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Voice of the Pipa


Voice of the Pipa

Listen to #1:
"A Bride Beyond the Great Wall"
realaudio download

Listen to #1:
"A Bride Beyond the Great Wall"
DSL/Cable realaudio stream

* this is a 96 kHz recording


MA is proud to present the first recording of Pipa virtuoso Jiang Ting outside of China !

Jiang Ting/Voice of the Pipa

With a history of more than 2000 years, the Chinese Pipa is one of that culture`s oldest and most elegant instruments. When first seen in China, (having arrived from India by way of the Silk Road sometime during the Han and Tang Dynasties), the Pipa, being a plucked instrument, was verbally described to sound like ?pi~pa~pi~pa.?.

Originally round, the Pipa was a highly regarded instrument of the court. Over the centuries however, with influence from Iran, the current pear shape evolved and the Pipa became more widely accepted and heard in entertainment and ritual genres outside the court.

While the four strings, tuned A D E A, were originally made of silk, the modern 3 octave Pipa uses steel strings, allowing for more projection and volume. The number of frets has increased over the years, the most common Pipa now having 26 frets and 6 ledges. The frets are very deeply cut, allowing for the player to bend notes by depressing the strings, as opposed to bending them sideways as in western guitar performance. The modern player, almost always female, uses her nails, (now almost always artificial) in performance techniques that have evolved over the centuries to include 1) Backward and forward four finger tremolo strumming 2) Harmonics 3) Pizzicato 4) Fretted pitch bending

The shallow body of the Pipa is made of hollowed out, varnished teak, while the soundboard is made of wutong wood (firmiana plantanifolia). There are two tuning pegs on each side of the neck, the top of which is almost always carved, depicting a flower, dragon head, phoenix tail, bat or other abstract design. In contemporary performance, the Pipa is perpendicularly placed on the left part of the seated performer`s lap, while the neck and head are positioned close to the performers left ear. More ancient practice dictates a more horizontal positioning of the instrument.

Of Chinese heritage, Jiang Ting was born in Inner Mongolia in the beginning of the 1970`s. Her Pipa studies commenced when she was seven years old, her first teacher being her mother. At the age of ten, she went alone to Beijing to continue her studies, starting in the primary school associated with the Central State Conservatory. In 1996 she won first prize in the national Pipa performance contest, receiving her Conservatory graduation certificate in 1997. Since July 1997, Jiang Ting been living in Japan where she has performed with orchestras, on television and continues to concertise throughout the country.

?Voice of the Pipa? is Jiang Ting`s first recording outside of China, where her debut was released in the late 1990`s. The project was recorded in a small church, ?Chiesa di S. Colombano? in the mountains outside the beautiful city of Lucca, in the Toscana region of Italia.

Explainations of the Pieces:

"A Bride Beyond the Great Wall" (ancient traditional) This old piece is based on the famous story of Wang Zhaojun, a woman who lived during the Han dynasty who was sent to 'Sai-wai' (the northern frontier beyond the Great Wall) to marry for political reasons, with a king of the nomadic 'Xiongnu' tribe. Wang Zhaojun is famous as one of the 'Four Beauties' of ancient China and was also very good at playing the pipa. The story goes that she missed her family and played the pipa every night, longing for her hometown. The tune deeply expresses the loneliness she experienced during her life in cold 'Sai-wai.'

"Pleading" - from "Ballad of Pipa" (composed by Wu Houyuan) A long epic poem, "Ballad of Pipa" is a masterpiece by Bai Juyi who lived during the Tang dynasty. This ancient tale depicts an old woman who was once famous for her pipa performance in the Emperor's Court, However, her status is diminished and she deplores her own existence while solemnly playing her pipa alone. Bai Juyi, who was in the depths of political despair, associated her music with her own life. Wu Houyuan was deeply impressed by this poem and composed "Pleading." Mr. Wu, an accomplished pipa player, was quite successful in utilizing the pipa's characteristic technique in this work.

"The Spirit of Calligraphy" (composed by Chen yi) This is a modern pipa composition written in the late 20th century. Ms. Chen tries expressing the spirit of Chinese calligraphy thru completely different artistic measures - pipa music. 'Kai-shu,' a type of Chinese calligraphy, consists of eight ways of writing with the Calligrapher's brush holding, raising, suspending, subduing, softening, strengthening, unhurrying, and hurrying. Each of these writing "features" is expressed through various playing techniques of the pipa.

"Caprice" (composed by Jiang Ting) Jiang Ting holds her pipa and just plays what crosses her mind naturally.

"The Last Hero's Ballad" (ancient traditional) This piece describes the battle between 'Chu' and 'Han' in 202 B.C. At this battle, the unbeatable 'Chu' hero, Xiang Yu, was finally defeated by Liu Bang of the 'Han.' Xiang Yu bade farewell to his beloved Lady Yu and killed himself by the Wujiang River. The atmosphere is tragic throughout the piece, allowing one to vividly imagine the battle field through the many exotic sounds of the pipa.

"Green Waist" Dance Music (composed by Yang Jieming) "Green Waist" is a famous dance piece of the Tang dynasty era with the numerous kinds of dance steps expressed through the pipa`s performance techniques.

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