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The flow of Tao made audible.

  • Nov 7, 2010
Rating:
+5
Qin or Guqin means ancient string instrument and is my favorite of all Chinese instruments and in fact one of my all time favorite instrument. It is also sometimes called Qixianqin or seven string Qin for the obvious reason that it has seven strings that are tuned to a major pentatonic scale. The traditional Qin is about 120 cm long and 15 cm wide at the bridge end and tapers to about 10 cm at the other end. The playing surface is lacquered and is very smooth and there are 13 studs marking where the harmonics are on the strings. The tone is mellow and quiet and I find it exquisite.
So it is basically a piece of wood with seven strings stretched on the top.

It used to be the instruments of Scholars and Monks and there was a puritan attitude to how you played it, you should be clean in mind and body and preferably play it in the mountains or at least have a picture of a mountain in front of you while playing, so the music you play on this instrument is infused with lofty ideals and it is deeply inspired by the philosophy of Tao where the natural flow of nature and it's laws are allowed to glide unhindered.
 
The music is therefore usually meditative and flowing and the playing technique uses a lots of glissandi/slides and harmonics/overtones which you can here in this brilliant composition.


The oldest Guqin in it's present form that has been found is from the 6th century A.D. so this instrument has a lot of tradition behind it. Most of the music is philosophical and deep and often has a melancholy mood to it and some of it reminds me of american blues which also uses a lot of slides in it's guitar playing.
But there are also some funny tunes like the song Liqurmania which imitates the wobbly walk of an inebriated person.

Here is a clip from the movie Hero where a Guqin player is performing while two fighters go for it.
 

And here is a more peacefull clip which exemplifies Guqin music in all it's meditative and flowing beauty.
The flow of Tao made audible. The flow of Tao made audible. The flow of Tao made audible. The flow of Tao made audible.

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November 11, 2010
Very nice review! I want to go play my erhu now, hehe.
November 11, 2010
Wow so you play the Erhu - have you studied Classical Chinese music ? I play the Piano and I would love to play the Guqin but there are no chinese musicians in Iceland.
November 11, 2010
I started learning the erhu and jiangnan sizhu when I got to UCLA in 2006. I still play with the Chinese Music ensembles at school there. I'm sure if you seek out members of the Chinese community (especially during Chinese New Year), you would certainly find Chinese musicians and possibly learn from them! Here's an article I found from a while ago: http://is.china-embassy.org/eng/xwdt/t233770.htm
 
November 11, 2010
When it comes to Chinese instrument, the trend is to "modernise" the presentation which I find truly appealing. There are quite a great deal of artists in China now playing this instrument. I'm not quite familiar with them but I think they will eventually stand out in the international arena and make an impression. In fact, a few of the sopranos have now performed in Vienna and that's truly great! Lovely review, hope to see more of such reviews! I'll have to wait until I'm out of China before I can view these Youtube videos.
 
November 07, 2010
Of the three clips, I prefer the last one. It shows the plucking technique which makes the sound come out almost hammered like a piano or even a zither. Beautiful instrument, I've never heard it before. Great review. The seven note pentatonic tuning makes for an obvious difference with the more western sounding 8 note scales. No missing that difference in tonal quality.
 
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About the reviewer
Örn Leifsson ()
Ranked #15
I have a BA in Philosophy but my main interest is Music. I play the piano andI have also learned a little to play the Guitar, Violin, Drum Set and the Djembe.   The Music I love the most is … more
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Wiki



The guqin simplified/traditional: 古琴; pinyin: gǔqín; Wades-Giles ku-ch'in; literally "ancient stringed instrument") is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason," as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages".

Traditionally the instrument was called simply qin (Wade-Giles ch'in) but by the twentieth century the term had come to be applied to many other musical instruments as well: the yangqin hammered dulcimer, the huqinfamily of bowed string instruments, and the Western piano are examples of this usage. The prefix "gu-" (meaning "ancient") was later added for clarification. It can also be called qixianqin (lit. "seven-stringed instrument"). The guqin is not to be confused with the guzheng, another Chinese long zither also without frets, but with moveable bridges under each string. ...

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China, Qin, Seven String Musical Instrument

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