "mistakes"? If something is physically unplayable, not uncommon in the second surviving major handbook, 浙音釋字琴譜 Zheyin Shizi Qinpu (>1505 - see my CD Music Beyond Sound), then clearly there is a mistake somewhere, but in Shen Qi Mi Pu it is quite rare to find passages which are physically unplayable. Does this mean Zhu Quan did not include tablatures which originally had "too many" mistakes, or only that he excluded ones which had mistakes he couldn't "correct"? What did he consider a mistake, and in particular, does this account for the pieces in Zheyin Shizi Qinpu which Zhu Quan did not include?

Gao Lian had some interesting comment on mistakes in his Eight Discourses on Living. Van Gulik, Lore, p. 33, translates them as follows (看中文),

Those who excelled among the qin masters transmitted (the doctrine of) the qin and the handbooks. Thus the compiling of the handbooks rested with the qin masters. Still there are mistaken ones; if one stroke is wrong, then the finger technique fails because of this false tradition. And if this false tradition continues for a long time, the mistakes cannot be corrected any longer, and the true spirit of the qin melodies is lost.

19. ACMR Reports, Spring 1997, pp. 5,6. For more on Prof. Yung's attitude towards playing music from old tablature see comment above and the page Bell Yung on Dapu.

20. I did my translation of this preface in consultation with Tong Kin-woon; as for this passage, Dr. Tong says that he disagrees with Prof. Yung's interpretation.

21. The significance of attitudes towards qin tablature
If Zhu Quan's claim that he was carefully copying old tablature without changing it is reliable, we should be able to use his (and some later) tablature to reconstruct music played in Hangzhou during the 13th century. It was at this time that Marco Polo claims to have visited Hangzhou. Recordings are available of music said to date from Europe at that time, and it is interesting to compare the relative reliability of modern interpretations of these two ancient music repertoires.

Speaking more generally, the tradition is to learn not from tablature but by copying one's teacher. When tracing melodies of the same title we can see that sometimes there are changes from handbook to handbook, sometimes there are no changes. Thus when following a melody from one handbook to another one can note the following:

  1. Sometimes there is a dramatic change; this could mean that the performer was consciously making changes (composing) or naturally making changes (perhaps improvising).
  2. Sometimes the change is quite small. This could also suggest that the performer was either consciously or unconsciously changing a melody. However, it could also reflect a conscious attempt of the player to make corrections.
  3. In other places previous tablature is copied precisely. These examples suggest a conscious attempt to preserve an ancient melody.

This shows that there have long been tendencies both to preserve and to develop. When players did make changes, were they sometimes consciously trying to expand the idiom? As yet I have not found enough evidence to allow an informed analysis of this question.

22. An interesting issue here is 姚炳炎 Yao Bingyan's use of triple rhythms for the Shen Qi Mi Pu version of 酒狂 Jiu Kuang. Almost all other players use these triple rhythms, and the resulting music is often lovely, but I don't believe Yao's justification for them has much historical merit. And although there is nothing specific to say such rhythms could never have been used, there are several factors suggesting duple rhythm was more likely (see in particular comments with the sung version).

23. Metal strings
So-called metal strings are today usually made of light nylon with a steel string core; here they are generally referred to as either "metal strings" or "steel strings". This is discussed in paragraph 3 (中文) of an article by Wong Shu-Chee.

24. Often someone used to metal strings, when they play my qin with silk strings, will break the strings with the force of their attack. They also produce scratchy sounds from not being used to the different texture of the silk strings. My first teacher Sun Yü-ch'in (who later followed the switch to metal strings) told me that the sound of the fingers sliding on silk was the "qi" (breath, or life force) of the music. A counter argument is that the top quality silk strings in ancient times might have been as smooth as the metal strings of today; this has not been verified.

25. "Overtones" and "harmonics" (see also a brief discussion of their mathematical relationships) (中文)
In both English and Chinese there is some inconsistency in the use of these terms. Thus in the Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music (1978) the word "harmonics" has a similar definition to the one given here, but the word "harmonic" is said to be the same as what are here called "overtones". Here only two terms are used, as follows:

  1. "Harmonics": in music practice a sound produced by lightly touching a string while either bowing or plucking it is what is here called a "harmonic".
  2. "Overtones": in acoustic theory every musical sound has a fundamental pitch: for example, the fundamental pitch of the note called "modern concert A" is said to have a frequency of 440 Hz (vibrations per second). However, this frequency actually describes a pure tone that can only be produced scientifically. In nature each note is colored by a series of extra frequencies that are related in some manner to the fundamental. These extra frequencies are what are here called the "overtones".

The main reasons for the confusion between these terms are probably as follows. First, the two concepts are related mathematically but are used differently in different contexts. Second, precise definitions of overtones divide them into two types, "harmonic overtones" and "inharmonic overtones". An additional factor may perhaps be the fact that although on the qin extended passages in harmonics are very common, in Western music such passages are quite rare.

26. In 1999 I took part in a study at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology testing qin overtones; information about other stringed instruments is anecdotal and needs to be further researched. Likewise, the overtones produced by metal strings have not yet been scientifically compared with those produced by silk strings on the same qin.

27. Pillar of heaven: tianzhu 天柱 ; Pillar of earth: dizhu 地柱 (see Assemblage of inner top)
      Sound receptacle: nayin 納音 (discussed under Qin body)

28. The scientific equation at right states how the fundamental frequency [f] at which a string vibrates is determined by a combination of string length (L), tension (T) and mass (m): f equals 1 over 2L times the square root of T over m (compare Mersenne's Laws). This means that since metal has a mass denser than that of silk, a metal string of the same length as a silk string must be fastened with greater tension in order to vibrate at the same frequency. Frequency is unrelated to amplitude, which is instead related to the force with which the string is struck: striking a string harder increases the amplitude of the vibration, but this affects mainly volume, not pitch. On the other hand, the increased tension of the metal strings means that if you strike them with the same force as you strike a silk string the amplitude of the string vibration will be less.

I am not sure how this equation is affected by the fact that modern metal strings are usually made of light nylon with a heavy metal core. However, another factor with metal or metal/nylon strings is that their additional strength means that they can be tuned higher without breaking. Today it is quite common to use Western concert pitch as the standard, and thus tune the first string up to about 65Hz (two octaves below middle C).

29. Whether the qin has silk or metal strings the player is supposed to try to "enter into the wood " (入木 ru mu) when pushing the string against the surface of the qin. Of course, part of the art of playing is knowing how to let up on this, for example during ornaments.

30. Early Western instruments are often recreated from inexact illustrations. Sometimes the material of the original strings may not be known. Here the instrument maker must experiment until the optimal dimensions are found.

31. For several years around 1990 I was using metal strings and observed this damage to my own instruments. This is one reason I stopped using metal strings. Other qin players using metal strings have also noted that they must repair the lacquer on top of the qin more frequently; such problems rarely or never occur with silk strings.

32. High string tension is said to be one reason why pianos do not continue to improve with age in the same way violins do.

33. Most information on this comes from research on stringed instruments made with thin wood, such as violins and lutes, but also on pianos; I know of no scientific research as yet on the damage high string tension might cause on qins. (See a separate outline on the potential damage from metal strings.)

34. Article shown me by Georges Goormaghtigh. I have yet to trace the specific reference.

35. See Music theory terminology音樂理論辭彙), starting in particular with mode (調式)

36. Chart of Shen Qi Mi Pu modes
More detailed analysis of tunings and modes can be found in Modality in early Ming Qin tablature. According to my observations from reconstructing melodies in Shen Qi Mi Pu, modes seem to a large extent to be determined by musical relationships such as the relative tuning and the tonal centers. Further comments on each mode can be found with the modal preludes linked from the chart above. These include mention of some of the non-musical associations connected to some of the modes (e.g., bird themes with yu [feather] mode).

Here it is necessary to address the question: since the qin has relative tuning, how does one decide what note names to use? From the beginning my practice has always been to select the tuning that avoids the greatest number of accidentals. This is why in column 2 of the chart there are none, and why in my transcriptions they are rarely needed in a key signature. I use staff notation because this is what I am familiar with, and because the visual contours in staff notation are useful for finding structures in the music. However, I treat staff notation as having relative pitch: C is not fixed pitch C but 1 (do). Although the result may be confusing for someone familiar only with staff notation, it is this custom which has allowed me to make the discoveries described here about modality in early qin music.

There are people who can name the relative notes (do re mi etc) as they sing a melody (think of "Twinkle twinkle little star..." sung as "do do sol sol la la sol...."). Whenever such people vocalize the qin melodies I have reconstructed in this way, they naturally sing do for my C, re for my D, etc.

37. See Modality in early Ming Qin tablature and Qin Tunings, Some Theoretical Concepts

38. Transposition (see glossary)
Transposition is generally defined as writing or performing a melody in key other than the stated one. Stated another way, it usually means either modifying pitch by moving it up or down, or to moving written notes up or down so that they indicate higher or lower pitch. Thus a singer might transpose a melody upwards to fit her vocal range; she may or may not transpose the written notes upwards so that they reflect the change in pitch.

These two examples assume the notation reflects absolute pitch. If the song instead had been written in relative pitch notation, then when transposing the melody it would be incorrect to tranpose the written notes. It might, however, be said that the notation itself has been transposed. Likewise, some qin melodies with 1 as the main tonal center play this note on the open first string. Other melodies with 1 as the main tonal center play this note on the open third string. If these are to be written in relative pitch notation then what must be tranposed is not the pitches or the written notes but the notation itself.

Such transpositions are reflected in column two (tuning) in the chart above. The above explanation covers the tranpositions for standard tunings, considered as the relative pitches 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 and 5 6 1 2 3 5 6 but having the same absolute pitches. It is a little more complicated for some of the non-standard tunings. Thus the ruibin tuning method requires tightening the fifth string. This means that the relative tuning 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 becomes 1 2 4 5 7 1 2. However, in ruibin the main note is 6, played on the open 4th string. Thus the notation itself must be transposed one (relative) note upwards from 1 2 4 5 7 1 2 to 2 3 5 6 1 2 3.

39. This is discussed in more detail elsewhere.

40. String names (see Qin Cao)
The seven open qin strings are named gong, shang, jue, zhi, yu, Wen and Wu. This can be confusing, because the first five of these are also mode names, and yet only in the manjue tuning (also called Biyu Diao) do the names of the notes correspond closely with the names of the strings.

41. Modulation vs. tone center change: 1 - 5 (中文)
For convenience the word "modulate" is sometimes used here to refer to changing tonal centers, but such changes of tonal centers (中心音變動 zhongxinyin biandong or 改變中心音 gaibian zhongxinyin) in early qin music are not exactly the same as modulation (轉調 zhuandiao) in Western music, though they do share some characteristics. In music of the Common practice period modulation should be to a related key. The most common such modulation is up or down a fifth; this is also the most common tone center change in early qin music. For true modulation from C to G the note F becomes F#. A comparable change in pentatonic music would have the scale 1 2 3 5 6 change to 5 6 7 1 2. In other words 3 is replaced by 7. This may explain some of the occurrences of 7s in qin music, but to my knowledge no one has done research into this aspect. (See also next.)

42. Modulation vs. tone center change: 6 - 1
Huangzhong mode is the one that most commonly has this change: at least two of Shen Qi Mi Pu melodies, Shanzhong Si Youren and Xiao Hujia, have tonal centers on 1 and 5, secondarily on 6 and 3.

This might be compared to the second most common modulation (after the 1 - 5 modulaton mentioned in the previous footnote): relative major and minor. In a diatonic system the set of notes is the same for both keys. Generally with qin music the notes do not change: 1 2 3 5 6 becomes 6 1 2 3 5 rather than 6 7 1 2 4. However, melodies using 6 as their tonal center do seem to have 7s more often than melodies with 1 as their tonal center. Again, to my knowledge no one has done research into this aspect.

43. Occurrences of 4 and 7
Occurrences of 7 are discussed in the previous two footnotes. In some cases 4 seems to occur when the tonal center has changed to 3. Once again, to my knowledge no one has done research into this aspect.

44. Flatted third and whole-tones third (see glossary)
Although my research suggests that an important characteristic of qin melodies published in the Ming dynasty is that certain modes use both flatted thirds and whole-tones thirds (compare natural thirds), the periods during which the modes were actually used this way is not clear. This usage is found in the Shang Diao and Shang Yi apparently published in the Song dynasty, but it is not found very often in Shen Qi Mi Pu Folio I, which presumably has the oldest melodies. In fact, Folio I does not include any pieces in the shang mode, and so its best examples of this characteristic are perhaps those in the first two melodies, Dunshi Cao (see mm.77, 183 and 188 in my SQMP transcriptions and Guangling San (numerous places, but mostly in the opening sections, thought by some to have been Tang dynasty additions to an earlier piece). Many people are not aware of this because in his Dunshi Cao reconstruction Cheng Gongliang changed all the flatted thirds to whole-tones thirds, and in his Guangling San reconstruction Guan Pinghu also changed all the flatted thirds to whole-tones thirds. (See also next footnote.)

45. Flatted seventh and whole-tones seventh
The mixture of these tones seems to be most common in zhi mode melodies (see below). It is very interesting here to note Stephen Jones' observation in Folk Music of China (1995, p. 115) that in the living Chinese oral tradition neutral fourths and sevenths are commonly used (a neutral fourth is higher than a perfect fourth but lower than sharpened fourth; a neutral seventh is higher than a flatted seventh and lower than a major seventh). This would be even more interesting if the neutral tones were the third and the seventh.

46. Two of the eight modal preludes are also in shang mode. Qinshi Chubian, page 89, says Yang Zan (see Yang Zuan above) was particularly fond of pieces in the shang mode, as played by Liu Zhifang. Perhaps this helps to reinforce claims for connections between Shen Qi Mi Pu and Yang Zuan's Zixiadong Pu.

47. Shen Qi Mi Pu melodies that tend to occur only in certain later handbooks
Most of these occurrences are in later Ming dynasty handbooks, though quite a few also appear in 琴苑新傳全編 Qinyuan Xinchuan Quanbian, dated 1670, a handbook that seems mainly to have copied out earlier pieces without change. For more on these see a footnote related to text in the Shen Qi Mi Pu general introduction.

48. See the chart tracing Yi Lan.

49. After 1585 Yin De, appears only once, in 1670. However, in 1614 Songxianguan Qinpu published Qiujiang Yebo as though it was a new melody, but which was actually a revised version of Yin De. Also called Qiujiang Wan Diao 秋江晚釣 and Qiujiang Wan Bo 秋江晚波, it subsequently was quite popular. There are several modern recordings of Qiujiang Yebo. (Note that my own recordings of both Yin De and Qiujiang Yebo are now online here.)

50. 風宣玄品 Fengxuan Xuanpin was compiled by another Ming prince, 朱厚爝 Zhu Houjiao.

51. 西麓堂琴統 Xilutang Qintong was compiled by Wang Zhi 汪芝 .

52. 洞庭秋思 Dongting Qiusi was reconstructed in the 1950s by 查阜西 Zha Fuxi, who changed all the flatted thirds.

53. Zhi mode (see *** in chart and Shenpin Zhi Yi)
This mode seems to have the most exceptions to the modal characteristics I have been finding in early Ming qin tablature. The main note in zhi mode is always played on the open fourth string, called zhi, but the set of relative pitch names assigned to this string is open to debate. My selection of 5 as the relative pitch name of the open fourth string is based on my research into modes in Shen Qi Mi Pu; this makes the relative tuning 1 2 4 5 6 1 2 . However, in some cases it seems better to select 6 as the relative pitch name for the zhi string, making the relative tuning 2 3 5 6 7 2 3 (in these cases the mode seems to function rather like yu mode, see below). 丁承運 Ding Chengyun thinks 1 should be the relative pitch name for the zhi string, making the relative tuning 4 5 7 1 2 4 5 (this emphasizes its similarity to shang mode). All these understandings are possible; but although such different interpretation suggest different understandings of zhi mode, they do not change the general conclusions made here about mode.

54. Huangzhong mode (see chart)
The relative tuning for this mode is 1 3 5 6 1 2 3. When 6 is the main tonal center, 1 is sometimes changed to 1# (a whole-tones third). This is seen in some later Ming handbooks but is not very common in Shen Qi Mi Pu; the best examples are in Da Ya from Folio III.

55. Yu mode (see chart)
The relative tuning for this mode is 5 6 1 2 3 5 6, with 6 as the main tonal center. In Shen Qi Mi Pu it is very rare for pieces in this mode to change 1 to 1# (a whole-tones third), but this does happen in later Ming dynasty handbooks. For a good example see 佩蘭 Pei Lan in Fengxuan Xuanpin (1539); later versions of this piece drop the 1#.

56. Another issued concerning thirds is natural thirds vs. Pythagorean thirds. This is discussed further under Qin tunings, some theoretical concepts.

57. Added value of historically informed qin performance
Reconstructing old qin music by following as closely as possible the historical materials is of value not just for the qin music it reveals. It might also be of value in understanding other early genres. There is some discussion of this here under
Qin and Togaku: people say the music of the qin was so different from that of the court that it would not be of much use in reconstructing the court music. Likewise, it has been said that it is so different from other early Chinese music genres that it will not be of much use in reconstructing those. This may be true, but at the same time this is no excuse for not trying.

One final point. Many people, including many qin players, say that one cannot enjoy qin music without a deep knowledge of Chinese culture. I disagree. My opinon is that anyone should be able to enjoy qin music when it is played well, all that should be needed is for the listeners not to demand that the music "sound familiar", in other words, a willingness not to require the music follow the idiom of a music style with which they are already familiar. On the other hand, to appreciate fully the music of any culture one must know about the culture that produced it. One of the special things about qin music is that it has such an intimate connection with traditional Chinese culture, literati culture in particular, that enjoying qin music simply as music should inspire people to learn more about the culture that created it; they can then experience a fully Historically Informed Performance. Helping to make this possible is the main aim of the present website.

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