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A Musical Performance by Music From China

China is a distinctive country, and this is evident in all its spheres, including musical culture. In traditional Chinese culture, an important place is given to music that sounds like “ye” in Chinese. However, the concept “ye” means not only musical art but also art in general and everything beautiful, harmonious, and graceful. Thus, this name reflected the Chinese’s superior attitude towards music as one of the highest forms of artistic and spiritual human activity.

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The video titled “Masterpieces of Chinese Music: A Musical Performance by Music from China,” uploaded on January 19, 2010, illustrates the musical performance of «Music from China» in the Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 18, 2009. At that moment, the ensemble celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation (“Masterpieces of Chinese Music” 00:00:45-00:00:49). The ensemble “Music from China” consists of 5 musicians – one man and four women, who play almost all traditional Chinese string instruments. Susan Chang is the director, founder, and at the same time a musician in the ensemble.

While listening to the concert, I could not be distracted for a minute. The originality of folk music performed by the ensemble is manifested in the use of a variety of stringed instruments, including the erhu and related two-string fiddles, pipa, zheng, ruan, and yangqin. The variety of materials (bamboo, copper and its alloys, snakeskin, horsehair, wool, silk) from which the instruments are made is reflected in their sound and determines the colorful sound palette.

The program featured about a dozen immortal classical Chinese compositions, including “Thunder in a drought,” “Melody of a purple bamboo,” “Fisherman’s Song,” “Crescent moon at dawn,” “Autumn moon over a tranquil lake,” and others. Moreover, at the end of the musical performance, the musicians represented two incendiary Mongolian songs. The performed works’ melody is rich and phenomenal; it widely uses various rhythmic means of expression. The pieces are distinguished by sensitivity, energy, great power of significance, and intonations cover a wide range. Furthermore, the compositions reflect regional characteristics: the first two pieces are performed in the Southern style. The folk song “Crescent moon at dawn” is the typical characteristic of the Northern style. Folk music selections span China’s broad landscape, from the urban sophistication of Shanghai and Guangzhou (Canton) to the vast expanse of the Mongolian steppes.

The musicians’ interaction with the audience and the public’s reaction to the performance deserves special attention. The musicians tried very sensually to convey the musical idea, and they succeeded brilliantly. It is worth noting Susan Chang’s comments before each act, which were very terse and informative and set the audience up to listen to each melody. As for the audience, people were fascinated by the concert. In addition to constant applause, some spectators uttered enthusiastic exclamations, for instance, after the executing of “Bird in the forest.” Besides, the audience actively shared their impressions among themselves, for example, after completing the Mongolian music “The grass on the grassland” with the instrument Toho. Thus, the musicians, splendidly performing masterpieces of Chinese music, could capture the audience and interest them.

As for me, this concert made an indelible impression on me and awakened a storm of emotions in me. I found the most energetic act, “Bird in the forest,” accompanied by expressive transitions. I would also like to highlight Zhu Ling’s solo with a bouncy melody called “Ravens frolic in the wintry water.” During the performance, the musician used different degrees of pressure on the instrument to raise the melody’s elevation. The solo “Variations on Song of Jung Hwan” seemed the least appealing to me because, against the background of other energetic tunes, it seemed to me sad and thoughtful. However, it is worth noting the musician’s skill and how he conveyed the work’s mood to the public with his appearance. Thus, I would love to watch a Chinese music concert again, especially live.


“Masterpieces of Chinese Music: A Musical Performance by Music from China” YouTube, 2010. Web.

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