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Qin as
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Performance Themes 表演主題

My performances of early qin music, which could all be categorized as HIP, include standard performances as well as illustrated or narrated performances and lecture/demonstrations that introduce the qin. In addition, although they generally include melodies from several of the categories listed below, they can also focus on a specific theme and be titled accordingly.

The traditional environments for playing qin were alone, for a friend, or at a gathering where participants would also appreciate (or do) calligraphy, painting or other activities popular amongst literati.2 Modern technology allows such multi-media events to be done as performances. At a basic level, a display of appropriate art work can enhance the environment for introducing the qin.

Although the qin by tradition is largely a solo instrument, there are also many qin songs (see The Qin in Poetry and Song), as well as depictions in art and literature of duets between qin and other instruments. Today such duets are usually between qin and xiao end-blown flute.3 I have a great interest in exploring various ways of combining qin with other instruments, thus expanding the normal setting of qin play. However, such programs must be planned very carefully.4

My programs combining the qin with other instruments and/or media have so far included:
  -  Qin with film5 (e.g. House of the Lute; see also My film music6)
  -  Qin and Dance (e.g. Silk Stone Moving)
  -  Qin with Early Western music (e.g., Music from the Time of Marco Polo and Music from the Time of Matteo Ricci)
Some other natural possibilities include programs on Bo Ya, qin with poetry,7 qin with storytelling,8 qin and shakuhachi,9 and qin and komungo.10

Art Areas
e.g. Chu
Birds Buddhist Confucian Daoist Drink
Wine / Tea
Evening Japan
Mountains Novels
Orchids Passions Poetry
Seasons Women Other

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

2 The antithesis of playing for 知音 zhi yin: Playing qin for an ox
對牛彈琴 dui niu tan qin, under Ideology.

3 Qin with voice and/or other instruments: duets?
Most Chinese traditional music involving more than one instrument is played heterophonically: two or more instruments/voices all perform the same melody but they each do their own version. Unison play is considered boring, the art being in making the varying renditions work together naturally. There is no specific information how qin duets were played in the past: only the melody for the qin part is written down. Today the accompanying instrument or voice usually simply follows the qin, perhaps adjusting only for octave leaps. The most likely reasons for this are respect for the ancient qin tradition, and lack of experience with heterophonic play on the part of modern qin players. To my ears the main effect is mainly to cover the delicate colors of the qin music. Hence my idea of combining the qin with other instruments is to have them play alternately and/or, when together, use a form of "multiple-phonics". There is some further comment under Comparing Western and Chinese materials for re-creating early music.

4 Qin with other instruments or media: problems of balance
The main difficulty in combining the qin with other media is that its very rich tone is so delicate that it can easily get lost. Efforts in China to overcome this problem begin with using nylon-metal strings instead of the traditional silk, but this loses the traditional color of the music. I have spent considerable effort searching for ways to project the traditional silk string sound in large environments and in combination with other instruments and media.

5 Qin and Film
Qin in film has an account of how qin is treated by films in general.

6 My film music (compare Qin and Film)
My own work with film and video 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
    My "rock music"
  3. (unsolved) Robert van Gulik, by Ellen Zweig, 2003
    Traditional qin music

7 Qin and Poetry
On several occasions I have played qin at poetry readings. The poetry could be Chinese, translations from Chinese, or unrelated to Chinese. When this is done in an art gallery it may evoke an old scholar's gathering. This could also be combined with Qin in Poetry and Song.

8 Qin and Storytelling
There is no record of the qin being used by traditional Chinese story tellers (about whom see further). However, the stories associated with a number of qin melodies were also in the repertoire of story tellers (see also qin in popular culture). In fact, qin music can interestingly supplement a story-teller whether or not the story has an historic or otherwise direct connecton to the qin. Perhaps related to this would be the use of projected images such as can be found on this website.

9 Qin and shakuhachi (古琴與日本尺八)
See The Guqin in Japan. The qin was brought to Japan over 1,000 years ago, together with the 箏 zheng. However, whereas the zheng became localized as the koto, inheriting some characterisitics of qin aesthetic, the qin itself remained foreign, played mostly by Sinophiles. As a result, and because of its association with meditation, some people say the shakuhachi end blown flute is the Japanese counterpart of the qin. On the other hand its connection to Buddhism is much stronger than that of the qin, which is more associated with Confucian and Daoist self-cultivation.

10 Qin and komungo (古琴與韓國玄琴)
See The Guqin in Korea. In Korea the guqin was rarely played. Instead, according to tradition, in early days Koreans invented a new instrument in imitation of the qin, called it a "black crane zither" (shorted to "black zither", i.e., komungo), then created repertoire for it. Korean literati are said to have played this music, but never developed a method for writing it down, hence the early repertoire was lost. As a result the repertoire played by the Korean Confucian scholars apparently came to consist of solo komungo music extracted from the Korean court music repertoire.

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