There’s something mystical about Chinese music that makes it instantly distinctive, and almost other-worldly. The constraints of the Western ticking metronome and bar lines, whether that’s in medieval choral music or a four to the floor dance beat, are blatantly disregarded for something which often straddles the line between melody and meditation.
According to Confucius (yep, him again, somehow he managed to be a master musician as well as everything else, the man’s a time traveller – I’m planning a whole post about him sometime in the New Year), music should ‘induce tranquility and facilitate the appropriate behaviour’ for polite living. Music isn’t meant to make you dance, or induce any passionate feelings, but make you behave like you should. It doesn’t therefore make sense to have a regular rhythm or beat to make you move to, it should just be smooth, continuous, and overall (my favourite word to say, ever) with a healthy dose of zen.
The image of a river was a powerful one for Confucius. It may dramatic waterfalls, or run quickly sometimes, but it never does this immediately. It flows, and has a tranquility about it. You can get immersed in it, and it will carry you along. The music of Imperial China took very much after their wildlife, you could say. Compare this with the first technique you learn for piano exams – the terraced, fast moving, scale.
But now, Chinese music has the full breadth of the ethereal oriental traditions and the fast moving melody of the West. The mix of the two has been broadly utilised to create an endless variety of new, hybrid music.
I’ve been thinking a lot about when the time is to write a post on Christmas, and I decided on December 12 as the optimal time – so see you next week, when we can get festive!
Things I’ve learned this week:
- Confucius was definitely a time traveller
- I may or may not have written this post just to write the word zen.
- Jump into the music and let it bring you along – or fall down the stairs of scale practice
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