NYQS Meeting, 19 February 2006

From left to right, Yip Ming-Mei, Stephen Dydo, Rembrandt Wolpert, Elizabeth Markham,
Bo Lawergren, Alan Berkowitz and Marilyn Wong Gleysteen.

On Sunday afternoon and evening 19 February 2006 the Society held a combination meeting and Chinese New Year's dinner at the home of John Thompson and Suzanne Smith. The meeting was attended by the following members and guests.

Alan Berkowitz
Chang Pei-You
Stephen Dydo
Matthew Flannery
Bo Lawergren
Elizabeth Markham
John Thompson
Rembrandt Wolpert
Marilyn Wong Gleysteen
Yip Ming-Mei

Guests were

Suzanne Smith (in her own home!)
Terry Tse
Stephen Bourne

Members gave the following comments on their activities.

Rembrandt Wolpert

Rembrandt discussed the CHIME meeting that took place at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, October 5th to 9th, 2005; additional comments came from other members who had attended: Elizabeth, Bo, Stephen and Ming-Mei. Rembrandt said the venue looked very impressive decked out with and exhibition of bells and chimes from the tomb of the Marquis of Yi in Hubei province. The venue was also very suitable both for the conference and the performances then taking place as part of a China in the Netherlands festival.

Rembrandt was a member of the program committee for the conference, and so he first discussed the meeting's focus. The 2004 meeting in Paris had the title 'Orality and Improvisation in East Asian Music'. Rembrandt wanted to insure that the Amsterdam meeting, called "Exploring China's Musical Past".

Contributions from NYQS members were,

Bo Lawergren – The Earliest Qin: Foreign Influences (keynote speaker)
Rembrandt Wolpert – Metronomes, Matrices, and other Musical Monsters (keynote speaker)
Elizabeth Markham – Tang melody in Heian editions
Stephen Dydo – Yuefu ballads
Yip Mingmei – Women Qin Players in the Musical Heritage of China from the Han to the Present

Rembrandt, who also led a panel on the Tang dynasty music research project begun in the 1950s by L.E.R.Picken, mentioned in particular two papers by non-members:  

Robert Bagley - The Prehistory of Chinese Music Theory (keynote speaker)
Yang Yuanzheng - Japonifying the Qin: Notes on Ogyu Sorai's Kingakutaiisho

Professor Bagley teaches at Princeton and is trying to arrange for Yang Yuanzheng, currently a graduation student at the University of Hong Kong, to come and study at Princeton. If Bagley is successful, Rembrandt felt it would be very interesting to get Yang to come to NYQS meetings. As well as being a scholar, Yang is a qin player himself.

The panel on Laurence Picken focused on several of his unpublished articles.

One article was an essay he wrote for Anne Birrell's Popular Songs and Ballads of Han China, which has her translations of Yuefu geci (Music Bureau lyrics, which originally were sung). Picken also wrote a group of tunes that he felt were reasonable attempts at realizing the kind of music that would be associated with Yuefu lyrics, and these were also to be part of Anne Birrell's book. However, for reasons unknown neither the essay nor the tunes were ultimately included in the printed edition. Picken later wrote an article, as yet unpublished, that included these tunes. This article was presented in Amsterdam, after which Prof. Ulrike Middendorf made some very critical comments, but said she would include it in a collection of essays on the subject that she is currently preparing for publication.

Also discussed was an article Picken wrote on modality Jiang Kui's songs, and a Library of Congress film on Picken's work was shown.

At a previous meeting Mingmei and Bo had spoken about their presentations. To that Rembrandt added that he was very impressed by the patience Bo had in explaining his ideas to Chinese scholars, as well as the success he seemed to be having.

The Society expressed an interest in seeing the Picken film, called On the Road to Tang through Cambridge. It was made by Tom Knott in two versions, the short (general consumption) and long (academic consumption).

Stephen Dydo

At a panel in Amsterdam, Stephen discussed his work using qin to accompany Music Bureau (Yue Fu) ballads. He feels that because the songs emphasize words, not music, the texts go very well with qin. Putting theory into practice, Stephen has made arrangements of four of these tunes for contemporary instruments, and in Amsterdam he played them on his electric qin, with Cheng Yu (president of the London Youlan Qin Society) on a modern pipa, and Ulrike Middenforf doing the vocals.

Marilyn Wong Gleysteen

Marilyn then spoke about Yuan Jung-Ping's calligraphy exhibition "Between the Strings, Within the Ink", organized by Rembrandt Wolpert. It took place at the University of Arkansas during January and February. Jung-Ping had been in China most of the time since last summer. During that time he has had calligraphy exhibitions in Beijing and Taipei, as well as starting a qin program at Qingdao University in Shandong province. He came back to the States to give a qin performance on February 12th in conjunction with the exhibition in Fayetteville, but he was unable to stay for the Society meeting because he had to rush back to Taiwan. Until May he will be teaching qin at Nanhua University in Chia-Yi (Jiayi), southern Taiwan. For several years the ethnomusicology program there has invited leading performers from Taiwan to be there in residence for a term. This term it will be Jung-Ping, then in May he goes back to Qingdao to continue the program there.

Bo is reading the "Seven-string Fretless Calligraphy" from the Arkansas Traveler.
In the exhibition, which included 52 scrolls each 52" in length, Jung-Ping used a variety of calligraphic styles; the main themes of the texts were from the Classic of Filial Piety (Xiao Jing) and the Heart Sutra (Xin Jing). Marilyn translated much of his calligraphy, and also helped set it up in Fayetteville. The exhibition was in two places, the Arts Department and Library's Main Reading Room, where the high ceilings made the larger sets look particularly attractive. Both places were quite prominent and so the exhibition attracted quite a bit of attention. Marilyn brought articles written about it from the Fayetteville town and university newspapers.  

Marilyn gave two lectures in conjunction with the exhibition. One was for a university course Elizabeth and Rembrandt teach on poetry, song and drama in East Asia. The exhibition took place in conjunction with this course, and so Marilyn gave an enrichment lecture for the students and some faculty entitled, "The musical language of the brush: Chinese calligraphy and it fugal forms," a title she chose to fit the format of the course. In the lecture, Marilyn introduced Chinese literary culture and the role calligraphy played in it, the Four Treasures, the main script types in Chinese writing, and introduced some early monuments showing the evolution of the script types. As for the title, she tried to stretch the analogy of the fugue so that the meaning of the Chinese character was the "cantus firmus" while the different script types -- seal, clerical regular, running and cursive -- were the forms of fugal development. She used this analogy in order to relate writing to the musical subject of the class, and she felt that it worked pretty well, though she does not think it is an analogy anyone has used before.  

Marilyn's other lecture was a gallery talk discussing Jung-Ping's calligraphy, his sources and various writing styles.  

Marilyn further reported on possible Society activities in the Washington DC area.  

Nora Yeh, who is in charge of the Asian Division of the Folk Life project at LOC, has indicated that she would like to invite NYQS members, especially the long-performing musicians, to come to LOC to be interviewed and to perform for the archives. The music archives apparently contain some old and possibly rare recordings by visiting musicians, and Nora has just recently launched a documentation project to expand on this. As of the present she has not been provided any substantial funds, but what is available are the facilities whereby interviews and recordings may be made there.Marilyn thinks that that in itself is worth noting, and suggested at a future meeting we might discuss whether individual members, or the group as a whole, could make a trip to LOC to participate in it.  

In addition, the Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired (DACOR), has issued a formal invitation to the Society requesting that it give a qin recital to the Dacor membership. This program would be similar to the one the Society offered in July 2004 to the Washington Chinese Literary Society, in which several members performed and introduced the qin. DACOR offers six musical programs a year to their membership, and Marilyn has recently been appointed chair of the music committee to organize and present these programs. Her committee members showed keen interest in the fact that she plays the guqin, and wanted to hear it and its music. The recitals are on Sunday afternoons and are held at Dacor-Bacon House, an historic townhouse at 1801 F Street, an ideal setting for chamber music. These Cloyce Huston Musicales are now in their eleventh year and have generally offered only the standard European baroque, classical and romantic repertoire. Marilyn is interested in broadening the program offerings and introducing the members, many quite avid music lovers, to a wider repertory, both musical and cultural. For example, two recent programs have been of early music (15-17th centuries) on original instruments, and a sextet and septet of woodwinds and piano, both of which have never been offered at the House. For the next season 2007, which she is now scheduling, Marilyn will introduce an "international" series, music from Denmark and Czeckoslovakia, for example. This will pave the way for Eastern music to be programmed, including guqin music. For the invitation to NYQS, Marilyn thinks it would be appropriate to consider some time in 2008.


After a break for dinner the Society held elections. Since Yuan Jung-Ping was not available to continue actively as President, and not every position was included in the previous election, it was decided to do a complete ballot for all positions. The result of the elections was as follows,

From left to right, Terry Tse, Matthew Flannery, Chang Peiyou and John Thompson.
President - Stephen Dydo
Founding President (Honorary) – Yuan Jung-Ping
Corresponding Secretary - Marilyn Wong Gleysteen
Secretary - John Thompson
Treasurer - Matthew Flannery
Web Manager – Chang Pei-You


After a second break, this time for dessert, members played the following melodies.

Stephen Dydo

Shishang Liu Quan (Water Flowing over Rocks)

As his inaugural performance Stephen gave a demonstration of the Mach II model of his electric qin, playing Shishang Liu Quan, which he learned from Jung-Ping (a version based on the 1864 Qinxue Rumen tablature. The instrument has interesting potential, but the amplifier and loudspeaker did not seem to be up to the task. Stephen said that he will probably do some more work on the electronics to help keep down the hum in the system.

Qiu Sai Yin (Autumn on the Frontier)

Stephen next played Qiu Sai Yin, which he learned from a recording. For this he used John Thompson's silk string qin made by He Mingwei of Chengdu. There is quite a variety of usage of the names Qiu Sai Yin, Shui Xian Cao and Sao Shou Wentian. Zha Fuxi's Index considers these as separate titles, but there is quite a bit of overlap. There is some comment on Qiu Sai Yin about this on John's website at www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/23wyqp/wy18sxq.htm.

Yip Ming-Mei

Ming-Mei played and sang two qin songs, accompanying herself on Stephen's Mach II. She then played a purely instrumental piece using a silk-string by Wang Peng that Alan Berkowitz bought in Beijing last summer. This the first time other members had seen this instrument, which looks lovely and has a good mellow tone. There was considerable interest and some testing of the instrument throughout the meeting. The three melodies Ming-Mei played are introduced in previous meetings.

Fenghuang Taishang Yi Chui Xiao (from a Japanese handbook)
Gui Qu Lai Ci (as she learned it from Madame Cai Deyun [who did not sing it])
Zui Yu Chang Wan (also from Madame Cai)
Chang Pei-You

Peiyou played Yi Gu Ren according to her revisions from the recording of Wu Zhaoji (see the minutes for September 2005).

John Thompson

John used his Wang Peng banana leaf qin to play two of his recent reconstructions, both melodies coming from Xilutang Qintong (1549). He gave some introduction to each.

Lienü Yin (Admirable Woman: www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/16xltq/xl063lny.htm) John first played the melody in sections to show something of the structure. Then he played it straight through. The introduction to the melody says it was composed by Fan Ji in happiness that her husband, King Zhuang of Chu, took her advice.

Shishang Liu Quan (Springs Flowing over Rocks: www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/16xltq/xl075ssl.htm) This is the earliest surviving version of the melody played this evening by Stephen. An examination of the tablature shows a number of correspondences between the two melodies at the beginning, but these are difficult to hear. After the first two or three sections there seems to be little melodic connection between the two.


Members thanked Suzanne Smith for her hospitality. Members brought a variety of offerings, but Suzanne prepared and presented much of the food and drink.

John Thompson

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