NYQS Meeting, November 12, 2005

The elegant entrance.

On 12 November 2005 the following members of then New York Qin Society (NYQS) attended a Society meeting: Elaine Sheng, Chang Peiyou, Stephen Dydo, Matthew Flannery, Rebecca Flannery, Peter Reis, John Thompson, Yip Ming-Mei. Guests were Sam Jamier and Stephen Bourne.


This meeting was a somewhat informal gathering marking the return of members from various activities overseas. Rebecca Flannery and Peter Reis were welcomed as new members.  For business, Stephen announced that he has re-designed parts of the Society's website, adding a section on Qin Culture. There was also some discussion of the need for heightening awareness of the website, in which regard Stephen suggested that we should make a better effort to provide Chinese translations so that we can communicate our activities to players in China.


Several members then made presentations.


John Thompson


John played four of his reconstructions from Ming tablature, adding some commentary. The first two were melodies from Shen Qi Mi Pu (1425) actively played today.


Meihua Sannong (Three Repetitions of Plum Blossom)

The Shen Qi Mi Pu version is quite different from the modern one. It still has the Meihua melody played in harmonicis at three different positions. But it has quite a different passage between the second and third repetitions; a comment in the tablature says it is "the sound of reading". This passage is repeated after the third Meihua repetition, then a new passage is played with variations in both high and low positions.


Wu Ye Ti (Evening Call of the Raven)

The Shen Qi Mi Pu version was reconstructed in the 1950s, and many people play this version or variations of it. John did his version without listening to the others, so it differs in a number of points. The melody uses some old fingering indications which are open to different interpretations.


The other two were from his most recent reconstructions. They relate to famous stories connected to Li Ling and Su Wu, historical figures from the 2nd c. BCE, and the themes are often depicted in music, poetry and painting. He finished his reconstructions so he could play them on November 6th at the Williams College Museum of Art. He was invited there in conjunction with an exhibition there called Masterworks of Chinese Painting, In Pursuit of Mist and Clouds. One of the paintings, by Chen Hungshou, is called Su Wu Parts from Li Ling


Li Ling Si Han (Li Ling Thinks of Han)

Li Ling was a general sent by Han emperor Wudi to pacify the Xiongnu, a central Asian nomadic people. Caught in a ambush and down to only a few people and no weapons, Li Ling surrendered and allowed himself to be forced to work for the Xiongnu; as a result the emperor executed Li Ling's family and he was unable to return home. Section titles mention the battle, running out of arrows, being captured, meeting a friend from home (Su Wu), then having to remain behind when Su Wu is finally ransomed and returns home.


Han Jie Cao (Melody of Han Credentials)

Han Wudi sent Su Wu with imperial credentials to negotiate peace with the Xiongnu, but they detained him. He refused to serve them, instead working in the bleak desert country as a shepherd. Su Wu the shepherd is a common theme in many traditional Chinese media, including an episode where he is able secretly to send a message home by tying it to the leg of a goose. After almost 20 years in captivity he is ransomed, says a sad farewell to Li Ling (another well-known theme in painting), and returns with honor to the Han palace in Chang'an. The qin melody is quite evocative, with passages depicting "chewing on a rug" to stay alive in the desert, hearing the sound of geese, the sad farewell, and the happy return.  John showed how the musical mode shifted from tonal centers on do and so to centering on la and mi.



Yip Mingmei

Mingmei played and introduced three melodies.

Pingsha Luo Yan (Geese Settle on the Sandbank)

The first handbook with Pingsha Luo Yan is quite late: 1634; nevertheless it is the melody with probably the most number of printings, over 50, with as many as five different versions in one handbook. Mingmei played one of the versions she learned from her teacher, Cai Deyun. The many students of Madame Cai in Hong Kong recently honored her on her 100th birthday.


Fenghuangtaishang Yi Chui Xiao (On Phoenix Terrace Recalling the Playing of a Flute)

Mingmei played and sang this qin song based on her own reconstruction from the Japanese handbook Hewen Zhu(yin) Qinpu (Wabun Chuyin Kinpu [?]). The book was reprinted in Qinqu Jicheng, Vol. XII from an 1898 edition, but the song probably dates from the 17th or 18th century.  (The lyrics are translated in Xu Yuanzhang, Songs of the Immortals, p.229, and probably elsewhere).


Guiqulai Ci (Come Away Home)

The earliest qin setting of this famous poem by Tao Yuanming (365-425) is in the Taigu Yiyin handbook of 1511. Mingmei sang the modern version, which is musically very similar to the earliest version but is rarely sung. The tablature can be found in the handbook of Yinyinshi Qinpu (2000), the handbook of Madame Cai Deyun.



Chang Peiyou

Peiyou played two melodies.


Yi Guren (Thinking of an Old Friend)

The earliest available version of this melody is found in the Jinyu Qin Kan of 1937, which transcribes a performance by Peng Qingshou (b. ca 1890 in Jiangxi province). This was first apparently written in an old hand-copied tablature of the Li Qin Xuan (Regulated Qin Pavilion). Peiyou's version is based on one originally learned from a recording by the famous Suzhou qin player Wu Zhaoji, but  then modified by studying other recordings and tablature.


Liangxiao Yin (Peaceful Evening Prelude)

This melody first survives from the Songxianguan Qinpu (1614) of Yan Cheng, founder of the Yushan School of qin play. It can be found in over 30 handbooks and is still popular today. Peiyou's version is again based on a recording by Wu Zhaoji.



Stephen Dydo

Stephen played:


Kongzi Du Yi (Confucius Reads the Book of Changes)

Stephen learned this melody from Zeng Chengwei at a master class in London this past July. This melody has the same theme as one called Du Yi, which occurs in 5 handbooks from 1739 to 1894), but the only traditional handbook to include the present melody is Tianwenge Qinpu (1876).



John Thompson


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