Traditional Chinese music embraces modern elements

Writer: Chen Xiaochun Share:

Suona player Zhang Qianyuan (L)

Email of the writer:

A traditional Chinese music concert, “Plum blossoms, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum,” was held at the Shenzhen Concert Hall on Saturday night, winning continuous applause from the audience for the outstanding and innovative performance.

The highlights of the concert include the “Qin Chuan Love” by bamboo flute artists Dai Ya and Li Yue, accompanied by pianist David Qu and percussionist Gao Yue; the “Birds Saluting the Phoenix” by suona artist Zhang Qianyuan, accompanied by sheng players Jia Jingtao and Wang Peng; the “Melody of the Han River” by guzheng artists Wang Zhongshan and Song Xinxin; and “Echo of Dunhuang,” a quintet composed by Zhou Long for this concert.

When asked about techniques for playing the guzheng, Wang Zhongshan, one of the most influential guzheng artists in China, said, “Everything has to be based on the renewal of techniques, otherwise it would be weeded out by time. Currently, our pace of life is very fast, the world is full of diversity and culture exchanges, so we have to learn the merits of Western art techniques.”

Wang Zhongshan said that when talking about guzheng people usually think of an elder sitting in a tea house and the slow sound of the instrument.

“The fact that guzheng can play very modern music, such as the popular songs of Adele Adkins and the ‘Croatian Rhapsody,’ amazes everyone. To make sure that this instrument is known to the world, we need to enable it to ‘speak foreign languages’ so that everyone can understand and accept your culture,” said Wang Zhongshan.

“They employed some violin techniques on the erhu, such as the double stops and plucking the strings using the left hand, which are rarely used on the traditional erhu,” said Gu Xiaojin, professor of the Communication School at Shenzhen University and a respected music critic.

“We have watched many concerts of Western music. Tonight’s concert was traditional Chinese music, and it’s safe to say that it represents the highest level of traditional Chinese music. It brought us a whole-new experience, a disruptive mode for our traditional music. It not only presented a high-level performance, but also embodied an innovation, properly handling the relation between keeping the tradition and blending it with innovation. Every art needs innovation and progress,” said Gu.Zhou Long, a world-renowned Chinese composer and Pulitzer Prize winner.

“The organizer invited me to write a new piece for the music festival, and I created the quintet called, ‘Echo of Dunhuang,’ because the artists, both experienced masters and young artists, are all excellent players of traditional Chinese instruments, including the bamboo flute, suona, erhu and guzheng, as well as percussion,” said Zhou Long, a world-renowned Chinese composer and Pulitzer Prize winner.

Zhou added that “Echo of Dunhuang” was inspired by the art of Mogao Grottos in Dunhuang. The musical elements include “Flower,” a very popular folk song form in this Dunhuang, and some other elements of Northwest China.

The concert featured a variety of traditional instruments representing the most authentic of Chinese music. Solos were played on the bamboo flute, guzheng (zither), suona and erhu.

This year's edition of “Plum blossoms, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum” brought the Shenzhen audience some of the most classic pieces of traditional Chinese music and also debuted some new Chinese pieces.

Editor: Jane Chen