traditional music performers

traditional music performers
The following music performers have been among the most influential style setters of the mid and late twentieth century. All were trained in the performance of traditional music, subsequently moving into prestigious positions in the new conservatories and onto concert hall stages.
Liu Dehai (b. 1937) is one of the greatest pipa virtuosos, teachers and composers. Born in Shanghai, he started to learn pipa at the age of ten. In 1955, he became a student at the Central Conservatory in Tianjin, where he studied pipa with Lin Shicheng, who developed his musical skill and sensitivity. From 1964, he has been teaching in the Conservatory of China and has invented many new techniques, including the technique of striking the strings with two fingers simultaneously, and using the thumb of the left hand to hold down the strings (shuangyao). He has composed over twenty pipa solo pieces, including ‘Swan’ (Tianya), ‘Childhood’ (Tongnian), ‘Old Boy’ (Laotong) and ‘Golden Dream’ (Jinse de meng). His composition style is directly related to his innovations in pipa technique.
Lu Chunling (b. 1921) is a well-known dizi (bamboo flute) player. Born in Shanghai, Lu loved local Silk and Bamboo music (Jiangnan sizhu) from childhood and learned dizi from one of his neighbours. Before 1952, he was a taxi driver, but in that year he joined the Shanghai Folk Ensemble and became a professional dizi player. Lu’s playing is highly personal, poetic, fine and smooth. He rearranged many traditional pieces and also composed some dizi pieces. His compositions are often based on simple folk-like themes that are harmonized with Western chords. His best-known pieces are ‘Today and Yesterday’ (Jinxi) and ‘Spring in Jiangnan’ (Jiangnan chun).
Lü Peiyuan/Lui Pui-yuen (b. 1933) is a well-known pipa player, better known by the latter, Cantonese spelling. He was born in Suzhou and grew up in Shanghai, where he started to play pipa when he was ten with several virtuosos, including Wang Yuting, Li Tingsong and Xia Baosen. In 1951, he moved to Hong Kong with his family. After quitting his job in his uncle’s factory, he started to teach and promote Chinese traditional music in Hong Kong. During the 1960s, Lü taught in several high schools and organized a Chinese Music Association, a society where Chinese traditional music lovers could come together to perform. The Association held frequent performances and competitions. After Lü emigrated to the USA in 1973, he has been teaching and promoting Chinese traditional music throughout North America.
Selaxi (1887–1967) was a virtuoso of the Mongolian fiddle (morinhur). He was born in Darhan, Inner Mongolia, where his father and grandfather were famous morinhur players. He started to learn the instrument at age nine. After he became a Buddhist lama at nineteen, he kept studying with Renqin, a local morinhur master. He left the temple and became a musician, performing in eastern Inner Mongolia from the 1920s to the end of the 1940s. In 1949, he joined the Inner Mongolian Ensemble, and from 1957 to 1967 was a professor at the School of Music at the Inner Mongolian University. Selaxi’s morinhur technique was prodigious. He popularized many traditional Mongolian pieces, among them ‘Bayin’, ‘Wind in the Sky’ and ‘A Girl called Nonjiya’.
Turdi Akhong (1881–1956) was an outstanding virtuoso of the Uighur string instrument, the satar. He was born in Yinjisha, southern Xinjiang. Turdi’s family was musical, and when he was eleven he started to learn the mukam from his father. After 1900, he performed mukam music in Kashgar, Hotan and Yerqiang. In 1950, he became a music teacher in the Yerqiang Song and Dance Ensemble. The mukam, a kind of Uighur palace music created in the fifteenth century, consists of twelve suites with each suite lasting about two hours. In the 1950s, Turdi was the only musician who could play all twelve suites. He collaborated with Chinese musicologists to record and transcribe the mukam, and thanks to his contribution, the twelve suites were published for the first time in 1960.
Wei Zhongle (1908–97) was a famous pipa, qin, erhu and xiao (vertical flute) player. The son of a worker, he was born in Shanghai. He was interested in Chinese traditional music from early childhood, studying first the dizi, then the erhu, pipa and qin. In spite of a haphazard music education, Wei’s talents were so great that he began to build a reputation as a virtuoso instrumentalist in Shanghai. In the 1920s and 1930s, he held many pipa and qin recitals, made records, and taught Chinese instruments at several universities and colleges. In 1936, the Russian composer Avshalomov, living in Shanghai at the time, composed an erhu concerto, which Wei played with a Western orchestra. In 1938, he made a tour of the USA, performing in more than thirty cities, and made four records including pieces on pipa, erhu, qin, dizi and xiao. In 1940 he started teaching Chinese instruments at Hujiang University, and in 1941 he and several friends established the Chinese Orchestra in Shanghai and performed many traditional pieces. In 1949, Wei became a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory; in 1956 the Conservatory set up the Department of Chinese Music and Wei became the department chair for almost thirty years. Many outstanding Chinese instrument players were his students. His playing style is sincere and honest. ‘The Great Ambuscade’ (Shimian maifu) is his best-known piece.
Wu Jinglue (1907–87) was one of the most important qin zither players and teachers of the twentieth century. Wu was born in Changshu, a small town near Shanghai. In the 1920s he went to Jiangyin to learn the pipa, zheng and xiao from famous virtuosos Zhou Shaomei (see below) and Wu Mengfei. In 1930, he learned the qin from Wang Ruipu in Tianjin. In 1936, he attended meetings of the Jinyu Qin Society (Jinyu qinshe) in Suzhou and learned many pieces from other members of the Society. In 1939, he started to teach qin in Shanghai, and in 1956 he became professor of the Central Conservatory in Beijing, where he became chair of the Chinese Instrument Department and wrote a qin textbook.
Xiang Sihua (1939–) is one of the best-known zheng zither players of our time. Xiang was born in Kunming, Yunnan. After ten years of private piano lessons with Xie Fuxin and other teachers, she entered Shanghai Conservatory in 1956 and studied zheng with Wang Xuanzhi, the famous virtuoso of the Zhejiang school. From 1965 to 1981, she worked in Beijing, performed in several ensembles, and taught in conservatories. In 1981, she moved to Hong Kong and taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1993, she emigrated to Canada. She continues the ornate style of the Zhejiang zheng school and also attempts to imitate traditional singing styles, making her performances colourful.
Zha Fuxi (1895–1976) was an important qin player and educator. Like most of other qin players, Zha was not professionally trained. He studied the qin when he was a boy, but his primary desire was to become a specialist in aeronautic sciences. In 1921, he went to Guangdong Aviation School, and after graduation worked for several airline companies for over two decades, spending his free time promoting qin music, collecting ancient pieces and their literature. In 1932, Zha founded the Jinyu Qin Society (Jinyu qinshe) in Suzhou and published its journal, Jinyu Qin Publication. The publication contained a series of articles on finger techniques, modal theories, aesthetics and, most importantly, documentation on the state of qin musicians, their photos, and compositions then being performed. In 1950, he quit his job with China Air, and started to work in the Musicology Institute of the Central Conservatory. During the 1950s, he taught in the Conservatory and was active in giving qin recitals and in organizing qin musicians from various existing schools. He did fieldwork in over ten cities, and as a result published 262 qin pieces played by eighty-six different musicians.
Zhao Songting (1924–2001) was a famous dizi player, composer and teacher. Born in Dongyang, Zhejiang, Zhao started to play dizi with his father when he was nine. He studied Kunqu with Ye Xiaoxun, and taught music in Dongyang Middle School for several years. In 1949, he joined a military ensemble. In 1956, he was with the Song and Dance Ensemble of Zhejiang province as a dizi soloist. In 1976, he started to teach in the Arts School of Zhejiang. As an outstanding player, Zhao invented many new techniques, including how to use circular breathing. As a composer, he composed many dizi solo pieces, among them ‘Morning’ (Zaochen), Three, Five, Seven’ (Sanwuqi) and ‘View of Wujiang River’ (Wujiang fenguang), now considered classics of the ‘Zhao’ style.
Zhou Shaomei (1885–1938) was a respected erhu and pipa player and teacher. Zhou was born in Jiangyin, Jiangsu. His father was a famous erhu and pipa virtuoso in the area. Like many other musicians, he was first taught by his father. In 1898, he went to Suzhou where he studied Jiangnansizhu from local musicians. In 1906, he became the first teacher in twentieth-century China to teach traditional music in a school. Many of his students became famous musicians. From 1925 to 1937, he taught Chinese music in several high schools and teachers’ training schools in Wuxi, Suzhou and Changzhou. In 1930, he founded the Xiangshan Silk and Bamboo Music Society, and in 1935 he set up the Research Association of Chinese Music in Zhenjiang. He collected many traditional instrumental and operatic pieces and used them in his textbooks. He also composed a number of pieces for his students. He redesigned the erhu, making the neck longer than before, and improved erhu playing technique. These important contributions have made him the most important erhu teacher of the twentieth century.
Lang, Miriam (1993). ‘Swan Songs: Traditional Musicians in Contemporary China—Observations from a Film’. East Asian History 5 (June).
Liu, Dehai (1996). Liu Dehai chuantong pipa quji [Liu Dehai’s Traditional Pipa Pieces]. Taiyuan: Shanxi jiaoyu chubanshe.
Miao, Tianrui, Ji, Liankang and Guo, Naian (eds) (1985). Zhongguo yinyue cidian [Dictionary of Chinese Music]. Beijing: Renming yinyue chubanshe.
Wu, Ganbo (2002). Ershishiji zhonghua guoyue renwuzhi [Annals of Chinese Traditional Musicians of the Twentieth Century]. Shanghai: Yinyue chubanshe.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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