Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anthology of World Music: China

This is another entry in a stellar series of traditional world music reissued by Rounder Records from originals produced by the International Music Council and the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation, edited by the institute's founder Alain Danielou and Ivan Vandor and done as a tribute to Danielou's long work in documenting indigenous music.  Vandor, who succeeded Danielou as director of the institute, continued the work of issuing the recordings, which comprised fifty albums released between 1968 and 1987.

The album consists of seven selections for the pipa (four-string lute--already focused on in this blog with the work of the great Wu Man); the zheng (a 16-string zither); the qin (a 7-string zither) and the xiao (a bamboo flute.)  The recording is bookended by the two lengthier tracks (which this blogger most enjoyed), the Haiqing na tian'e (Haiqing Seizing the Swan) and Guangling San (The Song of Guangling.)  But, all the pieces are excellent and highly enjoyable, reflecting the long tradition of Chinese classical music.

The 29-page booklet includes a general essay on Chinese music, including vocal music, as well as the three stringed instruments heard on the recording, commentary on each piece and biographies of the performers.  These latter include Chen Zeming on pipa; Li Tingsong, also on pipa; Ding Boling on zheng; Guan Pinghu on qin; Zha Yiping on xiao; Fu Xuezhai, also on qin; and Wu Wenguang on qin.  Some of them were born in the 1890s and 1900s and others are from a generation or so later.  The performances are striking and, while the sound quality is not likely to please audiophiles, it is hard to argue with the sheer beauty of the playing.

In addition to this great recording, others in the series will follow on Tibetan Buddhist music, Iranian classical music, and a 4-CD compendium of the music of North India.  Rounder, a label founded by three university students in 1970 and which was bought by the Concord Music Group in 2010, deserves a great deal of credit for reissuing this valuable and amazing music.

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