Chinese people have been making music familiar to their compound cultural needs in China’s long history. In the growing process, Chinese music has profoundly influenced neighboring regions and absorbed musical features from them.
Let’s explore this musical history and growth, tools and genres, regional variations, and modern Chinese music.
Music started in China in the 1000s from archaeological sites in Henan, revealing bone flutes from 8,000 years, and clay music tools in Xi’an from 6,000 years.
Yay or elegant music is ceremonial music from the Zhou Dynasty in the10th to 7th century BC. This music embraced music as a stellar display of sounds present in nature and combined into the yin and yang.
Still, according to the Zhou, ‘correct’ music consisted of instruments combining the five essential components of nature; fire, water, air, earth, and space to bring harmony to nature.
Style of Chinese Music
Typically, Chinese music can fall into different categories, but the main ones are opera and folk. Even though these genres tend to sound majorly different from western music, Chinese and western music have a similarity of evoking culture and focus on instruments.
Similarly, Chinese opera is the same as western opera because it’s majorly fixated on vocalization with light instrumental garnish. Generally, the voice is still the main element through the main style, and the sound of Chinese opera is very different.
Neither genres are prevalent today and only present in the selected society. Nonetheless, Chinese opera is still active across the country even though it doesn’t attract an extensive listenership as contemporary music.
Conversely, folk music is still prevalent on occasions like weddings, funerals, and special concerts. Better yet, you will likely hear it from the elderly homes but rarely in the modern music frequency.
Initially, Chinese music created a soothing effect on society and made people live harmoniously by reducing fights and increasing obedience. Therefore, the music is not for dancing or moving in any way; hence there is less focus on the beat.
Instead, it has a flawless, constant nature, effortlessly flowing from sound to sound without abrupt breaks in the beat and usually hastening near the end. Also, there have been parallels from Chinese music to the water in mountain brooks which slowly grows larger and faster while flowing downstream.
Chinese Musical Instruments
For many people unaware of Chinese music, one of the more fascinating aspects is the wide selection of exceptional instruments. Most traditional Chinese music instruments are only present in Asian music, making them unique to China.
Moreover, the shape and method of several instruments are different from anything available in Western culture. This is also the same as the complex sounds they create, as they are impossible to imitate on Western instruments. This means that experiencing the world of traditional Chinese music is the same as experiencing a different musical world.
Among the most ancient Chinese musical instruments are the Bamboo pipes and the qin. These Musical instruments feature eight different categories called “bayin.” Traditional music in China is usually performed on solo instruments or in small clusters of stringed instruments, other cymbals and flutes, drums, and gongs. Typically, the division of tools is from their structure material, for instance, animal skins, bamboo, gourd, wood, silk, clay, metal, and stone.
Furthermore, the performance of Chinese music is on the pentatonic scale or five tones, unlike Western music, which is seven tomes or Heptatonic. This is a significant difference between Western and Eastern music, giving Eastern music a unique, high-pitched sound. Also, Chinese orchestras mostly use woodwinds, bowed strings, percussions, and plucked/struck strings.
When you visit china, ensure you experience this unique musical culture that will leave you a permanent memory.