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September 24, 2009

Lin Shicheng & Gao Hong - Hunting Eagles Catching Swans (Music For Chinese Pipa)

For any of you who enjoyed The Mystery Album, here's some more music you're likely to like, and which will help you figure out just what that album is, if you haven't already. It also happens to be one of the very best pipa albums on the market. Evenly split between lyrical 'literate' pieces and aggressive 'military' pieces, it never fails to evoke. Chinese classical music paints pictures and tells stories through a beguiling mixture of tone, tempo, texture, and timbre. And for anyone who thinks that dissonance is a creation of 20th-Century music, think again. Some of these pieces are 2500 years old, and incorporate some of the harshest sounds I've ever heard produced by a stringed instrument. And yet, at the same time the dissonance serves a purpose and never sounds out-of-place. So listen up, Schönberg, Webern, Berg, et. all (and contemporary noise-rockers too): dissonance can be both meaningful, evocative, and even beautiful, if it's done right. Leave it to the folk tradition. This is what I'm talking about when I've said (in a previous post) that this is the sort of music John Fahey or Robbie Basho would wet their pants over.

Don't believe me? Well, have you ever heard of Wu Man? No, not Woman, 'Wu Man'. World-famous pipa-player who's performed with the Kronos Quartet and symphony orchestras all around the world, had compositions dedicated to her by the likes of Tan Dun and Lou Harrison. Well, Lin Shicheng was her teacher, and she wasn't even his best student! (this is not to detract from her excellence. I saw her perform recently and it was astounding). Anyway, as if needed, here are some more quote-incentives for you to try this album:

"...such excellent performances...They allow us to enjoy not only the distinguished Pudong pipa style, but also the beauty of traditional Chinese music in general"
- Journal of the Association for Chinese Music Research

" of the finest pipa CDs to appear in recent years...Magnificent playing, truly radiant..."
- Journal of the European Foundation for Chinese Music Research

"This splendid collection of virtuosi pipa playing is highly recommended."
- Sing Out!

“Whether you're already familiar with the Chinese pipa or are looking to discover something new, this gorgeous album, "Hunting Eagles Catching Swans," performed by the definitive master of the Pudong style, Lin Shicheng, and his best student, Gao Hong, is a perfect opportunity to soak in the beauty of this music. With extreme delicacy and agility, finesse and energy, this instrument mesmerizes and enchants. The completeness of its voice is honorably represented by these two brilliant and passionate performers. A most notable album.” - CD Baby

Lin Shicheng (林石城; 1922-2006), born in Shanghai, began learning music under his father and was taught by Shen Haochu (沈浩初; 1899–1953), a leading player in the Pudong (浦东) school style of pipa playing. He also qualified as a doctor of Chinese medicine. In 1956, after working for some years in Shanghai, Lin accepted a position at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

Gao Hong, a Chinese musical prodigy and master of the pear-shaped lute, the pipa, began her career as a professional musician at age 12. She graduated with honors from China's premier music school, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she studied with the great pipa master Lin Shicheng. In both China and the U.S. Gao has received numerous top awards and honors, including First Prize in the Hebei Professional Young Music Performers Competition and an International Art Cup in Beijing. In 2005 Gao Hong became the first traditional musician to be awarded the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship, and in 2008 she became the only musician in any genre to win three McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians.
official website:

Chinese music is basically pentatonic-diatonic, meaning that the basic pentatonic scale can change pitch within a diatonic context. Most of the compositions are stunning pentatonic with diatonic/ brilliant passing tones.

Lin Shicheng & Gao Hong - Hunting Eagles Catching Swans (Music For Chinese Pipa)

Pipa (Chinese lute) music in the Pudong style, famous for its wide variety of note-bending techniques and demanding score performed by the definitive master of Pudong, Lin Shicheng, and his best student, Gao Hong.

1. Three Six (San Liu)
(Pipa Duet, Gao Hong, Pipa part 1, Lin Shicheng, Pipa part 2)
*unexpedtedly, this track cuts short. cd scratch?

2.Autumn Thoughts (Qiu Si)
(Lin Shecheng solo)

3. Dragon Boat (Long Chuan)
(Gao Hong solo)

4. Chen Xingyuan Placates the Tribesmen (Chen Xingyuan He Fan)
(Gao Hong solo)

5. King Xiang Yu Takes Off His Armor (Ba Wang Xie Jia)
(Gao Hong solo)

6. Xing Jie Si He
(Pipa Duet, Lin Shicheng, Pipa part 1, Gao Hong, Pipa part 2)
* this one had a scratch on it and ends abruptly

7. The Ambush in All Directions (Shi Mian Fu)
(Lin Shicheng solo)

8. Wild Geese Alighting on the Sandy Beach (Ping Sho Luo Yan)
(Gao Hong solo)

9. Hunting Eagles Catching Swans (Hai Qing Na Tian E)
(Lin Shicheng solo)

duelling pipas.
mr | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ booklet scans | 94mb

and if you like this, wait'll you hear the Hugo Masters!

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