Music from China
Folk & Traditional Music
When listening to music from China, keep your ears open for the traditional instruments that help give it its unique sound:
dizi (or di) - side-blown bamboo flute
erhu - bowed two-string lute
pipa (or pi pa) - four-stringed plucked lute
qin (or ch'in) - seven-stringed zither
sheng - mouth organ
xiao (or dongxiao) - vertical bamboo flute
yangqin - struck box zither (i.e., hammered dulcimer or "butterfly harp")
zheng - long plucked zither
gongs, drums, bells, chimes, woodblock, etc.
|ARTIST / TITLE||CALL NUMBER|
|Cheng, Stephen Chun-Tao
Flower Drum and Other Chinese Folk Songs
|If Che 25272|
China: Chuida Wind and Percussive Instrumental Ensembles
||If Chi 4915|
|Dayan Ancient Music Association
Naxi Music from Lijiang
|If Day 11279|
||If Mon 6099 v.3|
|If Guo 2986|
Sheng: China Folk Instrumental Collection
|If Hu 34749|
China: Music of the Pipa
|If Lui 5442|
Music from the People's Republic of China: Sung and Played on Traditional
||If Chi 4902|
Spirit of Nature: Chinese Classical, Folk, Court, Minority, Silk and
||If Spi 30284|
Chinese Traditional and Contemporary Music
|If Wu 34560|
Western Classical Music
Since the early twentieth century, Western classical music has had great (and still growing) appeal in China, and many attempts have been made to combine Chinese melodies (traditionally based on pentatonic scales) with Western harmonies and tonality. This exciting combination of traditions is ongoing.
Here are some prominent contemporary Chinese or Chinese-American classical musicians.
Fan, Jing Ma
Chinese tenor Jingma Fan usually performs in Western operas, but since he wanted to present the melodies of Chinese folk music to the West, he recorded an album called Chinese Lieder with pianist Reinild Mees.
Gan-ru, Ge (1954- )
The title of this experimental composer's disc, "Lost Style," refers to his and other artists attempts to regain what was lost during the Cultural Revolution.
Huang, Ruo (1976- )
Born in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution, Huang Ruo moved to the U.S. in 1995. His cycle of chamber concertos from 2000-2002 showcases both his exciting, synthesizing approach to composition but also the talents of the International Contemporary Ensemble he helped create.
Hwang, Jason Kao (1957- )
Hwang is a composer and violinist who composed an opera about Chinatown in NY, but is also involved in jazz such as fronting the Far East Side Band, and playing with former Pittsburgher Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana.
Lang, Lang (1982- )
A rising star, this young, flamboyant pianist already has recorded a number of the piano concertos in the Western canon (Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, etc.), but has also included works by Chinese composers in his recitals.
Ma, Yo-Yo (1955- )
The most famous cellist alive today in classical music and with good reason. One of Yo-Yo Ma's most notable, recent endeavors is the Silk Road Project which brings together dozens of musicians from all over the world including numerous Chinese and Chinese-American performers and compositions.
Man, Wu (1963- )
The contemporary master of the pipa, Wu Man appears often with the Kronos Quartet, and on the Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago disc, she performs Lou Harrison's Pipa Concerto written for her. She also has recorded Tan Dun's Pipa Concerto.
Sheng, Bright (1955- )
Chinese-American Bright Sheng successfully combines Asian and Western cultures in such pieces as his Silent Temple string quartet written for the Shanghai Quartet and China Dreams.
Vanessa-Mae (1978- )
A British citizen born in Singapore to a Thai father and a Chinese mother, Vanessa-Mae has recorded a classical album, China Girl, featuring the "Butterfly Lovers" violin concerto plus a piece she composed to celebrate the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule.
Yin, Chengzong (1941- )
In true Maoist fashion, the Yellow River Piano Concerto was composed collectively by pianist Yin Chengzong and members of the Central Philharmonic of Beijing.
Their new CD, Dim Sum, is a celebration of chamber music by Chinese and Chinese-American composers.
Zhou, Long (1953- )
Many of Zhou Long's works draw inspiration from the Tang Dynasty (618 - c. 906), regarded as China's golden age for poetry and music, yet are combined with Western instrumentation. For example, both Poems from Tang and Song of the Ch'in treat a string quartet as a ch'in, the ancient Chinese zither. And his piece Soul combines the pipa with string quartet.
Finally, the album eXchange: CHINA provides a glimpse of ten more lesser-known composers of Chinese heritage.
The following streaming music databases are available to CLP cardholders.
- Smithsonian Global Sound has over 30 albums containing music from China.
- Contemporary World Music has about 70 albums of Chinese music.
- Naxos Music Library has a Chinese Music collection in its genre menu containing over 100 albums of traditional, pop, and classical music.