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MUSICIANS 1 - An old photo of a woman holding a guitar


MUSICIANS 1 - An old photo of a woman holding a guitar



John Thomson: THE theory of music was understood by the Chinese at a very early period. It is recorded in their ancient Classics, 1 that 2000 years B.C. they used six tubes to produce the sharp notes, and six for producing the fiat ones in the scale. These tubes were originally made out of reeds or bamboo. Subsequently, when they became the standard measures of the notes, they constructed them of some kind of gem. 3 These tubes, which seem to embody the first idea of the organ pipes, became in time the standards of lineal measure, as well as of sound. I have lately seen in China a small organ, said to be ancient, and in some respects resembling the description of the tubes which Dr. Legge has supplied. It has a small mouthpiece, and a series of orifices on the pipes for producing the different notes. The Laos people in the north of Siam construct a simple organ of reeds at the present day.
The Chinese have a number of plaintive and pleasing airs which they sing or perform on their string and wind instruments. They do not, however, appear to understand the principles of harmony, as a band of musicians either play in unison or produce discord ; a strife seeming to exist among the respective players as to who will get through the greatest number of notes in the shortest period of time. Bands of music are hired to dispel malignant spirits and other evil influences, and with. I should think, decided success if these spirits are endowed with musical taste, and appreciate the harmony of sound that, in the tragedy of " Macbeth," appears to have afforded Hecate and her dark sisters a fiendish delight.
" And now about the cauldron sing Like elves and furies in a ring, Enchanting all that you put in I"

The two illustrations represent the Chinese violin and guitar, with the performers, who are hired on festive occasions.

Sometimes called the "Chinese lute", the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 31. Another Chinese four-string plucked lute is the liuqin, which looks like a smaller version of the pipa. The pear-shaped instrument may have existed in China as early as the Han dynasty, and although historically the term pipa was once used to refer to a variety of plucked chordophones, its usage since the Song dynasty refers exclusively to the pear-shaped instrument. The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China. Several related instruments are derived from the pipa, including the Japanese biwa and Korean bipa in East Asia, and the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà in Southeast Asia. The Korean instrument is the only one of the three that is no longer widely used.



1870 - 1880


Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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