Xiao Qu’ Er
A Suite of Little Songs from China’s Performing Arts Traditions
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Discover the colorful musical traditions of China’s Traditional Performance Arts
Travel through China to hear songs elegant and common, ancient and modern
Explore some of the more than 300 kinds of Quyi from across China
Songs of Love and Heroes and Everyday Life
Vividly Performed on Traditional Folk Instruments
A Musical Banquet of China’s Urban Popular Culture
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Internationally acclaimed composer Meng Qinghua returns following the success of his previous albums, “Dream of an Opera” I & II and “The Song of Songs” to present a program drawing upon China’s rich tradition of Quyi - Singing and Story-Telling Arts.
Meng Qinghua’s colorful and innovative compositions, performed by of some of China’s most celebrated Folk musicians brings the rich traditions of China’s Performing arts into the 21st Century.
Featuring an ensemble of 24 string soloists from China’s Best Orchestras.
Recorded by Asia’s Top Sound Engineer.
With Post-Production by World-Class German and Japanese Technicians.
Rhymoi Music triumphs once, presenting the treasures of Chinese Culture to a new generation!
“Xiao Qu’er” marks the fourth collaboration between Rhymoi Music and the talented composer, Meng Qinghua. His previous releases include the internationally acclaimed “Dream of an opera” I & II and the “The Song of Songs.” This time, Meng-Laoshi (“Laoshi” is an honorific title meaning “teacher” or “master” in Chinese) has drawn upon the rich and colorful heritage of China’s singing and narrative arts, called “Quyi.”
The word “Quyi” (meaning “Song Arts”) was first coined in the 1920s during the New Culture movement but following the founding of the People’s Republic of China was expanded to include the more than 300 different types of traditional narrative arts that have been catalogued.
Unlike traditional theatre or the many forms of local opera, Quyi is usually performed by a small ensemble, often no more than three performers, with little make-up, few stage props and no scenery. Story-tellers frequently accompany themselves with a drum and clappers or string instruments such as the Sanxian (three-string lute), Yangqin (hammered dulcimer) or Pipa (pear-shaped lute). Despite this minimalist aesthetic, a skilled master of Quyi can create a rich and colorful theatrical display that surpasses traditional opera in intimacy and emotional impact.
Despite hundreds of regional variations, Quyi can be categorized into three basic types, distinguished by the proportion of speech to song. The spoken genres include the long serialized tales known as Pingshu - 评书 (literally, “Commenting on the Book”) in northern and central China and Pinghua or ‘storytelling’ in the southeast, as well as shorter
forms like Xiangsheng - 相声 (comic dialogues) filled with word-play or cross talk between two performers. Sung forms, such as the Dagushu(Drum Song Stories) and Danxian - 单弦 (Ballads accompanied by a monochord instrument called the Danxian), constitute a second type. A third style, called Kuaibanshu (Clapper Stories) combine the melodic and rhythmic qualities of language, exaggerating them into a rhymed, quasi-melodic ‘rap’. An older form called Tanci - 弹词 (Poems accompanied by a plucked instrument) featured a rhythmic chanting alternating with passages in a characteristic heightened speech.
The classic repertoire of Quyi draws primarily upon episodes from classic novels and drama, while the contemporary works often reflect the social and political concerns of the New China. Other regional forms reflect local concerns and will often feature satirical commentary on contemporary life.
Our current program features a suite of ten pieces representing the unique folk traditions of the Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Sichuan, Dongbei, and Guangdong regions. Many of these earthy and colorful art forms are in danger of extinction, while others only survive as “tourist attractions.” It is the hope of Mr. Ye Yunchuan of Rhymoi Music and Meng Qinghua, this loving tribute to China’s lesser-known folkways will inspire a new generation of artists, musicians and scholars and music lovers to seek out, support, preserve and promote these traditions well into the 21st century.
1.Dongbei Er’ren Zhuan: Da Xi Xiang (The Great West Chamber)
Dong Bei Er Ren Zhuan developed around two hundred years ago in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia. As the name suggests, it is a two-person show. Originally, performed by two male actors (one playing the woman’s role), today female roles are generally performed by women. Performance of Dongbei is largely improvisatory, guided by the simple dramatic dictum “Sing, Say, Do, Dance.” Romantic and humorous plots are the norm for most Dongbei Er’ren Zhuan, with clever dialogue between the male and female leads emphasized. Er’ren Zhuan continues to enjoy wide popularity in north east China, where it has been up-dated to even include “rapping” contests and a somewhat more “risqué” interplay between the two performers. The traditional musical accompaniment included the Banhu (Clarinet), Suona (Oboe), Clappers and other percussion instruments.
In the story of Da Xi Xiang, Zhang Sheng and Yingying fall in love with each other, but Yingying’s mother, Ms. Cui opposes their marriage. Yingying’s servant, Hong Niang helps the lovers to arrange their private trysts. Later, Zhang goes to Beijing to take part in official selection exam and passes with flying colors. After he returns, Ms. Cui consents to their marriage. Finally the two lovers can become couple. In the present arrangement, the Banhu is used to represent the clever maidservant, Hong Niang; the Suona is used to portray the passionate young Zhang and the dignified and elegant Guzheng is used to characterize the lovely Miss Yingying.
2. Jingyun Dagu: Jiange Wen Ling
Jingyun Dagu, (also called Jingyin Dagu), originated in Hebei Province and the northeast region of China at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was developed by the singer and actor, Liu Baoquan. Jingyun Dagu features stories in the Beijing dialect, and draws upon the vocal music of Peking Opera and local Beijing folk tunes. Performances of Jingyun Dagu, generally feature the Sanxian (a three-stringed, long-necked lute), Sihu (a four-stringed bowed instrument), Pipa (another lute), Clappers and of course, the characteristic Dagu, or wooden drum.
Jingyun Dagu remained popular throughout the last century and after the founding of the People's Republic of China, made even greater strides in development, adding stories and themes reflecting contemporary life in addition to the classical repertoire.
Jiange Wen Ling tells the tragic love story of the Tang Dynasty Emperor, Ming Huang (唐明皇) and his beloved concubine, Yang Guifei (杨贵妃). In the story, Lady Yang’s adopted son, An Lu Shan (安禄山) leads a rebellion that forces the emperor and his court to flee the capital. Following the retreat, the Emperor’s troops finally munity, placing the blame for the rebellion upon the family of Lady Yang. In despair, the Emperor orders his beloved concubine to commit suicide. Opening with a clatter of percussion and the low sound of bells, the music describes the Emperor’s noble sorrow at the loss of his love.
3. Sichuan Qingyin: Bugu niaoer gugu jiao (The Hungry Cuckoo bird)
Sichuan Qingyin originated during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, reaching its current form during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1711 – 1799). Originally, used to describe any song sung in the Sichuan dialect, Sichuan Qingyin developed from the popular songs of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties as well as from local Sichuan folk songs. The extensive repertoire includes more than 100 melodies. Sichuan Qingyin is characterized by their unique performance style, which generally feature woman, sitting at a table facing the audience, accompanied by a Yueqin (a moon-shaped lute), a Pipa (another lute) and an Erhu (two-string fiddle) or other bowed instrument.
The lively interplay of the dizi, the maguhu and the plucked instruments perfectly capture the playful spirit of this traditional folk song.
4. Jingdong Dagu: Song nu shang xue (Sending the girl to school)
Jingdong Dagu originated during the middle of the Qing Dynasty in the eastern districts of Beijing and Tianjin, hence its name, “Jingdong” which means “East Beijing.” Jingdong Dagu flourished during the 1930s as a result of the performances of Liu Wenbin, who was noted for his loud, clear voice and compelling stage performances. As with other forms of Dagu, staging is minimal, usually with only a Sanxian, to accompany the singer, who also plays a wooden drum.
In this little tune from Song nu shang xue (Sending the girl to school), the elderly Zhang is packing his daughter, Gui Lan’s luggage prior to sending her on her way to school. The song’s lyrics speak of his wishes for his daughter’s future happiness, while he reminisces of their past life together.
5. Pingtan: Qing Tan (A Test of Love)
Pingtan is a generic term used to refer to any narrative singing the Suzhou dialect. Originating in the Pinghua storytelling art of the Tang and Song dynasties, Pingtan reached its maturity in the “Flower Boat” districts of Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), where local Shuo Shu (storytellers) found an enthusiastic audience among the literati that congregated there. Suzhou Pingtan can be performed solo, in duet, or as a trio with additional musicians playing Sanxian and Ban (clappers). Pingtan has proven to be highly adaptive, and has incorporated many folk tunes from other Quyi traditions of singing and storytelling. In its more than 200 years of history, Pingtan has undergone many changes and remains a popular folk art to this day.
Qing Tan (A Test of Love) tells the story of the poor scholar Wang Kui and his lover, the famous concubine Guiying. Following his passing the civil service examination, he forgets his devoted wife and marries a girl from a “respectable” family. Hearing this, Guiying falls into despair and commits suicide. Guiying’s ghost seeks out her feckless husband, and confronts him one last time. Wang Kui thinks she is still alive and draws his sword on her. With this final betrayal, Guiying reveals her true self and chains her unfaithful husband and drags him into hell. The eloquent interplay of erhu, pipa and guzheng in Meng’s arrangement perfectly capture the devotion of the ill-fated Guiying to her selfish and ambitious husband.
6. Xihe Dagu: Ling Long Ta (Linglong Tower)
Xihe Dagu, also known as Xihe Diao or Hejian Dagu, originated in central Hebei Province during the middle of the Qing Dynasty and represents one of the largest schools in the art of Dagu, (literally meaning "Big Drum"). Originally sung in the Hebei dialect, Xihe Dagu reached its final form in Tianjin in the 1920, where the original dialect was replaced by the more commonly spoken Beijing (Mandarin) dialect. A traditional performance of Xihe Dagu usually features a single performer, who stands and speaks as sings to the accompaniments of a wooden drum. Later developments included the addition of other instruments, notably the Sanxian and Ban (clappers).
Ling Long Ta (Linglong Tower) is one of the most popular songs in the Xihe Dagu repertoire. The original lyrics sing of the pagoda’s stately beauty, the sound of the wind blowing through its eaves and the devotions of the monks who live there.
7. Shandong Qinshu: Lao Shao Huan (Everybody Changes)
Shandong Qinshu originated from the narrative singing of farmers in Shandong Province during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was first called Dayang Qinde (“Playing the Boards”) in reference to the use of the flat, seven-string Qin as accompaniment. During its long history, Shandong Qinshu has undergone many changes in form, including instrumentation and frequently the participation of additional performers to contribute dialogue. True to its rural beginnings, Shandong Qinshu is characterized by its earthy humor, use of characteristic Shandong dialect, and local slang. In addition to the three major schools (representing Eastern, Northern and Southern styles), Shandong Qinshu gave rise to the development of the local Luju opera in the late 19th century.
In the Shandong Qinshu Lao Shao Huan (Everybody Changes), a greedy matchmaker tries to marry off an old woman to a handsome, young man and a lovely young girl to an elderly miser. By accident, the two young people meet and fall in love but the old man and woman sue for breech of contract. The judge is wise and sentences both couples to marry age-appropriately. The humorous final scene in court is perfectly captured by Meng Qinghua’s clever arrangement, with Banhu (two-string fiddle) and Liuqin (lute) representing the young lovers, while the strident, nasal sound of the Suona perfectly captures the objections of the eld man!
8. Guangdong (Yue) Tune: Fen Fei Yan
The name Yuequ means “Guangdong Melodies” or “Guangdong Tunes” and as one of the most popular forms of Quyi, can be found in virtually every Chinese community around the world. Yuequ first appeared during the Daoguang reign (1821-1851) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) as unstaged performances of popular scenes and arias from Cantonese opera. The performers of these pieces were called Bayinban (meaning “Eight Tone Associations”). Later, these condensed operas were adapted by blind women singers into creative solo performances, with a single singer/actor portraying all the characters of a play. For more than a century, Yuequ has proven itself to be one of the most adaptive and enduring of China’s Quyi traditions, freely drawing upon a wide range of folk songs, singing styles and even incorporating western instruments into a performance.
Fen Fei Yan is a popular Yuequ tune. The lyrics, composed by the great Song Dynasty poet Su Shi, describe the sorrow of two lovers parting. In this arrangement, composer Meng paints a tender and elegant scene of the lover’s sadness, using the intimate sound of the Dongxiao (Alto Bamboo Flute) and gentle commentary from French Horn and string orchestra to complete the twilight scene.
9. Tianjin Shidiao: Fan jiang dao hai (An Overwhelming Flood)
Tianjin Shidiao first appeared the city of Tianjin, just east of Beijing, during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties as a popular urban art form among Tianjin’s working class. The name, Shidiao means “On-time Ditty” and reflects the topical nature of many Tianjin Shidiao songs. During the early years of the 20th century professional singers of Shidiao began to appear and later, under the influence of the New Culture Movement, Tianjin Shidiao would evolve as a vital art form for expressing contemporary concerns and social commentary. The majority of Tianjin Shidiao are sung by a single performer, and are relatively short. The primary accompanying instruments are the Sanxian (a long-neck, three-string lute), a fiddle, and clappers.
Fan jiang dao hai (An Overwhelming Flood) is a received its premiere at the First National Quyi Exhibition held in 1958. The lyrics refer to the life of the hard-working people on the banks of the Haihe River in Tianjin and their aspirations for a better life in the New China.
10. Henan Zhuizi: Mu Guiying zhi lu (Mu Guying Takes Command)
Henan Zhuizi is a form Dagu ballad singing that originated in Henan during the mid- to late 19th century. The name Zhuizi derives from the name of the instrument (Zhuizixian – a bowed version of the three-string Sanxian) that the singers used to accompany themselves. Henan Zhuizi is sung in the Henan dialect and was popular throughout Henan, Shandong and Anhui provinces as well as in the cites of Tianjin and Beijing. As with many traditional folk arts, Henan Zhuizi enjoyed a certain prestige during the early years following the founding of the People’s Republic, with older tunes adapted and fitted with new lyrics, expressing the aspirations of New China.
Mu Guiying zhi lu (Mu Guying Takes Command) is a famous episode from the chronicles of the Women Generals of the Yang Family. Set during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127), the scene describes the meeting of the young warrior Yang Zongbao and the woman who will become the greatest of the China’s women generals, Mu Guying. While on his way to rescue his father, Yang becomes lost and meets Mu Guying. At first, the two warriors square off in martial competition but soon, they fall in love. Together, they join their forces and ride off to protect the motherland.
著名作曲家，创立了“伶歌”的演唱形式。在戏曲、曲艺、 歌舞、 影视音乐、歌词写作、乐队指挥等方面皆有建树。参与多种音乐艺术形式的策划 、创作、制作、指挥。是中国目前跨领域较广、技术较全面、知名度较高的一位音乐家。
About the Composer:
Meng Qinghua, is one of the most highly-regarded composers of Neo-Traditional Chinese music. Renowned for his modern orchestral re-interpretation of Chinese Theatre songs, a new musical form the composer describes as “Lingge” (literally, “Eloquent Songs”), Meng has been at the forefront of creating vital new works for the concert hall and musical stage, including the modern folk opera, “Brother, You're Heading West” and the award-winning Beijing Opera television series, “The Flaming Mountain.” Meng’s recorded works include the critically acclaimed “Dream of an Opera” (Rhymoi RXRCD 004) and “The Song of Songs” (Rhymoi RXRCD-008). Meng Qinghua is a recognized authority on the operatic and music theatre traditions of China. His colorful orchestrations, faithfulness to traditional Chinese idioms and imaginative blending of Western and Chinese instrumentation has attracted many of the outstanding young instrumental and vocal virtuosos to work with him as artistic collaborators. His music has received numerous national awards, including the Ministry of Culture’s Wenhua (“National Culture”) Music Prize and the National of the “Five-One Project” Award (an annual prize, established in 1992 to promote “the development of spiritual civilization in China” awarded to outstanding achievements in the area of drama, television productions, books and scholarship).
音乐制作人, 美国格莱美协会会员 , 创立中国声誉卓著的音乐品牌“瑞鸣音乐”，并任制作人，中国金唱片奖最佳音乐人特别奖获得者。从事音乐创作、制作多年，获海内外重要音乐媒体高度评价，部分作品被海外唱片公司收录出版，所制作的音乐作品在高端音乐市场得到较大认同，并远销海外，销售成绩斐然。担任制作人的唱片及音乐作品曾多次获“美国独立音乐大奖”“中国金唱片奖”“中华优秀出版奖”“华语音乐传媒大奖”等百余个奖项，在中国城市广播联盟评选“中国十大发烧唱片”中数次入选，作品多次入选“CD圣经”等海内外专业评比。因多年与国际音乐制作及出版行业的密切合作经历，音乐创作理念及制作手段具有国际化的开阔视角。
About the Producer:
Ye Yunchuan，Producer, composer, arranger, graphic designer, Grammy member, and the founder of one of China’s most prestigious audiophile recording labels, Rhymoi Music, Ye Yunchuan is further distinguished as the first Full Voting Member of the American Grammy Awards (The National Academy for Recording Arts and Science – NARAS) representing the Chinese music industry. He is, without any question, one of the rising stars in China’s growing music industry. Prior to his current activities, Ye established an international reputation, as a composer and producer, being awarded several American Independent Music Awards, Chinese Golden Album Awards, numerous rave reviews in CD Bible (China) in addition to being included on China City Radio Association’s “Ten Hottest Albums” roundup. Years of cooperation with international music production and publication circles has provided him with a truly global perspective. As founder of his own recording label, Rhymoi Music, he is committed to establishing new standards of excellence for recorded music in China.
Rhymoi Music recordings are immediately identifiable - with their innovative approaches to programming, world-class musical and artistic standards, beauty of presentation and packaging, cultural relevance, and their conscious desire to introduce the treasures of Chinese music to an international audience - Rhymoi Music is without peer. With his deep commitment to the traditions and national music of his homeland, Ye Yunchuan is committed to building new and ever more creative and beautiful bridges between the musical heritage of China and the musical traditions of the world. Ye Yunchuan continues to realize his vision with each new recording.
民乐弹拨四重奏：申婷 江洋 王诗雨 牛矾琼
Banhu / Maguhu / Erhu: Jiang Kemei
Erhu / Zhonghu / Gaohu: Deng Jiandong
Jinghu: Zhang Shunxiang
Guqin: Zhao Jiazhen
Xiao/ Bamboo Flutes: Dai Ya
Pipa / Zhongruan / Liuqin: Zhang Qiang
Guzheng: Chang Jing
Suona: Zhou Dongchao
French Horn: Jia Hui
Chinese Percussion: Li Congnong
Western percussion: Liu Ying
Sanxian: Wang Yu
Folk Music Plectrum Quartet: Shen Ting, Jiang Yang, Wang Shiyu, Niu Fanqiong
String Orchestra: 24 musicians from the CPO and CNSO, Huang Lijie, Concertmaster/Leader
Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Executive Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Composer and Arranger: Meng Qinghua
Recording Engineer: Li Xiaopei
Assistants Recording Engineer: Wang Heng, Lu Nannan
Chinese Copywriter: Yang Qian
English Copywriter: Joshua Cheek
Photography: Xiao Ye
Graphic Design: Total Viewfiender
Recording Venue: The 480 square Meter Recording Studio of CCTV
Mastering: JVC Technology Center (Japan), Stockfisch Records (Germany)
Produced by: Rhymoi Music. Co., Ltdwww.rhymoi.com
Copyright Statement: The music and arrangements appearing on this album have been licensed in accordance with the copyright laws of China. If there are any errors, please contact us.
Dongbei Er’ren Zhuan: Da Xi Xiang (The Great West Chamber)
Jingyun Dagu: Jiange Wen Ling
Sichuan Qingyin: Bugu niaoer gugu jiao (The Hungry Cuckoo bird)
Jingdong Dagu: Song nv shang xue (Sending the girl to school)
Pingtan: Qing Tan (A Test of Love)
Xihe Dagu: Ling Long Ta (Linglong Tower)
Shandong Qinshu: Lao Shao Huan (Everybody Changes)
8 . 广东粤曲：分飞燕
Guangdong (Yue) Tune: Fen Fei Yan
Tianjin Shidiao: Fan jiang dao hai (An Overwhelming Flood)
Henan Zhuizi: Mu Guiying zhi lu (Mu Guying Takes Command)