NYQS Meeting, 22 July 2006

On Saturday afternoon 22 July 2006 the Society held a meeting at the home of Bo Lawergren. The meeting was attended by the following members and guests.

Stephen Dydo
Matthew Flannery
Bo Lawergren
John Thompson
Yip Ming-Mei
Elaine Sheng
Guests were
Sam Jamier
BC Vermeersch
Tomoko Sugawara
The meeting included the following presentations.

Bo Lawergren

Bo spoke of two harps that he had on display,

1, The first (see http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/museums/shm/shmpazyryk.html) was the copy Bo made about 25 years ago of the "Pazyryk harp", which was one of a number of objects "excavated beginning in the 1920s from the sixth-fourth century BCE graves in the Pazyryk region of the Altai Mountains", near where China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation meet. Its strings run diagonally in a manner similar to that of old Assyrian and traditional Burmese harps. The strings were apparently made from sinew (similar to but stronger than gut). Its original tuning is unknown.

2, The second was a Japanese reproduction of a Chinese konghou harp in the Shoso-In Museum, Nara, Japan. It was made by Mr. Liu Hong-Jun, a long-time Chinese resident of Japan. There are two such konghou in the Shoso-In. The reproduction here was based on one with tuning pegs vaguely similar to those on a violin; its date is thought to be around 752 CE. The other, uses tuning collars. Details of these konghou (called kugo in Japanese) can be found in a catalogue: HAYASHI Kenz˘, KISHIBE Shigeo, TAKI Ry˘ichi, and SHIBA Sukehiro, Musical Instruments in the Sh˘s˘in (Tokyo, 1967).

Tomoko Sugawara plays konghou.

Tomoko Sugawara

Ms. Sugawara is a modern classical harpist (she showed us one of her CDs, "Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms", Victor PRC 9-5219) who also plays many other types of harp. For us she played several pieces on Liu's reproduced konghou, two by Stephen Dydo, one by Robert Lombardo.

Stephen's work is based on a transnotation into Western staff notation made in the 1970s by Rembrandt Wolpert from a tablature for 5-stringed lute for the melody Wang Zhaojun (named for a woman in the Han imperial seraglio who was married off to a Xiongnu-prince). The tablature is contained in a manuscript-scroll known as the Gogen-fu (tablature for 5-strings), classified in Japan as an Important Cultural Property, and held now in the Yoomei Bunko in Kyooto. Rembrandt transnotated the entire scroll as part of his doctoral work (1975). These transnotations were then published unchanged in an article "A ninth-century score for five-stringed lute" in Musica Asiatica 3 (1981). The Gogen-fu survives as a ca. 11th century copy, based on original materials of the 8th to 9th centuries, likely of Tang origin. The original tablature had rather bare ornamentation. Stephen made three adaptations of this transcription for Cheng Yu's recreation of the 5-string pipa , one without ornamentation, one with ornamentation according to our understanding of Tang dynasty ornamentation practice from Togaku sources , one with a more modern ornamentation style. Stephen re-did his transcriptions so that Tomoko could play them on the konghou. Having only received the final version of the transcription the night before, she nevertheless played all three adaptations with aplomb.

The work by Robert Lombardo was written in 2004 at the request of Bo. It is called Haikugo: Three Pieces for Kugo.

Members enjoyed very much these melodies, as well as some improvisation Tomoko then did on the Pazyryk harp.

Original Gogen tablature for the piece Soomeiraku (Chungming yue)

List of contents of Gogen-fu.

Stephen Dydo and Yip Ming-Mei

On July 16th from 1 to 5 PM the Hammond Museum in North Salem, New York, held its annual Asian Arts Festival. Stephen and Mingmei performed guqin and taiqi there outdoors, at the entrance to the festival, then later give a short recital inside.

First the tables and chairs were moved so that Ming-Mei could do taiqi while Stephen accompanied her by playing Pingsha Luoyan. Ming-Mei adapted her taiqi movements to better fit the rhythm of the melody as Stephen played it. Stephen said that at the Hammond he used his electric qin for this. Stephen next played Yangguan Sandie, while Ming-Mei sang the lyrics.

This was followed by a food break

John Thompson.
John Thompson

John played Yao Tian Sheng He (http://www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/16xltq/xl096yts.htm) and Xing Tan (http://www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/16xltq/xl034xt.htm) from the Xilutang Qinpu (1549). For most surviving old guqin songs, if there are lyrics, they go for the whole song, and are applied to a rather strict formula of one character for each right hand stroke and left hand pluck, with no characters applied to left hand ornaments. Xilutang Qintong uses this method, but it also includes half a dozen melodies with lyrics applied to only one or two verses. Xing Tan is one such melody: it has 11 sections, with only the 10th section having lyrics. John discovered that several other pieces in this handbook have song-like sections with no lyrics, but to which lyrics could be easily applied according to the traditional formula, or an adaptation of that formula. One such melody is Yao Tian Sheng He, in 9 sections. The theme of the melody is Wangzi Qiao achieving immortality on the top of a mountain in the Songshan range, then flying off on a crane. 8th section has a melody that is easily adapted to lyrics from the Yuefu Shiji that concern this Wangzi Qiao story, so when John plays this melody he often sings the lyrics, as he did here.

This was followed by a discussion of qin songs, with John suggesting that perhaps the reason so many qin songs were published towards the end of the Ming dynasty was connected to many families having their daughters study qin. Qin songs seemed to be particularly popular amongst women players. John has information on qin songs and women on his website at http://www.silkqin.com/05poet/qinci.htm and http://www.silkqin.com/01mywk/themes/women.htm.

John also spoke about the work on making a recording room in his basement. The room is now pretty well sealed with acoustic materials, but is not really sound proof.

Yip Ming-Mei.
Yip Ming-Mei

Ming-mei then played three melodies, the latter two being qin songs.

Wu Ye Wu Qiu Feng (Leaves Dancing in the Autumn Wind): This melody is quite similar to its earliest surviving version, in Qinxue Xinsheng (1664),

Queqiao Xian (Immortals of Magpie Bridge): Mingmei wrote this music to accompany lyrics by the Song dynasty poet Qin Guan (1049 - 1100; there is a translation in Songs of the Immortals, p. 217 )

Xiangjian Huan (Joyful Encounter): Mingmei wrote this song using lyrics attributed to the last emperor of the Southern Tang dynasty, Li Yu (937 - 978; there is a translation in Songs of the Immortals, p.170, Joy of Meeting)

Stephen Dydo

Stephen played his version of Meihua Sannong. He also spoke of a qin recital he did in England at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shoreham, Sevenoaks, Kent. The performance was in conjunction with an exhibition by the artist Susan Haire. Stephen's concert was in three parts: the first used a silk string qin, the second a metal-string qin, and the third an electric qin. He felt that the gradual increase in intensity was very successful as a tool for drawing audiences into ancient qin music. At the same time, the fact that Susan Haire produced many of her paintings in the show while listening to recordings of qin music provided by Stephen gave an avenue for his delineating some of the relationships between qin playing and painting and calligraphy in traditional Chinese culture, as exemplified by Susan's paintings.

Stephen Dydo.
Possible China trip

There was some discussion of a conference scheduled for 16 - 20 October 2006 in Beijing; it is entitled "The Week of Qin Music Culture - With Memory of the Qin Master Wu Jinglue"; details at http://qin.ccom.edu.cn/ .

There was some discussion amongst members about taking part. John said his paper "12 Bar Blues as a structure for new qin music" had been accepted. He then played a few examples of his blues, as can be heard on his website at http://www.silkqin.com/06hear/sound/new.htm
(Since then information has come that this conference will be followed immediately by another one in Chengdu in honor of Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun.)

Annual Meeting

There was a discussion of possible dates for the next annual meeting. Currently the major possibility seems to be the Greenwich House Music School, perhaps in March 2007, i.e., shortly after Chinese New Year.

Upcoming events

Stephen mentioned two upcoming events for the society. He had previously informed members of these possibilities as follows:

August 27 or 28:
We have scheduled a visit by Wu Zhongxian, a qigong master as well as qin specialist. His website is <http://www.masterwu.net/music.html>. He has developed a synthesis of qigong and guqin music which he calls
qinxin, so this should be a unique opportunity to explore the relationship of qin and qi in a new context. Wu will then be en route from China to Portland. We will gather for tea and qin playing.

September 2:
We will have a visit from Jim Binkley (see http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~jrb/chin/index.html). Jim (who was a roommate of John Thompson in Taiwan) is one of two qin builders in North America (or perhaps one of three, counting Bo), the translator of Yuguzhai qinpu (see his website), and an interesting qin player. This will, with luck, coincide with the return to the Western hemisphere of Yuan Jungping, whom we all very much wish to welcome back to New York.


Members thanked Bo Lawergren for his hospitality and congratulated themselves for keeping the meeting to a reasonable length.

John Thompson

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