The instruments, once out of fashion, enjoy increasing popularity as the composer combines history with music to provide the harmony of a bygone era, reports Wang Ru.
It was a moment etched in his memory. When Liu Jing performed the sequel to The Dream of the Red Room, based on a novel of the same title written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), at Cambridge University as a member of a Chinese ensemble in 2011 something strange happened. While playing A Lovesick Knitted Brow in Vain, a tune that describes the failed love story between the two main characters Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu in the novel, an old woman sitting in the front row of the audience burst into tears. .
She was curious and asked the woman, at the end of the performance, if she had read the novel. The woman said, “No, but I just felt that the melody touched me a lot when it was created by your Chinese instrument.”
The experience was one of the inspirations that prompted Liu to promote traditional Chinese music and instruments. Many years later, the 30-something woman promoted a series of original music videos featuring traditional Chinese stories and “relayed” by Chinese instruments with her online name Liu Qingyao. They have become extremely popular.
With his parents, keen on traditional Chinese culture, Liu learned the pipa, a Chinese four-string lute, at the age of 5. She was admitted to a children’s orchestra after passing a test while in primary school, and had the opportunity to participate in many competitions and visit many foreign countries to give performances in as a member of the orchestra.
According to Liu, the frequent performances and the experience of competing sharpened his pipa skills. âFrom the fourth grade of elementary school to high school, I often did my homework while traveling to other countries for many weekends and holidays,â says Liu.
This high-intensity exercise did not end when Liu was admitted to Nanjing University for her major in English, as she became a member of her Chinese ensemble.
After graduating with a master’s degree in history from Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2012, she found employment with internet giant Tencent in the entertainment business and gained experience in marketing.
âAt that time, the internet business was growing rapidly and I learned a few marketing tips. The one that impressed me the most was that we had to combine hot topics and our strength to promote our own works, âsays Liu.
So she started to use folk instruments to play popular music, but soon gave up as she found the structure of pop music not suitable for traditional Chinese instruments. In 2019, she decides to make original Chinese music and display it as short videos.
âI want to make more people aware of traditional Chinese instruments. Then, I want to make more people appreciate Chinese music created by such instruments,â Liu said.
She designed a series of videos called “The Chinese People’s Musical Instrument”. A representative work of the series is Prelude to the Konghou of Li Ping, a short video based on a homonymous poem written by poet Li He in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The poem portrays royal court musician Li Ping’s splendid mastery in playing the konghou, an ancient plucked string instrument that has died out, but has been recreated by modern techniques and is again played by musicians.
In the video, Liu wears Tang-style clothing and performs his original music with a konghou, like a scene shown in a mural in the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. As she collaborates with Dunhuang Academy in this work, she also shows images of konghou on Dunhuang murals in the video.
“In the poem, the poet compares the music of Li Ping created by konghou to the sound of the jade breaking on the Kunlun mountains and the cry of the phoenix. Although many people learned this poem in school, they did not don’t know what it actually looks like, so I want to show them, âLiu said.
The video was chosen by many Chinese teachers to show it in their classrooms to help students better understand Tang Dynasty poems.
The series also includes a short video showing images of music and dance on the Mogao Caves mural, in which it displays the original music created by ancient instruments that most commonly appear on Dunhuang murals, such as the pipa, konghou, flute and lianhuaruan. (a plucked string instrument that looks like a lotus).
To make this work, Liu made several field trips to Dunhuang and learned many touching stories in Dunhuang. âI try to express what I feel about Dunhuang in the form of music, and I hope to bring people to the place where they listen to this music,â says Liu.
To make her videos more engaging, she also learned other art forms like dance and drama. Based on this, she made a series of videos showing war heroes from Chinese history, trying to show a glorious moment in the life of each hero.
For example, she made Prince Lanling in Battle, a work about Gao Changgong, or the Prince of Lanling of the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577), who led around 500 warriors to end the siege of Jinyong, an important city. , against about 100,000 enemy soldiers in 564 and achieved a famous victory.
“It is said that Gao later received a cup of poisoned wine from his cousin, the emperor, who suspected that Gao would someday overthrow him and died. So I want to show a glorious moment in his life, the moment when he just drank the poisoned wine and in retrospect his life before death, âLiu said.
“I guess at the time what he had in mind was not political tactics, but the moment when he led the soldiers to fight courageously for their country,” she adds.
She shows the story in the video, in which she plays Gao drinking wine, while musician Wang Jia’nan plays Gao who was on the battlefield in her imagination. Liu and Wang play several types of drums and pipa to create the feeling of a fierce fight. Finally, with the mighty sound of a drum, Gao, played by Liu, falls to the ground and dies.
âI am incorporating some dramatic elements into the video. The clothes and decorations shown in the video are made strictly from pottery figurines and murals unearthed from the tomb of Emperor Gao Yang, an uncle of Gao Changgong. “
The video has received nearly 10 million views on the internet. âI am amazed by the combination of pipa and drums. When I listen to this music, I am brought back to the battlefield, as if I saw many horsemen rushing forward and listening to the sound of battle drums, halberds, hooves and screams, “says Yunxi, a user. of the Chinese online video sharing platform Bilibili.
According to Liu Hongbo, a work assistant to Liu Jing, high standards and vision are essential. âDue to her immense love for traditional music, Liu Jing has high standards for her works and has devoted a lot of time and effort to each one. She hopes that the culture of traditional music can spread to more people in the modern age with the help of the Internet. “
According to Liu Jing, his visits to many museums and historical sites have given him many inspirations in the creation of his works.
“In the future, I wish to cooperate with more museums and try to tell the stories of cultural relics in my musical works, so that people appreciate the beauty of Chinese music and cultural relics and appreciate Chinese culture,” said said Liu Jing. .
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