Xiqu musical structure

Xiqu musical structure
Musical structure is the most fundamental aspect of music in Xiqu (sung-drama/opera). There are two main styles of musical structure: the lianquti (‘joined song style’, also called qupai liantaoti, ‘fixed-melody joined set style’); and the banqiangti (‘beat [and] tune style’, also called banshi bianhuati, ‘metrical-type change style’).
Lianquti structure is employed in Xiqu music from the playwright-centred musical systems: kunshanqiang (‘tunes of Kunshan’) and yiyangqiang (‘tunes of Yiyang’, also called gaoqiang, ‘high tunes’). Following lianquti structure, vocal music in these systems is derived from a large number of ‘fixed-melodies’ (qupai), usually arranged in a specific order in sets; each fixed-melody conveys both emotional and structural sense. In creating new plays, playwrights first select and arrange fixed-melodies, and then write lyrics to fit them. Xiqu forms employing this playwright-centred compositional process tend to be more elite. Kunqu is the principal contemporary form of Xiqu in the kunshanqiang system (see Kunqu Xiqu), while Chuanju, Minju and Liyuanxi employ lianquti structured music from both elite musical systems.
Banqiangti structure is employed in Xiqu music from the actor-centred musical systems: bangziqiang (‘tunes of the Bangzi clapper’) and pihuang (named for its two principal modes, [xi]pi and [er]huang). Following banqiangti structure, vocal music in these systems is based upon modes and metrical-types, which provide rhythmic and melodic patterns that convey atmospheric and emotional sense. In creating new plays, actors select modes and metrical-types, and then apply these patterns in composing melodies to fit lyrics. Xiqu forms employing this actor-centred compositional process tend to be popular rather than elite. The late twentieth-century introduction of composers to the creative process has perhaps increased popularity problems in these forms. Jingju (Peking opera) is one of the principal forms of Xiqu in the pihuang system, while there are numerous Bangzi forms in the bangziqiang system. Yueju (Guangdong, Guangxi opera) and Chuanju (Sichuan opera) employ music from both popular musical systems, and Huangmeixi and Pingju both include banqiangti structured music.
Wichmann, Elizabeth (1991). Listening to Theatre: The Aural Dimension of Beijing Opera. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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