drumming and blowing


drumming and blowing
(guchui, chuida)
Traditional ensemble music
‘Drumming and blowing’ (guchui) is the most common Chinese term for this genre of ensemble music, though in some regions it is also called ‘blowing and hitting’ (chuida). Although stringed instruments, such as plucked lutes (pipa, sanxian) and fiddles (huqin) may also be included in the ensemble, especially in those of the southern regional styles, percussion (drums, gongs and cymbals) and winds (shawms, reed pipes, bamboo flutes and mouth organs) are predominant. Guchui has a very long history. It appeared in the early Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). At that time, guchui was military music played for marching and processional activities. Subsequently, it was used as entertainment music in the palace. After the thirteenth century, Buddhist monks, Daoist priests and lay musicians started to play guchui. Nowadays, guchui ensembles are popular throughout China. Guchui can be divided into two subcategories: cuchui (loud blowing) and xichui (soft blowing). Usually, the first category, led by shawm (suona) or double reed-pipe (guanzi), is used at outdoor performances; the second is a mellower sounding type, led by flutes (dizi), and used in indoor sitting performances. Musicians perform guchui in wedding and funeral processions, as well as at banquets, harvest celebrations or simply as entertainment. The most important genres of guchui in contemporary China are: Xi’an drum music (Xi’an guyue), ‘Beijing music’ (Beijing yinyue), ‘Shanxi eight great suites’ (Shanxi badatao), Central Hebei wind music (Jizhong guanyue), Shifan gong-drum music (see Shifan (Shifan gu, Shifan luogu)) of Jiangsu province, and Great Chaozhou Gong and Drum Music (Chaozhou daluogu) of eastern Guangdong province.
The musical materials of contemporary guchui repertory are adopted not only from traditional pieces of dynastic China, but also from folksongs, dance music sources, regional narrative song and opera. These are commonly divided into two parts: qupai and luogu paizi. Qupai (named songs/labelled melodies), written in gongche notation, are melodic pieces played mainly by wind instruments; luogu paizi (gong-drum sections) recorded in ‘onomatopoeic notation’ (luogujing), are played by percussion. In performance, pieces are commonly organized in extended suites, known as taoshu or taoqu. These are long forms constructed of different qupai and luogu paizi.
Suite organization is quite similar throughout the whole country, beginning with a slow, free-metred prelude, followed by a longer main section of many pieces successively performed at slow, moderate and fast tempos, and concluding with a short coda. In the suites of some regional genres, several luogu paizi sections are organized into a long movement called ‘percussion movement’ (guduan).
The texture of guchui, like traditional music in other ensembles, is heterophonic. Musicians decorate the same basic melody in different ways, according to the idiom of each instrument. Usually, the leading melodic instruments (guanzi, shawm or bamboo flute) play the basic melody. The mouthorgans play the same melody, together with the upper fifth (and sometimes octave) note above each pitch, and maintain constant motion. The role of other melodic instruments is to embellish the melody and make it richer and more colourful. The drum is the leading instrument in the percussion, while the gongs and cymbals are also very important. The theory of music and its role in ritual (li and yue) is a central idea in Confucian philosophy. Until today, guchui performance has been linked to ritual. Its repertory has been formulated into types according to programmatic functions. The sad compositions known as ‘weeping pieces’ (kuqu) are performed especially at funerals. A joyful repertory known as ‘jubilant pieces’ (xiqu) is played at weddings and birthday celebrations. Usually, ensembles of monks and priests play for funerals and lay musicians play for weddings. Among them, lay musicians belong to the lowest social class. The term for them is ‘blowing-and-drumming men’ (chuigushou). On the other hand, monks and priests are considered to be ‘high status musicians’.
Du, Yaxiong (2002). ‘Ritual Music in the North China Village: The Continuing Confucian and Buddhist Heritage’. PhD diss., University of British Columbia.
Liang, Mingyue (1985). Music of the Billion. New York: Heinrichshofen.
Miao, Tianrui et al. (eds) (1985). Zhongguo yinyue cidian [Dictionary of Chinese Music]. Beijing: Renming yinyue chubanshe.
DU YAXIONG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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