Sunday, October 4, 2009

Musical Demonstrations of 二胡 (erhu) and 籥 (yue)

An instructor of traditional Chinese instruments came to our university (DungHai University in Taichung, Taiwan; I enrolled here for summer Chinese and Taiwanese language courses) and gave a few short demonstrations of playing two classical Chinese instruments: 二胡 (erhu) and 籥 (yue).

Video 1: Instructor playing the 二胡 (ㄦˋㄏㄨˊ) "er4 hu2":


Video 2: Instructor playing the erhu

A closer look at the parts of the erhu:

(Image taken from this site)

Video 3: Instructor playing the 籥 (yue), which was described earlier in the follow-up report to the Confucious celebration:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Classical Chinese Folk Songs

The following are some traditional Chinese folk songs from a CD of my dad's. I couldn't figure out a way to post the songs directly, so I converted each song into a "video," which really just has the picture of the album cover on it...

Zi Zhu Diao Purple Bamboo Melody

Yu Ge (Yu Tian You) (Song of the Fisherman)

Jiang He Shui (Rivers and Streams)

Wu Bang Zi (Fen Zi Cuen)

Sai Ma (Horse Races)

Springtime on the Tianshan Mountains

Gu Xiang (My Home Town)

Huan le Ge (Happy Song)

Liang Xiao (Beautiful Evening)

Chun Dou Xiang Jiang (Ning Bao Sheng) (Spring Comes to Xiang)

Er Quan Ying Yue (Spring Water Reflects the Moon)

Er Quan Ying Yue (Spring Water Reflects the Moon)

Flowing Water from the High Mountain

Feng Shou (Bumper Harvest)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Visit to Cambodia! Cambodian Traditional Dances

During a visit to Cambodia (the temples of Angkor in Siem Reap), we had dinner at a restaurant-theater, where they performed traditional Cambodian dances. Each dance was kind of like a story, the first perhaps having to do with a royal couple, the second to do with harvest season, the third with butterfly images, and the fourth a partner dance between a beautiful female and a monster/creature. It was interesting to compare Cambodian dance to Taiwanese - needless to say, very different (much of Cambodian culture - eg. clothing, dance, language - has roots in India).

Dance involving Royal Couple (Part 1)

Dance involving Royal Couple (Part 2)

Harvest Dance - Male and Female Group

Butterfly Dance (Part 1)

Butterfly Dance (Part 2)

Partner Dance - Female and Monster

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Aborigine Dances in Hualien, Taiwan

During a visit to Hualien on the Eastern coast of Taiwan, I had the chance to attend an aborigine dance performance. Taiwan's aborigines are well-known for their ability to dance and sing, and these dancers certainly exhibited their physical talent quite well. The tribe that predominantly lives in Hualien is called the A-Mei tribe, which is also the largest aborigine tribe.

Male Group Dance

Harvest Dance - Female Solo

Harvest Dance - Female Group

Group Dance with Sticks

Group Dance with Sticks - Ending

Friday, August 7, 2009

五月天 - "垃圾車" Taiwanese Song

Mayday is a Taiwanese pop group that sings songs both in Mandarin as well as Taiwanese. (They performed during this past New Year's celebration at the Taipei 101 building!) This song, called "Trashcar," is sung in Taiwanese and has two versions: a "friends" version as well as a "lovers" version. Both versions actually have the same lyrics until the last stanza of the song. The background music is the same. Below is the "friends" version of this song.

垃圾車 曲:阿信 詞:阿信 編:五月天










因為 咱緣分不可散

有你 我才未孤單




每天 聽你的心聲

有你 我才未孤單




每天 聽你唱歌








English translation:

“Trashcar” by Mayday

(Also, this song is sung in Taiwanese, not Mandarin!)

Even though you have a bad temper

And you treat your friends badly

And you often make stupid mistakes and blame other people for them

But you still happened to come across me

Modest me

You really are quite fortunate

I walk when you get a ride

You eat and then I wash the dishes

You get bullied and I risk my life fighting for you

If it’s in order to make you happy,

It’s ok if you burden me

Because our fate cannot be scattered

With you

I am not lonely

With your company

I have protection

If you are not happy

I am your trashcar

Every day

Listening to the sound of your heart

With you

I am not lonely

With your company

I have protection

If you are not happy

I am your trashcar

Every day

Listening to you sing

If our relationship is real

Then bottoms up

This glass has to be drunk empty

You drink this one

And I’ll drink this one

Let’s drink these all dry

Drink these all dry

Mayday's "Trashcar" music video

Confucius Celebration Videos and Pictures

Before the opening ceremony

Scene #5 - Ceremonial Attendants Take Their Positions

Bayi dancers on stage

Musical performers

Scene #11 - Burying the Sacrificial Remnants

Scene #16 - Initial Principal Presentation

Scene #25 - Blessings from the President

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Follow Up Report: Traditional Chinese Instruments Used in the Annual Confucious Celebration

Tainan is a city in the southernmost part of Taiwan that is perhaps the most well-known city in Taiwan in terms of preserving the culture of ancient buildings, architecture, streets, and other remnants of the past. During a visit to my uncle's house in Tainan, my uncle took me to see the Confucius Temple, where they happened to have a collection of antique traditional instruments (both musical and non-musical) used during each annual Confucius celebration. After composing my first report on the Confucius Celebration, I thought this would be an good follow-up to give a better understanding of some of the traditional musical elements as well as other ceremonial vessels used during the procession.

The following photographs, unless otherwise stated, were all photos that I took during my visit to the Confucius temple. The instruments also had signs next to them indicating the name of the instrument (in both Mandarin and English) as well as a brief description of its structure and use.

籥 (ㄩㄝˋ) "yue4"
A pipe made of bamboo. Short versions have 3 holes, long versions have 6-7 holes.

籊 ( ㄊㄧ ˋ) "ti4"
Bamboo poles used by the BaYi dancers, held in the right hand. The handle is carved like a dragon's head, and a long peacock feather is placed in the dragon's mouth. The peacock feather represents wisdom.

特磬 (ㄊ ㄜˋ ㄑㄧㄥˋ) "te4 qing4"
Special Musical Stone: A type of drum made of polished jade. The two flat sides are beat with a wooden handle to conclude the orchestra.

著尊 (ㄓㄨ ˋ ㄗㄨㄣˉ) "zhu4 zun1"
Wine Vessel: A vessel made of bronze that is used to hold wine for the sacrificial ceremony. It has no ears or legs.

鉶 (ㄒㄧㄥˊ) "xing2"
A brass vessel that is round in shape with two ears and a tripod, used to hold soup during the sacrificial ceremony. Three humps protrude from the lid.

爵 (ㄐㄩㄝˊ) "jue2"
Wine Pitcher: A bronze wine pitcher used during the sacrificial ceremony. There is a tripod at the bottom of the pitcher, and the two protrusions on the top of the pitcher are present to prevent the wine from being drunk directly from the pitcher, as this vessel is used only for pouring the wine.

編鐘 (ㄅㄧㄢ ㄓㄨㄥ) "bian1 zhong1"
This instrument is comprised of two different sets of bells: the Group Chimes and the Group Musical Stones.
Group Chimes: This group of bronze chimes comprises the top two rows of the pictured instrument. Each row contains 8 sets of rectangular bells. The pitch of the sound produced when the bells are struck depend on their thickness. In all, there are 16 tones that are produced, one for each set of bells. The bells are struck with a wooden handle once for each sentence of the poem that is recited during the ceremony, and each strike is concurrently harmonized by the Group Musical Stones.
Group Musical Stones: Arranged identically to the Group Chimes, but are placed on the lower two rows of the instrument. There are also 16 tones produced, one for each set of bells. The bells are made of jade and are struck with a wooden handle the same time the Group Chimes are struck.

帛 (ㄅㄛˊ) "bo2"
Silk: Pure white silk fabric that represents currency offered to the gods.

簋 (ㄍㄨㄟˇ) "gui3"
An ancient food vessel made of bronze, used for holding grains in ancient offerings or feasts. It is round in shape with two ears and four round protrusions on the lid.

柷 (ㄓㄨ ˋ) "zhu4"
A ancient wooden percussion instrument shaped like a tapering box, narrow near the bottom and wide near the top. It is struck from the inside with a wooden drumstick to announce the beginning of the ceremony and to start the orchestra. The sides are decorated with images of mountains and rivers.

敔 ( ㄩ ˇ) "yu3"
A hollow wooden percussion instrument in the shape of a tiger. A wooden drumstick is run across the back, which has three rows of wooden protrusions, in order to produce the sound.

These are definitely not all of the musical and non-musical instruments used during the procession in their entirety, but just the ones that I happened to find in the collection of traditional instruments in the Confucius temple. The artifacts and their descriptions certainly help in better understanding the details of the ceremony.