Newsletter No. 380

No. 380, 19.6.2011 3 What is An Anthology of North and South Ci Music in Nine Modes about ? What is its value? In 1742, the Qing court set up a music bureau where musicians were told to transform over 4,400 poems written to tune ( ci) into traditional Chinese notation. They included the ballads of the Song and Yuan dynasties, as well as the melodies and lyrics of opera, Southern drama and poetic drama set to music of the Yuan and Ming dynasties. In 1746, their painstaking efforts culminated in an 82-scroll book titled An Anthology of North and South Ci Music in Nine Modes (hereafter referred to as Nine Modes ), and this encyclopaedia of Chinese vocal music or folk music survived to this day. What kinds of music are included in Nine Modes ? It was the heyday of kunqu when Nine Modes was compiled. So, most of the scores in the tome belong to kunqu , a performing art originating in the district of Kunshan near Suzhou, in modern Jiangsu Province and dating back to the 14th century. What notation system is used in Nine Modes ? The notation system used in Nine Modes is called gongche notation, which uses Chinese characters to represent pitches on the musical scale and the rhythmic framework. If one can read gongche notation, is one able to sing the tunes included in Nine Modes ? According to Prof. Yu Siu-wah, director of the Chinese Music Archive, CUHK, there is always a considerable distance between actual performances and what is notated in gongche notation. Mr. Koo Siu-sun, one of the editors of An Anthology of Annotated North and South Ci Music in Nine Modes: A Critical Edition with Commentary (referred hereafter to as Critical Edition ) and an expert in kunqu studies, said, ancient Chinese composers usually wrote only the skeleton of the melodies and left the details to the discretion of singers. To give a virtuoso rendition of a melody, singers have to study classic texts about kunqu singing and learn from competent masters. Why is numbered musical notation used for translation? It is used for the sake of popularization. According to Mr. Koo, numbered musical notation originated in Western stave notation and first appeared during the Chinese New Culture Movement in the late 1910s. In the 1950s, the Chinese opera community developed a revised numbered musical notation system tailor-made for their needs. It has been getting more and more popular in the past 50 years. Today, some new-generation Chinese opera performers are completely ignorant of gongche notation. Can numbered musical notation replace completely the original gongche notation? The current numbered musical notation system still cannot represent certain minutiae of the art of Chinese opera singing. Mr. Wang Zhenglai took this into account when doing the translation. So, there is an explanation of the techniques of kunqu singing in the book, as well as notes or remarks in different parts to remind readers of the limitations. Who was Mr. Wang Zhenglai? Mr. Wang was a famous kunqu scholar and senior lecturer of the Jiangsu Drama School. He entered the Jiangsu Academy of Theatre Art to learn kunqu opera performance in 1959 and dedicated himself to the study of the theories of this performing art since 1977. When teaching at the Jiangsu Drama School, he produced a myriad of teaching materials for kunqu education. He also composed melodies for ancient and modern poems. What principles did Wang Zhenglai follow when translating the tunes? According to Ms. Cheung Lai-chun, a student of Mr. Wang and one of the editors of Critical Edition , the tome was aimed at faithfully showing how those melodies were like in the days when Nine Modes was compiled. Prof. Yu Siu- wah said, ‘With his profound knowledge about kunqu , Mr. Wang used the method of yizixingqiang (determining the melody of a song by the phonetic tones of its lyrics). This involves a certain degree of reconstruction and re- creation, but is definitely not ungrounded creation. It is an interpretation based on the musical elements of kunqu , with which he was extremely familiar.’ How can a person who can’t read numbered musical notation appreciate the beauty of these tunes? Thanks to Mr. Koo Siu-sun’s effort, a set of DVDs has also been released with the tome. The DVDs contain 20 selected melodies sung by Mr. Zhao Jian, famous kunqu performer on the mainland, and Ms. Cheung Lai- chun and Ms. Chen Chunmiao, kunqu researchers in Hong Kong, with a musical accompaniment provided by Mr. Wang Jiannong, flautist at the Jiangsu Kunqu Opera Troupe, and other young musicians. With these DVDs, the soundless texts in the book have become more audible and comprehensible. 甚麼叫「增點小眼」和「潤腔」? 崑曲音樂的節奏,以「板眼」呈示。在《九宮》的工尺譜中, 只有板和中眼,對於一般唱者,難以掌握適當的行腔節 奏。在譜字旁加點了「小眼」,即「頭眼」和「末眼」,便能 清晰地展示出準確的行腔,使曲譜變得「實用」。 潤腔是對腔句內某一個音的華彩修飾,其性質屬於「口風、 唱法」中的內容;如「橄欖腔」,就是一種修飾長音的唱 法;又,例如南曲中入聲字要用「斷腔」唱出,若接着還有 下行的長音,便可將該音「潤」作「擻腔」,令旋律更豐富 優美。 如果讀者看不懂簡譜,怎樣才可以欣賞這些優 美的曲子? 多得崑曲研究家古兆申先生的策劃,從《新定九宮大成南 北詞宮譜譯註》所載曲譜中,選取了解二十支單曲(南曲八 支、北曲十二支),另散套與劇套各一,邀得國內著名崑曲 表演藝術家趙堅先生、本港崑曲研究者張麗真女士、陳春 苗等曲唱示範,江蘇省崑劇院崑曲笛子演奏家王建農先生 暨多位青年演奏員伴奏,錄成光盤,配合出版,賦予這份 無聲的文獻更豐盛的生命力,活現在二十一世紀現代人的 面前。 T he late kunqu scholar Wang Zhenglai (1948–2003) laboured for 10 years to translate single-handedly traditional Chinese notation in An Anthology of North and South Ci Music in Nine Modes into a modern system prevalent in mainland China—numbered musical notation. Mr. Wang also provided annotations to enhance reader’s understanding of traditional Chinese music. The Chinese Music Archive of the CUHK has turned Mr. Wang’s labours into a book published by The Chinese University Press—the nine-volume, 6,740-page An Anthology of Annotated North and South Ci Music in Nine Modes: A Critical Edition with Commentary . The spirit of ancient Chinese tunes has been revived, and this is a feat of which all lovers of music, Chinese or otherwise, should be proud.